Marist coach Jeff Bower given unlikely Pistons role

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Last season, Marist head coach Jeff Bower held the reins to a 12-19 MAAC team that hadn't had a winning season in five years.

But he'll hold the keys to an NBA franchise this next season.

That's the strange and sudden turnaround which became a reality Tuesday, when Stan Van Gundy — operating as the Detroit Pistons' head coach and team president — announced Bower as his new general manager. 

“I’m excited to join the Pistons organization and play a role in helping this franchise build on its great basketball tradition,” Bower said in a statement, “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. I’m also excited about ownership’s commitment to winning and their demonstrated commitment to the community.”

The move was bold, but not unwarranted.

Despite his move to college basketball this past year, Bower had more than 30 years of experience on the pro stage. He served as the general manager for the Charlotte/New Orleans from 2001 to 2003 and then again from 2005 to 2010. 

The decision makes sense for Van Gundy, who needed two things from his general manager: a knack for spotting talent and a willingness to cede control.

Bower proved he is able to assess athletes, having chosen four future All-Stars while with the Hornets (Baron Davis, 1999, Jamaal Magloire, 2000, David West, 2003, and Chris Paul, 2005).

More importantly though, Bower has shown a propensity for being a team player. While with the Hornets, he stepped down from the general manager post to serve as an assistant coach and director of player personnel. He showed flexibility by becoming head coach after Byron Scott was fired in 2009 and led the team to a surprising 34-39 record.

Bower won't need to have ultimate decision-making powers in order to be happy.

Which is good, because Van Gundy won't give him any.

It is clear that Van Gundy was given complete control of the Pistons upon his hiring in May, hence the double-title of both president and coach. Despite talented frontcourt players in Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the Pistons are a work in progress. The former Magic coach who surrounded Dwight Howard with deadly shooters and led his team to an unlikely NBA Finals in 2009 seems as good of a candidate as any to turn this ship around.

But he will be doing it his way, and after years of struggling with management under the Magic's Otis Smith, it looks like Van Gundy has chosen a general manager who will stay out of his mind.

Which is fine, because Bower has every reason to be grateful for the role he will have in the organization, however limited it might be.

After all, think of the alternative.

He could have been coaching the Red Foxes for another year.


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