The once dominant Detroit Pistons have bottomed out in recent years. They haven't finished with at least a .500 record since 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since 2009 (a first round sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers). A string of coaches failed to turn things around, and now Stan Van Gundy is the latest man assigned to improve the team's fortunes. He won't just be doing it from the bench, either; Van Gundy was also hired as president of basketball operations, replacing Joe Dumars, who resigned in April after 14 years in the position and 29 total in the organization.
Born on Aug. 26, 1959, the Indio, Calif., native played on a SUNY-Brockport basketball team coached by his father, Bill. After graduating in 1981, Van Gundy became an assistant coach at the University of Vermont. He spent more than a decade in the college ranks, holding assistant and head coaching positions at several schools.
Van Gundy ascended to the NBA in 1995, taking an assistant coach job with the Miami Heat. Two years later, he was promoted to assistant head coach and remained in that position until he was named head coach in October 2003. The Heat overcame an 0-7 start to the 2003-04 season to win 42 games, compared to only 25 the previous year. A seven-game opening round victory over the New Orleans Hornets propelled Miami to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but the Indiana Pacers defeated them in six games.
With Shaquille O'Neal added to the roster, Van Gundy led the Heat to 59 wins and the Southeast Division championship in 2004-05. Miami swept the New Jersey Nets in the first round and the Washington Wizards in the second to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Their opponent was the defending world champion Pistons, who defeated them in seven games. Personal reasons caused Van Gundy to step down in December 2005, bur he held other positions with the Heat.
In June 2007, Van Gundy became head coach of the Orlando Magic and enjoyed instant success, winning 52 games in his first season. The Magic won the Southeast Division championship and advanced past the first round of the playoffs, both feats they had not accomplished since 1996. Orlando was the NBA's most defensively efficient team in 2008-09 and won 59 games, good enough for another division championship. Van Gundy guided the Magic to their first Finals appearance since 1995, but they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
The 2009-10 season saw Van Gundy coach the Eastern Conference team at the All-Star Game for the second time. Once again, the Magic won 59 games, claimed the division title and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, although this time they lost to the Boston Celtics. Van Gundy celebrated Christmas Day 2010 by earning his 300th win. The Magic won more than 50 games (52) for the fourth straight season in 2010-11, an unprecedented accomplishment in team history.
Prior to an April 2012 game against the New York Knicks, Van Gundy made a stunning declaration: the team's management had informed him that superstar center Dwight Howard wanted him fired. Ironically, his statement came a day after Howard had sent a text to a reporter denying he had requested Van Gundy's dismissal. Howard looked shocked when he was told what Van Gundy had said and claimed the Magic's only priority was winning a championship. Despite leading Orlando to a fifth straight playoff appearance, Van Gundy was fired on May 21.