"We just happened to be talking and I said, 'Listen, if there is anything I can do or any capacity I can help, let's stay in touch,' " Allen said in a phone interview. "So then we talked more and more in depth about how I can fit with the organization."
And it was the small conversation that turned into Allen's opportunity to get back into the NBA, this time from the sidelines. Allen was hired to join Van Gundy's staff as an assistant coach late last week.
Allen, a former Villanova star who went undrafted in 2000, played for eight NBA teams, averaging 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 10 seasons, called his new opportunity with the Pistons "exciting" and said he's received a lot of support for his move.
A co-founder of inRecruit, a website for high school, AAU and college coaches, parents and former players to connect, Allen said the hardest thing about his new position will be missing out on Villanova basketball games, "especially this year when expectations are so high," and returning to Philly as an enemy.
"It'll be strange, I've always been used to coming in as a player and not from the coaching angle," said Allen, 36, who is from Willingboro, N.J. "I'm excited for it. Granted, when I was a player I started looking at things a little differently. From a coaching standpoint, in a lot of ways I guess that is what has pulled me there. I'm excited about us and [the Sixers] should be excited about where they are going."
Allen, 6-10, 255 pounds, led Shawnee High to state titles in 1995 and '96, appeared in 29 NBA playoff games, including six starts for the Chicago Bulls in 2006.
In Detroit, Allen will be tasked with coaching the Pistons' big men as the team tries to rebuild after a 29-53 season.
And when it comes to rebuilding, Allen approves of how the Sixers are carving out their future. He said the key word is "patience" when it comes to this process.
"Obviously the big word is patience, but I think that's what you have to do," Allen said. "You have to start young and get young players and try to develop them into your program from the ground up. It allows you flexibility for down the road, and hopefully those guys wind up to be players you anticipate when you draft them.
"It's the right model, and losing is never what Philadelphia wants. It can be tough. But I think they are attacking it the right way. Especially when it comes to who's there and looking at the timeline of how they're making moves. Patience can be tough."