Rex Walters

Pistons Notes: Van Gundy, Bower, Billups, More

In the wake of his dismissal by the Pistons on Monday, Stan Van Gundy indicated that he wouldn’t dismiss the idea of returning to coaching in “the right situation.” He reiterated that stance in a text message to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel, but stressed that his interest in landing another job with an NBA team doesn’t extend beyond coaching.

“[I’m] not interested in a front office role,” Van Gundy wrote.

Let’s round up a few more notes on the Pistons, with a focus on SVG…

  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that GM Jeff Bower, whose contract ends on June 30, will run the front office on an interim basis. Only one member of the coaching staff and front office – assistant coach Rex Walters – has a contract that extends past June 30, according to Ellis.
  • Multiple sources tell Ellis – within that same story – that it wasn’t quite right to say Van Gundy was resisting a change to his role, as ESPN reported last week, since specific changes hadn’t yet been discussed. For his part, SVG said on Monday that he would’ve been interested in continuing to coach the Pistons without the president of basketball operations title.
  • Four years after they hired Van Gundy to run the show in Detroit, the Pistons should be able to make a stronger pitch to front office and coaching candidates this time around, in the view of Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. As Langlois notes, in 2014, the Pistons were coming off a five-year run in which they hadn’t surpassed the 30-win mark — the current squad has immediate playoff potential.
  • The Pistons’ decision to wait until nearly four weeks after the 2017/18 regular season ended to move on from Van Gundy is a reflection of the club’s poor leadership at the top, says Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.
  • Ansar Khan of MLive.com explores whether hiring Chauncey Billups to a key front office role is the right move for the Pistons.

Central Notes: Valentine, Pistons, Markkanen

After a disappointing first season in which he wasn’t heavily utilized as a playmaker, Denzel Valentine is eager to show the Bulls what he’s capable of. The famously versatile forward out of Michigan State told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that his role in 2016/17 was to mostly just be a spot-up shooter.

With so much turnover on the Bulls roster over the summer, Valentine could get his opportunity to flash the rest of his skills and potentially even earn a role as a starter with the young franchise, although head coach Fred Hoiberg has implied that his lineups will be determined through preseason.

The 23-year-old averaged 5.1 points per game last season but underwent surgery on his left ankle at the start of the summer. The second-year Bulls forward is still working his way back into shape.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Count Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy among those who believes that getting rid of the NBA Draft altogether would address the tanking issue, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • The Pistons have assigned assistant coach Aaron Gray the task of focusing on the skill development of big men, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Rex Walters, formerly the head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, will hold a similar role with the backcourt.
  • The Bulls will be cautious with seventh-overall pick Lauri Markkanen‘s injured back. The club won’t rush the first-year big man back to the court, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes.

Coaching Notes: Frank, Iske, Lucas, Pistons

The Clippers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank have reached an agreement that will see him promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations, reporting directly to team president and coach Doc Rivers, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Frank will be tasked with reorganizing the franchise’s front office, including building out the infrastructure of its scouting, sports science and long-term strategic planning, Wojnarowski notes.

Frank, 45, has been a two-time head coach in the NBA with the Nets and Pistons, and had been working toward a transition to the front office in recent years, the scribe notes. As Nets coach, Frank reached the Eastern Conference semifinals three out of his first four seasons on the job. He won 279 games as a head coach, including an 18-20 (.474) playoff record. Frank has been an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the past two seasons with Los Angeles.

Here’s more coaching news from around the league:

  • The Pistons announced via press release that the team has named Jon Phelps as GM and Rex Walters as head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit’s D-League affiliate. “We’re fortunate to be able to fill these two positions with guys we feel very comfortable with,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy.  “Jon was in Grand Rapids with the Drive the last two years so there’s familiarity and continuity there.  We’re confident he will continue to do a good job and transition well into this new role.  “Rex Walters brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience and has a passion for developing young players.  He’s spent some time with us here and already has a good understanding of how we operate.  We look forward to working with both of them.
  • The Wizards will be adding former Kings assistant Chad Iske to Scott Brooks‘ coaching staff in Washington, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post relays (on Twitter).
  • Former Wizards assistant coach Roy Rogers has reached an agreement to join Mike D’Antoni‘s staff with the Rockets, Wojnarowski tweets.
  • Former NBA player and coach John Lucas is joining the Rockets‘ staff as the head of player development, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle relays.

Central Notes: Noah, Walters, Draft

Bulls center and unrestricted free agent Joakim Noah is looking forward to the free agent process and being recruited by interested suitors, as he told Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. When asked how involved he is in the free agent process, Noah said, “I’m very focused on free agency. I spent the last 10 years in Chicago, there were good moments and bad moments but now I have an incredible opportunity for a player, being recruited by a team, I definitely want to live that kind of experience. It’s new for me but it’s something very intriguing for a player. I’ll consider every offer on the table, no doubt.

The big man was also asked if the culture of the team changed under Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg this season, with Noah telling Cauchi, “I don’t think so. I mean, Hoiberg is a good coach, the locker room is something that the players need to make work. It’s on us, not on the coach.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers have their sixth pre-draft workout scheduled for Wednesday, the team announced. Attendees will include Kellen Dunham (Butler), Jordan Loyd (Indianapolis), Taurean Prince (Baylor), Alex Poythress (Kentucky), Diamond Stone (Maryland), and Goodluck Okonoboh (UNLV), according to the release.
  • The Pistons are expected to name Rex Walters as head coach of their D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, Adam Johnson of D-League Digest relays. Walters previously served as the head coach at the University of San Francisco from 2008-16, compiling a record of 126-125 during his tenure. Otis Smith, the current coach of the Drive, is expected to be promoted to a front office position with the Pistons, Johnson tweets.
  • The Bucks held a group workout this morning for Max Landis (IPFW), Carrington Love (UWGB), Tyrone Wallace (California), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Derrick Jones (UNLV) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), the team announced. Milwaukee also held an individual workout this afternoon for Marquette big man Henry Ellenson, the team relayed in the same announcement.