Stan Van Gundy winning hearts and minds

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Me at the Detroit Free Press on Stan Van Gundy:

Remember, this is someone who once told the South Florida Sun Sentinel, "Detroit, even in the regular season, has a particularly nasty crowd. … They’re not just loud. Those people will say anything and do anything. … Quite honestly, if I was somebody sitting in the crowd, it would be embarrassing. I have never understood the idea (that) because I bought a ticket to the game, I can sit there and yell anything I want."

I loathed Van Gundy then. The nerve of that guy!

In his introductory news conference, Van Gundy — famous for disliking cold weather — pledged to move Michigan. He stressed the importance of being part of the community.

And with that, he won me over — not that I needed much convincing to support the Pistons’ first good coach in several tries. (By the way, Stan, I’m a native Michigander, and I never liked the cold, either. It’s OK.)

Since then, he has continued to impress.

The Pistons should be proud that they own a privately financed arena. Bill Davidson built the Palace of Auburn Hills (and Tom Gores has upgraded it) with private money, not the taxpayers’. Those two owners have allowed the area’s taxes to go to much more important causes than a basketball team.

Yet, meddling Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert — who holds business interests downtown — often takes swipes at the Auburn Hills Pistons. Would it be preferable for the Pistons to play in Detroit? In a vacuum, yes. But the Palace has already been built, and it would be way too costly to abandon a great arena for a new one.

Anyway, it’s a complex civil issue with a history of debate. Van Gundy already gets it.

“We represent the Detroit metropolitan area … and where we play doesn’t have that much relevance," Van Gundy told WMGC-FM (105.1). "The second thing is, obviously, Dan Gilbert has some selfish interest for saying what he said; I think we all know what those are. And then finally, I think he’s got enough to be concerned with about his own team without worrying about us.”

Yup.

Then there are Van Gundy’s latest words on the Pistons and their fans.

“This is a community asset, and we owe these people," he told pistons.com. "We absolutely do.”

That sentiment is appreciated.

Van Gundy dismissed Rasheed Wallace as an assistant coach. Later this month, he’ll decline a team option on Chauncey Billups, making him a free agent.

In a very short amount of time, Van Gundy will be pushing out two icons. He should pull off both moves without retribution from the fan base.

He already has established enough good will.

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Tags: Brendan Malone Charles Klask Chauncey Billups Rasheed Wallace Stan Van Gundy

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