Key dates approaching and how it affects the Pistons on GM, coach searches

The Pistons could send Hooper to the NBA draft lottery and – hey, that might not be a bad idea.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons have time on their side as they go about replacing Stan Van Gundy for different reasons for the twin searches.

On the front-office side, they have the field to themselves. Charlotte replaced Rich Cho with Mitch Kupchak. Nobody else is looking to replace their front-office head at this time.

On the coaching front, well, there’s no urgency to name a coach with 4½ months to go before training camp opens. Yes, the Pistons have a little more competition in the marketplace, but three teams – New York (David Fizdale), Memphis (J.B. Bickerstaff) and Phoenix (Igor Kokoskov) – have already filled their openings and a fourth, Atlanta (Lloyd Price), is one ownership approval meeting away from filling its spot, according to credible reports.

That leaves Milwaukee and Orlando along with the Pistons in the market for a coach with the possibility Toronto will join the club should the Raptors decide Cleveland’s four-game obliteration of the East’s No. 1 seed was too much for Dwane Casey to overcome. It’s just as likely Toronto management decides to shake up the roster.

At any rate, here’s a look at the key dates ahead and what it would mean to approach them with uncertainty in the front office or on the sidelines:

  • Tuesday – The NBA draft lottery will be held.
  • The Pistons could send Hooper to the gathering and it wouldn’t matter. (Hey, not a bad thought. They’ve had zero luck over the past nine years in their lottery appearances, getting bumped down three times – 2011, 2013, 2014 – and never moving up. Instead of sending a lucky horseshoe with their representative, send the whole damn horse!)

    The front office, still under contract through June 30, will be interested in the outcome – the Pistons have about a 3 percent chance to retain the pick – but powerless to do anything about it.

    Ditto for the non-existent new coaching staff. The draft lottery will come and go without any consequence to a franchise without a head coach.

  • Wednesday through May 20
  • – The NBA draft combine will be held in Chicago. It’s expected the Pistons will send their usual cast of front-office representatives even if the likelihood is that the draft – in which the Pistons will hold only the 44th pick, assuming they wind up conveying their first-rounder to the Clippers to satisfy conditions of the Blake Griffin trade – will be conducted by a new management team.

    Whatever staff attends the combine will file their usual reports that will go into the franchise database, which will remain the intellectual property of the Pistons. It’s worth nothing that whoever is hired to run the franchise will, in all likelihood, be in attendance at the combine, quite possibly in the employ of another team, and will bring his or her own institutional knowledge of the draft class with them.

    In other words, there isn’t much downside to not having a management team in place for the combine.

  • Now through June 21 – June 21 is the draft and any time between now and then teams can and will conduct predraft workouts with groups of up to six players at a time. Because the Pistons have a 97 percent probability of only having the 42nd pick, they aren’t likely to schedule nearly as many workouts as they would if picking in both rounds. Even when they’ve had picks in both rounds, the Pistons haven’t begun conducting workouts in earnest until late May/early June in recent years.

    There’s little to no impact of not having a coaching staff in place for predraft workouts other than the fact assistant coaches are usually utilized to run the drills the front office wishes to see draft candidates undertake. Stan Van Gundy’s assistants remain under contract and presumably will be available to conduct drills. If some ask to be released early to pursue other opportunities, they’ll still be covered by the staff of video coordinators that regularly participates in practice drills during the season.

    The team’s medical staff will be available, as usual, to administer medical testing as directed by the front office in place to workout participants.

  • June 21 – The Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy a month after the 2013-14 season ended and the same timetable this time around – a month from Van Gundy’s dismissal earlier this week – would mean a new general manager would be in place by the end of the first week in June, two weeks before the draft.

    That’s reasonable all the way around – enough time for Tom Gores and his team to conduct a thorough search and enough time for the candidate who emerges from the field to quarterback the draft. Remember, he or she won’t be coming in cold but with a deep familiarity with the draft class from their previous stop – and have available the vast background work conducted by in-place Pistons staffers, as well.

    It still won’t be essential to have a coach in place by draft night. In almost all cases, coaches have minimal input into draft choices. Once the front office-coach relationship has been established, it’s typical to solicit a coach’s input but only as another voice to help reach consensus.

  • July 1 – Free agency starts and with it the peak of trade season. By now, it will be critical to have a general manager in place. In fact, much more so than having the new GM in place a few weeks before the draft it’s essential that job be filled in time to adequately prepare to act in the opening flurry of free-agent/trade activity.

    As for a coach, nah, still not exactly vital. Most coaches, remember, have little to no input on trade talks whenever they happen – whether that’s at the trade deadline or the off-season.

  • July 6-17 – Those are the dates for the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League and with the dissolution of the Orlando Summer League – where the Pistons have chosen to participate for the past seven years – that’s where all 30 teams will be this summer. It’s not unprecedented for teams in the midst of a coaching change to show up for Summer League without a head coach in place. It happened a few years ago in Orlando to one team with a temporary group of coaches assembled to handle the task.

    Summer League serves several purposes. The most visible is to get young players their first NBA exposure and help them acclimate to two-a-day practices, assimilating game plans on a daily basis and NBA expectations in general. Growing in importance, especially with the advent of two-way contracts, is for front offices to assess the pool of replacement-level talent available.

    I’d anticipate the Pistons having their coaching staff in place – or, at least, a head coach and a few key assistants – by the start of Summer League, and surely would expect the front office to be under new leadership by then.

    But, bottom line, there’s no undue urgency on either front. They’ve got the field to themselves on the executive search, not much more traffic on the coaching front and time on their side to conduct thorough missions.