SVG on Andre Drummond: ‘Sky is the limit’

Stan Van Gundy says he is excited to coach Andre Drummond.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Stan Van Gundy considered Tom Gores’ offer to become both Pistons coach and chief executive independent of the roster he would inherit. Wearing both hats, after all, would give him the power to change it to meet whatever vision he might conjure.

But after signing off on the contract, well, let’s just say it didn’t go unnoticed that he would get the chance to coach Andre Drummond next season.

“It really wasn’t a part of me coming here – that was more the job and Tom Gores and his ownership team that I really felt attracted to,” Van Gundy told me. “Once you have the job and you start looking at the job and say, ‘What are you excited about?’ Andre Drummond is at the top of that list.”

Van Gundy says that while it doesn’t hurt that he coached a team built around Dwight Howard – in many ways, a similar player – don’t automatically assume he’ll build the roster in the same way it was done in Orlando. He’s also a big fan of Greg Monroe, and if his restricted free agency returns him to the Pistons, Van Gundy is enthused about building a team around two young big men he views as among the NBA’s very best.

“You don’t have to spread the floor,” he said. “You can, and if those options are available to us – either through trades or free agency – we’ll explore those. But I don’t think there’s one model we have to get to. I think people are assuming that, but in Miami my teams did not shoot nearly as many threes. That wasn’t our personality. There’s a lot of ways to win and it gives us a lot of flexibility in building the roster. We’ll see what’s available and hopefully find the best options for our team.”

What Van Gundy will have foremost in mind as he considers those options is how it fits with what Drummond provides. He isn’t starting the roster reconstruction of the Pistons with a blank slate.

“The thing that really helps is when you have a guy like that to build your roster around,” he said. “In a lot of situations, you don’t really have a foundation to build around. So you’re building it piecemeal, trying to figure it out. He gives us a great starting point to say, ‘OK, what are the pieces we need to put around him?’ But it doesn’t have to be the model we used in Orlando.”

Van Gundy is in the process of face-to-face meetings with all of the team’s returning players. He’ll be in California this week to talk to Brandon Jennings. Last week’s meeting with Drummond left him even more enthused about the chance to work with him.

“The possibilities are very exciting,” he said. “Not just because of his age and ability, but because when you get a chance to sit down and talk to him and his mother – this is a young man with a tremendous attitude who I truly believe wants to be great, wants to be coached, really wants to win and is willing to make sacrifices. You put that together with his talent and as a coach, as a president of basketball operations, you can’t help but get pretty excited.”

Among the foremost impressions Van Gundy took from his initial meeting with Drummond was the sense that he isn’t just open to critical assessments of his game but eager to get that sort of feedback so he can bolster his weaknesses.

“What I liked more than anything, when I sat and talked to him, the part where he really started to get more excited and engaged was when we talked about the things he needed to work on to get better,” Van Gundy said. “That’s when you know you’ve got somebody who wants to be great and is pretty special, because they want to talk about how can I get better. He doesn’t want to stay where he is now. That’s pretty exciting.”

As Van Gundy watches videotape of Drummond’s 2013-14 season, he notices the dominant rebounding games and the elite finishing ability around the rim. But what captivates him most are the parts of Drummond’s game not yet in evidence.

“What you see from when he came in, he’s gotten better, but what you see more is all the things he can still do to get better,” he said. “Really, the sky is the limit on Andre Drummond.”