10 “Way Too Early” Options for the Detroit Pistons Coaching Vacancy (OP-ED)

With Stan Van Gundy out in the Motor City, the team is searching for a new GM and Head Coach. Here are the Mayor’s 5 picks from the NBA, and 5 from the college circuit that the Pistons should interview (in no particular order):



Jacque Vaughn

WHY: Vaughn has head coaching experience, and is a former NBA player himself. He spent two and a half years as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, and is currently an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets.

WHY NOT: His record as a head coach is atrocious. He is 58-168 in his career. Among coaches with 200 career games coached, he’s 153rd out of 154 coaches in terms of winning percentage. The only one worse is former Pistons assistant Sidney Lowe.

Sam Cassell

WHY: Cassell is a player’s coach, well liked around the league. More importantly, he’s well respected. John Wall loved playing for him in Washington, and Paul Pierce made the decision to sign with the Wizards largely because of Cassell. He’s also respected among the coaching fraternity. He’s served as a player-assistant under Doc Rivers, and joined his staff in Los Angeles after his playing career ended. He could significantly improve the guard play.

WHY NOT: Cassell has never been a head coach at any level. This is typically dangerous territory, but Cassell has the playing and coaching pedigree to handle it well.

Ime Udoka

WHY: Two words: Gregg Popovich. Udoka has served as an assistant for the Spurs since 2012. Sitting under Popovich’s learning tree should bear some fruit.

WHY NOT: His stint in San Antonio is his only coaching experience. Is 6 years with Popovich enough?

Jerry Stackhouse

WHY: He’s a former Piston. He is also the former D-League Coach of the Year for his work with Toronto’s D-League team. On the bench for the Raptors as an assistant, he’s helped to guide them to the Conference Semifinals.

WHY NOT: Former Piston players have not made the best Piston coaches. Of the 10 men who played in Detroit/Fort Wayne before becoming the head coach, only 2 have had a winning record Paul Birch was 105-102 from 1951-1954, and from 1972-1976 Ray Scott was 147-134. The last to perform the feat: Michael Curry. He coached the Pistons in 2008-2009 and was 39-43. While this means nothing when it comes to Jerry Stackhouse; history is not on his side.

Becky Hammon

WHY: For the same reason as Ime Udoka. She’s a Gregg Popovich assistant. She’s already been interviewed by Milwaukee and for good reason; she’s one hell of a coach. She went from an undrafted free agent to a 15 year WNBA career, and helped the Russian Women’s National Team to a bronze at the 2008 Olympics. She also was the head coach of San Antonio’s championship Summer League team, and the first female to be an assistant coach in the NBA All-Star game.

WHY NOT: Honestly, I can’t think of any. She’s on a lot of team’s lists, so Detroit would have to be the best situation to win, and they’re not.

BONUS – Juwan Howard

WHY: He has ties to nearby Ann Arbor, as a former Wolverine. He has gained notoriety for being an incredible humanitarian in recent years. Charitable giving aside, he knows the game, and could be an asset to the big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

WHY NOT: It’s a sentimental selection. The memories of the Fab 5 are still strong in the area; but Detroit is not, and never has been his home. He’s from Chicago, and owns property in the Miami area. He only has 5 years experience as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat, and there really isn’t a lot of reasons for Detroit to pluck him from one iffy situation to another.


Chris Mack – Louisville

WHY – He’s shown that he has a great basketball mind at the helm of some fantastic Xavier teams, and with the success of Billy Donovan and Brad Stephens at the NBA level, he could be a hot choice.

WHY NOT – He literally just signed a seven year deal with Louisville for $4 million. It’d take a LOT more than that to pry him away. That’s just not happening, and you’re not going to sign a coach for a year just to snatch this guy up next year.

Eric Musselman – University of Nevada-Reno

WHY – He’s done this dance before. He’s had head coaching stints with Sacramento and Golden State. He’s also one of the most successful coaches in CBA and USBL history. 

WHY NOT – While he did the dance with Sacramento and Golden State, he didn’t know the steps that well. Despite having Gilbert Arenas AND Antawn Jamison he could only muster a 75-89 record in two seasons. He lasted just one 33-49 season in Sacramento. Since joining the college ranks, he’s become a name that makes the rounds for jobs that are on the cusp of the blue collar colleges; and his name comes up at times for NBA jobs as well.

Jay Wright – Villanova

WHY: He’s got a good resume to back him up, he’s 544-250 all-time in his career. He’s a 2-time national champion, and his teams have made 3 Final Four appearances. Wright is also a 2-time Wooden Award winner for coach of the year.

WHY NOT: Would that success translate to the NBA? Why would he ever leave Villanova? He doesn’t have the pressure on him like he’d have at a Kentucky or a North Carolina, nor does he have the stress to turn a team around in the NBA.

Matt Painter – Purdue 

WHY: He’s 320-154 in his college career. Painter has led the Boilermakers to 10 NCAA tournament bids in 13 years, and he coached Southern Illinois to the NCAA tournament in his only year there. He has also helped 6 players get to the NBA.

WHY NOT: While he’s had 6 players go to the NBA, Carl Landry has arguably had the best career of any of them. That’s not something to write home about. He’s been to the NCAA tournament 11 times in 14 years, he’s never made it farther than the Sweet Sixteen. Detroit has had enough of mediocrity.

Tony Bennett – Virginia

WHY: He’s played in the league with the Hornets. His teams have been known for their tenacious defense and his style of motion offense is efficient and successful at the NCAA level. His players have transitioned well in the NBA, from breakout star Malcom Brogdon to superstar splash brother Klay Thompson (Bennett was his coach his freshman year). He’s also 288-119 all-time in his coaching career, winning the ACC tournament twice, and eight NCAA tournament appearances in twelve years.

WHY NOT: Number 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament are 135-1. When you’re that “1”, it’s kind of a black eye. He’s made the Elite Eight just once. Underachievement seems to be the mantra of his squads lately. He’s 143-33 since 2013-14, but 7-5 in the NCAA tournament; and three of those wins came in 2015-16 when he made his only Elite 8 appearance.

BONUS – Tom Izzo – Michigan State

WHY: He’s a Michigan product, born in Iron Mountain, played and coached at Northern Michigan, and has been a staple on the bench at MSU since 1983. He took over in 1995 from Jud Heathcote and never looked back. He’s pretty much done it all in the NCAA. He’s had 18 of his players drafted to the NBA (including Jason Richardson, Draymond Green, and Denzel Valentine), 24 total players make it to the NBA, and 2 drafted to the NFL. His coaching pedigree is deep as well. Names like Tom Crean and Jim Boylen top the list. He’s cut down the nets once, and he’s made the NCAA tournament 21 times in 23 years. He’s 574-225 all-time at MSU. 

WHY NOT: He’s already stated he planned to be a Spartan for life, so prying him away will take either a scandal or massive payday, either way, fans would question the choice. If he was looking for a huge payday from MSU (he’s not) or looking to get out of East Lansing quick (he’s not) this might be a good move. Since neither of those things are true, he’s staying put, and that’s probably for the best.