Stan Van Gundy's first act as Detroit Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations is complete. As expected, Van Gundy tabbed current Marist head coach and former Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets general manager Jeff Bower to take over the day-to-day basketball operations.
“I’m pleased to welcome Jeff Bower to the Detroit Pistons organization,” Van Gundy said in a team release. “Jeff brings great basketball knowledge and NBA experience to our organization and he’s enjoyed success in building teams. He’s a great evaluator of talent and Jeff will bring solid leadership to our front office.”
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported the move's imminence on Monday. Former Magic general manager Otis Smith, Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden and former NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson were also in the running for the position.
The Pistons will hold a formal introduction Wednesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Bower's official title will be general manager, but he will not serve in the typical capacity. Van Gundy's five-year, $35 million deal with the Pistons gives him autonomy on all basketball-related decisions, meaning Bower will report directly to him. Bower will handle more of the day-to-day operations, similar to how Gary Sacks works under Doc Rivers with the Clippers.
“I’m excited to join the Pistons organization and play a role in helping this franchise build on its great basketball tradition,” Bower said, via the release. “I look forward to working with Stan, his staff and everyone in the Pistons organization to put together a team that the community can support and be proud of."
Bower, 53, has served in numerous NBA roles, most notably with the Hornets (now Pelicans) franchise. He worked as an advanced scout, an assistant coach, an interim head coach and had two different stints as general manager. He was most notably linked to drafting Chris Paul and David West, among others, though the latter part of his tenure was more mixed.
New Orleans let Bower go following the 2009-10 season and replaced him with Dell Demps. After taking a couple years off from the game, Bower took over as the head coach of Marist College prior to the 2013-14 season, where he went 12-19. Bower had previously served as an assistant coach at Marist from 1986 to 1995.
It will be interesting to see how the Pistons structure the power dynamic. Van Gundy has zero experience constructing an NBA roster. His two previous stops in Orlando and Miami featured prominent decision-makers in Smith and Pat Riley making personnel decisions.
While the lure of "shopping for the groceries" so to speak was an appeal of taking the Detroit job, it's a dangerous gamble giving that level of autonomy to one man. This past season Rivers, the head coach, was partially undone by Rivers, the GM, not being able to find a reliable third man or perimeter defender.
With the Pistons featuring a few high-profile decisions this summer, Bower should help Van Gundy work through his trial by fire.
The Pistons do not have a first-round pick but hold the No. 38 overall selection—a spot that has produced Nate Wolters and Chandler Parsons in recent seasons. Detroit also has to decide its strategy with Greg Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. Monroe is expected to command plenty of suitors wielding eight-figure yearly salaries, which leaves Van Gundy and Bower with an interesting conundrum.
The presence of the overpaid Josh Smith and Andre Drummond already gives the Pistons two starters who cannot space the floor. As they learned last season, adding a third to the mix is a recipe for a two-way mess. Monroe and Drummond are closer in age, but Smith's onerous contract makes him difficult to move.
Either way, it's the job both men signed up for. Now let's see if they can work together well enough to accomplish it.
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