Joe Dumars can finally make long overdue changes, but he’d better have a good explanation for every one of them.
New owner Tom Gores will retain Dumars as the team’s president of basketball operations, relying on the Hall of Famer’s expertise to educate him about the league and the team.
“We’re going to lean on him pretty heavy,” Gores said. “He knows basketball. We already told him, ‘We’re going to push you, we’re going to challenge you every single way, whether it’s right or wrong we’re going to push you and push you hard. Our job isn’t to agree with Joe, our job is to challenge Joe and hopefully that will make the outcome better.”
Dumars welcomes the challenge after nearly a year and a half of mostly inaction while the losses piled up, players bickered with head coach John Kuester and the ownership negotiations dragged on. The league’s Board of Governors officially approved Gores’ purchase of the Pistons from longtime owner Bill Davidson’s widow, Karen, on June 1.
“There was a definite moratorium,” Dumars said. “It was just, ‘Hold tight until the transition takes place,’ so you sit there and hold tight. You watch things go on and say, ‘Under normal circumstances, we would address this in some form of change.’ So all you’re left to do is talk about it.”
Dumars anticipates “quick, quick” changes, most likely starting with the firing of Kuester. Gores said during his June 2 introductory press conference he would meet with Kuester to discuss his status. Kuester’s absence at the press conference and lack of participation in offseason activities are clear indicators a coaching change will be made.
Personnel changes will be the next on the agenda.
“We’ll be thorough but we’ll be fast,” Gores promised.
Gores, a financier whose wealth puts him among the 200 richest Americans, will open his checkbook to acquire talent but warns that he won’t spend recklessly.
“We’re prepared to spend it if the value is there,” he said.
He also, unlike most fans, believes the team is not far away from being a contender again.
“I actually think we have a good base,” he said. “I know we had a very challenging season, but there’s a core there. We made a great draft pick last year (Greg Monroe), and we’re got to make sure we do that again.”
That’s one of the many challenges Dumars and his staff must meet. At least now he has the freedom to take some action.
“You’ve got to see something tangible to back up what you’re saying,” Dumars said. “You can’t just keep saying, ‘Change, change, change’ and nothing changes. What this (the ownership change) will do is allow tangible changes to happen.”
For a team that lost its first five games and never had a winning streak longer than three games, there were no special moments on the court. The best thing that happened came less than a week before the season ended, when Tom Gores and his company, Platinum Equity, reached a definitive agreement to purchase the team and its assets from Karen Davidson, widow of long-time owner Bill Davidson. There was a palpable sense of relief and excitement at The Palace when the announcement was made, with the expectation that the sale will be approved by the league’s Board of Governors and the front office can finally take bold action to improve the roster.
Public embarrassments were commonplace but nothing made the franchise look worse than the infamous shoot-around boycott in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, though no player would ever admit publicly there was one. Only six players showed up for the shoot-around and that’s all Kuester and assistant coach Brian Hill — who took over after Kuester was ejected late in the first half — used in the game. McGrady and Stuckey, among others, were seen laughing on the bench after Kuester’s ejection, making the players look even more unprofessional. Any pretense that they were still aiming for a playoff spot was vanquished that night.
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