SVG Part I: Expanded support staff motivated by Tom Gores' push to make Pistons the best

Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy has added a number of positions to the Pistons front office, something he says stemmed from owner Tom Gores' urging and leadership.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

(Editor’s note: Stan Van Gundy talked to editor Keith Langlois about what’s new, what’s next and his expectations for his second season as Pistons head coach. Here’s Part I of their Q& A.)

Keith Langlois: Almost all of your players have been in town for the last three weeks working out. Based on how their bodies look and what you can tell about their skills development, are you pleased with the body of work they’ve put in over the summer?

Stan Van Gundy: Yeah, I am. I think the guys clearly put in time. They’ve come back in pretty good shape. There’s nobody overweight – except me. Guys have worked hard on their skills. Guys have lifted. They’ve done their work.

KL: How many players will you have in training camp?

SVG: Including Brandon Jennings, we would have 19 guys. But Brandon won’t be able to do anything with the group in camp. So we’ll have 18 guys going full out. Aron Baynes will be somewhat limited in what he can do. He’ll be able to participate in camp, but he’s not going to go twice a day. He’ll probably have some restrictions on what he can do early on.

KL: Do you expect Baynes to be available to play in preseason games?

SVG: Oh, yeah. I’m hoping right away. But we might get pushed back a week. I don’t think so.

KL: What’s new for this season? We know you’ve added a new shooting coach, Dave Hopla. Also a team psychologist, right?

SVG: We hired a sports psychologist, Tom Perrin, as a consultant. He’s not going to be with us full time, but he’ll be here a lot. Players and staff will be able to be in contact with him full time. He spent a week getting to know the staff, meeting with all the players. It’s a good addition for us to have that available and give those guys that kind of support. The early feedback from our players has been really good. We’ve had several guys who have said they really think Tom can help them.

KL: What’s his background?

SVG: For a long, long time in the NBA as a head coach, I’ve thought about adding the position. I’ve just never been real comfortable being able to pull the trigger. The thing I like about Tom is he’s not only got a great background in sports psychology, he’s also got a basketball background. He played Division I basketball at the University of Vermont. He coached for a long time at the University of Vermont and then at the University of Virginia with Terry Holland for a long, long time back when they had the really good teams – Ralph Sampson and those guys. He’s been an advance scout in the NBA for Rick Carlisle. While he was at Virginia, he got his PhD there under Bob Rotella, who is one of the leading lights in sports psychology in this country. Worked for a long time with the United States men’s national soccer team, the World Cup team. So he’s got a great background working as a sports psychologist with high-level athletes. He’s got a great background in basketball. He’s just a really good fit and, again, the feedback early on has been great from the guys.

KL: What type of feedback and in what ways do you think he’ll help?

SVG: I think they’re very appreciative of having that resource available to them and think he can be of help. There’s a lot of pressure on guys. It’s a very public profession. There’s confidence issues and concentration issues and dealing with pressure issues and dealing with coach issues and all of those things. I think he can help them and give them some strategies to help themselves. He’ll still based in Virginia, in Charlottesville. We’ve established his early schedule. It’s basically to maximize his time. We’re not going to have him in the first week of training camp. He’s been here for two weeks because guys have a lot of time in September. The first week of camp, where we’re going twice a day, nobody’s got more time in the day. So he’ll come back after that. Sometimes he’ll probably meet up with us on the road. It’ll be to maximize his time and be at times where the players feel like they’ve got time to spend with him.

KL: And there have been a few additions to the training staff as well, right?

SVG: Yeah. Basically, we replaced Arnie (Kander, longtime strength and conditioning coach who served as physical therapist last season in an expanded training staff, who decided to step down after last season) with two people. Jessica Schaefer is an assistant athletic trainer and then we hired Mark Cranston as physical therapist. Mark, just like Arnie, is a certified athletic trainer, physical therapist, certified strength coach. He had worked with Jeff Bower in New Orleans. Real highly qualified guy and now by adding another person it’s a little easier to get better coverage. We’ve really looked into that a great deal. Luke Fritz, who’d been with us for a long time doing massage, he went back to school. We looked at the situation. Rather than replacing him, we’re going to continue to work with him as an outside vendor. So when we’ve got days where we’ve got time, instead of having one guy rushing around trying to get to everybody, we’ll bring in four or five people and give these guys really what they need. And we’re also hiring a nutritionist as a consultant. We’ve really looked at the whole idea of whatever you want to call it – wellness, fitness, performance – and tried to upgrade that.

KL: Does that go back to your relationship with Tom Gores and his willingness to support your ideas for improving the organization?

SVG: A lot of these things have been right from Tom. He always wants to know if there’s more we can do. “What more can do we do help these guys? What can help this team?” So it really pushes you in that direction, where I think a lot of owners are the opposite. They don’t want to spend more money. They don’t want to do all these things. Tom’s pushing us to make sure we’re doing everything we can and so that’s essentially three additional people just in that area of wellness and helping guys.

KL: So you’re not in a position of having to make your case for these positions?

SVG: Tom’s clearly a great businessman and he’s looked at it and said, OK, look where the cap’s going. Right now, it’s a little under 70 (million dollars a team) and it’s going to jump a great deal. You’re going to spend all that money on your greatest resource – your players – you don’t want to shortcut in other areas. You want to assemble a scouting staff in terms of quantity and quality that can cover what you need to get covered to make good selections. You’ve got to get the staff to work with those people and maximize them. So I think that’s where Tom’s incredible business background really pays off, too. It’s a little bit what they do (at Platinum Equity) with companies. They purchase a company and then they go out and figure out how to make it run better. A lot of people in his business just do the mergers and acquisitions. They do mergers, acquisitions and operations. That’s what sets them apart. So they have a real understanding for the value of operating better. And I think he’s impressed that upon us. We’re headed in that direction where we’ve got pretty much all of our bases covered.



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