Stan Van Gundy's dual challenge

Stan Van Gundy is going full bore in a dual role similar to one once held by Pat Riley in Miami. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stan Van Gundy was simply in denial.

"You've got to be kidding me," Van Gundy snarled as he emerged from a group of reporters Tuesday afternoon. "Five to zero? That can't be right. That's unbelievable."

Forgive Van Gundy for having essentially no free time and little opportunity to keep up with the lopsided World Cup score that dominated the global sports landscape Tuesday. So when he was provided with an update of the still-in-progress match between Germany and Brazil, he was astonished by the score.

Germany was on its way to a record-setting, 7-1 victory to advance to the World Cup Final.

Meanwhile, Van Gundy was on his way to his night job.

Back in Orlando's Amway Center in a public capacity for the first time since he was dismissed as coach of the Magic 14 months ago, Van Gundy is busy this week adjusting to dual roles in his new job as coach and team president of the Detroit Pistons.

When you're juggling free agency as an executive by day and evaluating Detroit's young prospects playing in the Orlando Pro Summer League by night, the World Cup -- and just about anything that develops outside of a sweaty gym or hotel suite -- tends to get away from you these days.

"I haven't spent much time being a coach so far," Van Gundy said Tuesday before watching Detroit's 80-78 victory over Miami. "It's still good be around and see guys and see how they work. Hopefully, when we get the bulk of our business done, in terms of free agency and roster being put together and a staff being hired and all those things, then I'll come a lot more to the coaching side."

Van Gundy made clear that his priority in the front-office aspect of his job is to retain restricted free agent forward Greg Monroe, arguably the biggest prize remaining on the market beyond megastars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. The Pistons and Monroe are believed to have discussed a deal somewhere in the range of the five-year, $60 million contract center Marcin Gortat agreed to last week to remain with the Washington Wizards.

Bridging any monetary gap is just one aspect of the negotiations between Detroit and Monroe, a 6-11 versatile big man who has averaged 14 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals over four seasons since the Pistons selected him with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft.

Monroe has yet to have a real breakout seasons with the Pistons, who have been the model of inconsistency, turmoil and turnover for nearly a decade. Detroit has had seven coaches in the last 10 seasons and hasn't made the playoffs since the 2008-09 season. Since Monroe arrived, the Pistons have added promising center Andre Drummond in the draft and signed forward Josh Smith as a free agent last summer in a move that left the team with a logjam at Monroe's primary position.

Van Gundy, who didn't have any NBA front-office experience prior to taking a five-year, $35 million contract to run the Pistons, spent part of Tuesday reinforcing his recruiting pitch while also dispelling reports that a rift between Monroe and Smith escalated to Monroe wanting out if Smith isn't traded.

"We dealt with it. It wasn't true," Van Gundy said. "We've been in constant conversation with Greg and his agent. Not one time has either one of them voiced any displeasure about Josh Smith. Not one time has either of them voiced that Greg didn't want to play with Josh. He's never said that to any of us. He's still a free agent so he does have options. He's not locked in and he's a very important free agent to us."

Van Gundy said Monroe was the first player he met with after taking the job in Detroit, and that the sides continue to negotiate in an effort to solidify a deal.

"We want Greg back, but it's got to be a mutual thing, too," Van Gundy said. "There's no hesitation there. From Day 1, I think Greg can tell you I ... made it clear to him that we want him back. We haven't wavered on that at all. Look, he's more important than anyone on the free agent market to us."

Almost seamlessly, Van Gundy changed hats and addressed how he'll implement a system in Detroit that was effective enough in Orlando to get the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. The initial instillation took shape during practice sessions last week that were attended by Drummond and forward Kyle Singler even though neither player would be competing in summer league games.

Van Gundy then sat through another promising performance from second-year guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is leading the summer league in scoring at 27.3 points per game. Caldwell-Pope, a lottery pick last season, scored six of his game-high 26 points in the final minute of the game when he sank three free throws and then made the game-winning 3-pointer to hold off the Heat.

Van Gundy envisions Caldwell-Pope taking a significant step forward into a role that gives the Pistons a versatile outside threat to complement the inside presence of Drummond and Monroe, provided the latter re-signs with Detroit.

"As much as production in a summer league session, you want to see how guys work, how they get through the grind of it, how they accept coaching, how they interact with teammates," Van Gundy said. "Those things to me are as important -- if not more important -- than their production on the floor."

Detroit's players aren't the only ones going through summer school in hopes of honing their craft.

Van Gundy is going through the same process and he finds a comfort zone balancing two jobs. He recently hired a general manager and an assistant general manager to help in time to get through the free agency process. He'll soon finalize the rest of his staff in Detroit as well.

As an assistant with the Miami Heat earlier in his career, Van Gundy watched Pat Riley handle simultaneous workloads as head coach and team president. Seeing how Riley balanced the grind has given Van Gundy a point of reference from which to draw as he settles into the job.

Well, jobs, that is.

"I don't know that at that point I was taking notes and keeping a book on it, you know," Van Gundy said of picking up pointers from Riley working in the dual role in Miami. "But I certainly did see it. So I have an idea of how it works and everything else. And I think that's been tremendously helpful here. I think back on that stuff quite a bit and what it meant."

One of the challenges is building emotional relationships with players as a coach, and then having to make difficult decisions with a larger view of what's best for the team long term as an executive.

Van Gundy said he'll navigate that dilemma by using his general manager as buffer as much as possible.

"But I think it all depends on how you set things up," he said. "In most cases, the general manager will do the negotiation and the day to day. I will never have myself in a situation where I have to say something negative about a player ... to try to get his value down. I'm not going to do that because I believe in the guys playing for me. I think you have to set up your processes in such a way where you have to protect those relationships as much as you can."

It's a juggling act that hasn't left Van Gundy with much spare time.

He certainly isn't in denial about that.