Stan Van Gundy was the front runner for the Golden State Warriors vacancy in 2014.
He chose to go to Detroit, where they were willing to give him full control of the franchise.
On Monday, the Detroit Pistons and Stan Van Gundy agreed to part ways after a disappointing four year stretch. Van Gundy’s Detroit legacy will be his one playoff appearance in and the combined $89,753,967 for the 2018-2019 salaries of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, *GULP* Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway, *OMG MAKE IT STOP* Ish Smith and Josh Smith.
(Yes, that Josh Smith.)
He selected Duke’s Luke Kennard one spot ahead of breakout star, and franchise rejuvenizer, Donovan Mitchell. He turned down a bunch of first round picks from the Celtics to draft Stanley Johnson. He traded this year’s lottery pick for the rights to pay an aging, often injured Blake Griffin over $100 million the next four seasons.
To sum things up: he did not do a good job.
Meanwhile, you know what’s happened in Golden State.
Two championships are already in the books with a third one seemingly around the corner. Steph Curry’s ankles have held up, and he’s revolutionizing the game. Kevin Durant joined the team. Life is good in the Bay. The future is bright.
Steve Kerr doesn’t get much credit for the success, but he’s very comfortable in his job. He’s making $5 million per year to talk to the media and make sure that Draymond Green doesn’t do anything too stupid.
It’s a nice gig.
It could’ve been Stan Van Gundy’s.
Instead, he chose ultimate power, and Kerr was able to avoid getting sucked in by Phil Jackson to coach the New York Knicks. Three organizations and two careers were ultimately affected by Van Gundy’s ultimate power grab.
Van Gundy wanted control. After his bitter ending in Orlando with management siding with Dwight Howard, he wanted to be able to control his roster- and his fate. Coaches getting front office power was a trend in the mid 2010s, but with the amount of damage Van Gundy did Detroit, those days are most likely officially ending in the league.
The Hawks tried it and failed. Doc Rivers had his organizational control stripped because he couldn’t stop signing his former players or giving big money to his son. Tom Thibodeau may meet a similar fate as he can’t stop signing former Bulls. Jason Kidd grappled control away from the Bucks front office only to unceremoniously get fired halfway through the 2017-2018 season.
As the rest of the NBA is getting smarter and embracing analytics, it didn’t make sense for organizations to trust coaches to put together the teams’ rosters.
Van Gundy’s mess he left behind in Detroit is going to be hard to clean up. They do not have many, if any, appealing trade assets. They aren’t going to have the money (or the market or type of city) to attract free agents. Their two highest paid players, Griffin and Drummond, do not play well together- the team actually plays better with one of them on the bench.
As Stan Van Gundy gets set to transition back into media and excel at whatever TV gig he gets, he’ll always have to think about what could’ve been had he chosen the Warriors over the Pistons.
The rest of us can use it as a warning of what happens when the quest for power ruins everything.