The Detroit Pistons named Jeff Bower as Stan Van Gundy’s new general manager, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. Bower served as the Charlotte/New Orleans/OKC Hornets’ GM from 2001 to 2003 and 2005 to 2010 and comes to Detroit after a stint as head coach of Marist College.
Bower will report to Van Gundy, who will make the final decisions for Detroit, and his experience as a player personnel guru, talent evaluator and head coach will help ease Van Gundy’s transition into his duel role of head coach and president.
Bower drafted Chris Paul, David West and Baron Davis during his Hornets tenure, all of whom made All-Star appearances, but in an ironic twist Detroit’s draft pick will go to the newly-minted Charlotte Hornets as part of the Ben Gordon trade. So Bower’s first really important pick with the team won’t come until next year.
“Jeff brings great basketball knowledge and NBA experience to our organization and he’s enjoyed success in building teams,” Van Gundy said in the Pistons’ news release. “He’s a great evaluator of talent and Jeff will bring solid leadership to our front office.”
The duo of Bower and Van Gundy already have tough decisions to make. The team was plagued by spacing issues, with Greg Monroe, a restricted free agent, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith proving to be an ill-fitting trio in the Motor City.
They could trade Monroe for a guard and have Smith shuffle over to power forward, his natural position, but Van Gundy’s recent comments suggested he liked having two big men he could help develop. If you remember, Van Gundy had a young center in Orlando named Dwight Howard that he helped develop into a pretty decent player in his own right.
Bower could also help in a player development role as well, especially with big men. Adam Kemp, a center at Marist who played under Bower, told SheridanHoops that he enjoyed the experience learning under Bower the coach.
“He really helped me develop my footwork on both ends of the court, and helped me understand the game better overall,” Kemp said. “It was a big plus having him as a coach.”
So it’s possible that the Van Gundy-Bower combo could help each other develop talent and make the tough personnel decisions that are ahead of them, but the most important thing for Detroit over the next few years is falling into the mid-market trap of mediocrity.
Bower needed to build a supporting cast around Paul and West and overpaid for mid-level talent like Morris Peterson, Melvin Ely and James Posey. That’s how the Pistons currently have Brandon Jennings, and how they ended up with Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, and it’s something the team desperately needs to avoid in order for the team to achieve sustained success. Perhaps with Van Gundy securely signed to a 5-year contract, it won’t be a problem.
“I’m excited to join the Pistons organization and play a role in helping this franchise build on its great basketball tradition,” said Bower. “I look forward to working with Stan, his staff and everyone in the Pistons organization to put together a team that the community can support and be proud of.”
We’ll see early on if Bower and Van Gundy can take the Pistons from mediocre to a relevant perennial playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference.