Deep well of talent on board helps SVG shuffle the deck as Pistons make staff promotions, changes

Bob Beyer moves to associate head coach after Stan Van Gundy felt he was being overlooked for head coaching opportunities.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The deep bench Stan Van Gundy built made it pretty easy to replace a key free-agent departure – not on his playing roster, but in his front office.

The Pistons have announced a front-office restructuring that elevates Pat Garrity to assistant general manager and broadens the responsibilities of Andrew Loomis – moves that replace Ken Catanella, who left after the season to become the No. 2 man in Sacramento’s front office, and allow Pistons general manager Jeff Bower to focus on the more critical aspects of his job.

Garrity goes from director of strategic planning to assistant GM in charge of the salary cap and everything else that is “future oriented, big-picture oriented,” Van Gundy said Wednesday.

Loomis goes from director of basketball operations to chief of staff. He’ll shed his responsibilities as the de facto general manager of the Grand Rapids Drive, Pistons D-League affiliate, to focus more on the administrative side of basketball operations so Bower can concentrate on personnel – talking to agents and other teams and delving into amateur and pro scouting.

Van Gundy and Bower will be naming a general manager for the Drive, to be stationed in Grand Rapids, as well as hiring a new coach. That’s because Otis Smith, who coached the Drive for each of the two seasons since the Pistons have had them as their D-League affiliate, will move to the Pistons as both assistant coach and director of player development. The latter job had been filled by Quentin Richardson, who is leaving the organization to be closer to his family in Orlando. Smith, Van Gundy said, was a pioneer of the player development role, which eases the transition of young players into the NBA among other things.

Smith’s move to Van Gundy’s coaching staff fills an opening created when longtime assistant Brendan Malone, 74, asked to be reassigned to his native New York. His role is undefined, but Van Gundy has ideas ranging from helping with advance scouting to personnel scouting to offering his insights on the Pistons from a new perspective.

The shuffle also includes a new title for Bob Beyer as associate head coach. That, Van Gundy admits, will change nothing about the job Beyer has already held as his top assistant but he hopes will elevate Beyer’s profile.

“It was time we got that recognition out there, to be quite honest,” he said. “One of the real motivations for me, I was a little frustrated with all the jobs open and different assistants getting a chance to go interview for jobs that Bob’s name hadn’t come up. He’s been at this a long time. He’s very, very good and deserving of looks from people to get a chance at a head job.

“A lot of names tossed around – all good names, so I’m not trying to disparage anybody else – but Bob is just as qualified, if not more qualified.”

Miami assistant David Fizdale got hired by Memphis and Atlanta assistant Kenny Atkinson was hired in Brooklyn. San Antonio’s Ettore Messina and Portland’s Nate Tibbets were other assistant coaches who interviewed for head coaching jobs since the season ended.

Van Gundy said the contract extension for Bower and the promotion for Beyer were pushed along as much by Pistons owner Tom Gores’ recognition of their contributions as by Van Gundy’s need for trusted lieutenants on both sides as he oversees both the coaching and front-office staffs.

“I think Tom recognized that also and it’s something that Tom thought should happen,” he said. “Tom’s always been supportive of me, but also of those guys. He understands the role that Jeff has played and the role that Bob has played and understands that they’re deserving of bigger roles and more recognition.”