At his introductory news conference Thursday, Van Gundy touted the success of Pat Riley with the Miami Heat, Popovich with the Spurs and Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers — the three most prominent recent examples of men holding the dual coach/president titles. Van Gundy used them to talk about the virtue of giving one person both roles.
Pistons owner Tom Gores further backed the system.
“I’ve made a living and built my businesses understanding structure, and this is a structure that I’m convinced will work,” Gores said.
But Riley, Popovich and Rivers have won a championship as a coach and have proved themselves in multiple phases of the NBA.
The president/coach setup doesn’t make them. They make the setup.
There is a selection bias that that gives only the best this much power, and giving power to someone underqualified won’t elevate him into being the best.
By comparison, Van Gundy is not as accomplished as Riley, Popovich and Rivers. The Pistons are taking more risk in elevating Van Gundy — and simply giving Van Gundy a big role won’t make him worthy of it.
I believe Gores gets that.
“I’ve always liked the model of connecting the floor to the front office,” Gores said. “I think, with the right person, like Stan, it’s an incredible model.”
Is Stan the right person?
I think so. I hope so.
If the Pistons waited for someone with a championship pedigree, they probably couldn’t get him. They’re in on the ground floor, at least as far as this role, with Van Gundy.
The Pistons’ system might help Van Gundy, who worked under Riley in Miami, implement his vision. But Van Gundy’s skills will be far more important to his success than which titles he holds.
Van Gundy is extremely passionate, innovative and communicative. That’s why the Pistons are fortunate to have him, not because they have him in a certain setup.