SVG hands on as Pistons pick brains of draft prospects during combine interviews

Michigan’s Mo Wagner said Stan Van Gundy led his interview with Pistons executives at the NBA draft combine in Chicago.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CHICAGO – When the Pistons meet with NBA draft prospects during their allotted interview sessions at the combine, Stan Van Gundy is more than interested bystander. He’s the bandleader.

Michigan’s Mo Wagner and North Carolina’s Tony Bradley said Van Gundy led the interviews they conducted with the Pistons as part of the NBA draft combine’s routine here this week.

“A little video session with Coach,” Wagner grinned. “Some assessment and a couple of general questions. How I embraced the process, questions regarding development and all that stuff. It was pretty cool. Coach was there, the GM was there, there were a lot of people there. I think everybody was there. There were a lot of familiar faces in that room.”

Many teams regard the interview as one of the most useful tools available to them at the combine. They’ve logged hundreds of man hours watching game action, live and on videotape, of the vast majority of the 67 players gathered for the combine. But getting an insight into their personalities adds an important layer of information.

“They asked about your personal life or what type of person you are,” Wagner said. “I think that’s very important in the process, too, which a lot of people forget. These guys watch us every day. That’s their job. So they know what type of basketball player we are. They want to find out what type of person we are, so that’s probably the most common pattern (in interviews across all NBA teams).”

North Carolina’s Bradley also mentioned Van Gundy’s use of video in the course of his interview.

“We were watching a lot of film of the Pistons offense and he was asking me, in different situations, what I should do,” said Bradley, who like Wagner is undecided on whether to stay in the draft and hoping for a first-round grade.

A number of other prospects said they had interviews lined up with the Pistons before the combine ends this weekend. Among them are Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Creighton’s Justin Patton and Wake Forest’s John Collins. Kansas guard Frank Mason also said he’d met with the Pistons.

Mitchell is a player certain to help himself in the interview process. In his media interview session Thursday afternoon, Mitchell gave every indication he knows who he is and how he can leave a best impression on teams.

“It’s great. I’m loving it,” Mitchell said of the combine experience. “The interviews are going really well. The tests went well today. I’m just having fun and enjoying the process as a whole.”

Mitchell, considered more of a late first-round pick until recently, was slotted as the No. 12 pick – to the Pistons, their position going into Tuesday’s lottery draw – in the latest projection, revised only Thursday afternoon. That doesn’t necessarily reflect the Pistons’ evaluation of Mitchell so much as it’s an indication of his making a strong impression across the league.

The Pistons will get a firsthand impression of Mitchell when he meets with them today. Almost surely, that interview will be led by the man who would become his coach were they to draft the Louisville sophomore, Stan Van Gundy.