More than likely, if you are reading this, you are a fan of the Detroit Pistons. You could be a casual fan who just likes to watch the Pistons and read an occasional article. Or maybe you are a die-hard fan who has bookmarks on your browser for this site, Pistons.com, NBA.com, basketball-reference.com, and maybe even PistonPowered.com. You may or may not have lived in or around Detroit at some point in your life. Whatever kind of fan you are, wherever you have or haven't lived, the last seven seasons have been hard to watch as a Pistons fan. Tom Gores, Arn Tellem and Stan Van Gundy are doing all they can to change that.
William "Bill" Davidson purchased the Detroit Pistons in 1974 for $6 million as the sole owner. Davidson was a Detroit native (but had a home in Florida, hence owning the Tampa Bay Lightning). Davidson treated the Pistons like royalty. Not satisfied with the Pistons location at Cobo Arena in Detroit, and after a decade at the Pontiac Silverdome, Davidson (in tandem with a group of financiers) built The Palace of Auburn Hills -- the first NBA arena paid for entirely using private funds. It is considered to be the first modern-style NBA arena, but is now one of the oldest in the NBA. Soon after, Davidson made the Pistons the first team with their own airplane, Roundball One -- which was upgraded to Roundball Two in 1998.
Davidson changed the image of the Pistons. The result was a larger fan base, a couple of championships, and tons of respect. Unfortunately, Davidson passed in March of 2009 -- shortly after the Pistons became less relevant in the league (20 fewer wins than the season before). It was Davidson's desire to have the Pistons stay in his family even after his passing, but his wife Karen Davidson had other plans.
Gores purchased the Pistons in 2011 for $325 million. That number, though more than 5,400-percent higher than what Davidson paid for the team, was actually $35 million lower than the estimated value of the team at that time ($332 million in 2012, $400 million in 2013, $450 million in 2014, $810 million in 2015). The sale included The Palace, Roundball Two, and the Pistons. However, unlike Davidson, he did so through his investment business Platinum Equity.
Gores has since become sole owner of the Pistons. Gores is a Flint native (who lives primarily in Los Angeles now). Gores has put quite a bit of money in not only upgrading The Palace, but also the Pistons practice facility. He has brought in Arn Tellem (at no small cost I believe) to help revitalize the Pistons image and their connection to the community. He has heftily paid Stan Van Gundy to not only be the coach of the Pistons, but also the teams President of Basketball Operations. He has allowed Van Gundy to hire whomever he wishes to the executive staff to make the Pistons relevant again. Whether it be for future investment (the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers for over $2 billion probably has a lot of owners licking their chops to sell their teams) or a desire to have the Pistons become relevant, Gores is not afraid to spend his money.
Tellem is best known as a prominent sports agent in both basketball and baseball. His basketball client list (from last season) was a rather nice one, let alone previous players (Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, Ben Wallace, and others). That has been the extent of Tellem's career, so this new position will be a change for him. One that he is looking forward to.
Because of his career as a sports agent, Tellem has made a career of getting to know many aspects of the sports industry. He has media connections. He has labor and management connections. He also has Michigan connections as he attended the law school at the University of Michigan.
I’ll never forget a game at the Palace during which the fans were so loud and boisterous that I thought my heart would explode.
And of course, he has player connections. He knows how to deal with the players and get them what they want.
I definitely think the one area is in terms of negotiations. Arn’s expertise is as a negotiator and I think we certainly can utilize him in that way. Exactly what that role is – advisory, in the room, whatever – is something that we’ll talk about. But I think when it gets down to negotiating with our own players, free agents, he’s got great expertise. He knows all the other agents out there, too. He knows the business from their side. So I think there is great value there. And then I think Arn’s been, as an agent, a player advocate for a long, long time. As such, I think Arn has a pretty good feel for players – what’s important to them, what they like, what they don’t like.
Tellem plans to use his vast knowledge of sports law and his connections to the media and other aspects of sports, to not only better the image of the Pistons, but also the community of Detroit and its surrounding areas. One upside of this will be Detroit becoming (hopefully) a free agent destination. Tellem will be able to sell to other players on the Palace facilities, the restaurants and surrounding attractions of Detroit and elsewhere, and how well the team is doing (...hopefully).
Another possible benefit (depending on where you live and how you feel about downtown Detroit) of Tellem is a possible move of the Pistons from The Palace to downtown Detroit. Tellem's knowledge of law will help Gores make the best decision on what to do with the Pistons and where they play. One possibility of the Pistons' low value is that they do not play in a large city. Tellem will help Gores explore all avenues on that topic.
Stan Van Gundy
Van Gundy came to the Pistons with a past. A past that not only included no season of missing the playoffs or being below .500, but a past that also included headbutting with a franchise player. He is not of the same ilk as the retread coaches the Pistons had the six seasons before him -- Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer. Van Gundy was not only given the reins to what plays the team runs as head coach, but who will run those plays as President of Basketball Operations.
The team (on the court) that Van Gundy inherited was not to his liking. By the start of his first season, only eight players were on the team the season before. There are now only three players left that Van Gundy inherited -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond. In less than 12 months, Van Gundy has made five trades -- more than the previous five seasons combined. He has done so without sacrificing key players or first round picks. He now has a team to his liking.
His other team, the executive team, is also being reshaped. Gone is Rasheed Wallace. Gone is Arnie Kander. In is Jeff Bower as General Manager. In is Dave Hopla as shooting coach. In is
Hypnowheel Tom Perrin as a consulting team sports psychologist. In is Jessica Shaefer and Mark Crantson (to replace Kander) as assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist respectively. Luke Fritz, who has long been the team's masseuse, will continue to work with the team as an outside vendor, but will be "replaced" with four or five masseuses. Also, I can sadly report, that they have hired an Analytic Systems Developer who will work on customized statistics reports and report to the coaching and executive staff -- I did apply for this job, and did not get an interview. Either way, Van Gundy is building a large executive team.
It is too early to tell what the outcome will be once the team hits the floor. They have just over a week before their first preseason game. Van Gundy could have over 100 people on his executive staff, but it will not matter if the Pistons do not play well.
Back to Work!
The Pistons are using a new promo to draw ties between the Pistons and the community. They have new Chrome alternate jerseys. They have assembled a team of young players and journeymen, all of which have an attitude that gets under the skin of their opponents. But this team finally seems to fit. This team is built around a core of Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (and to some extent, Stanley Johnson). This team could be a huge failure just as much as it could be a huge success. Either way, this team is shaping up to be very different than the teams of the previous seven seasons.
Training camp for the 2015-2016 season starts today, Tuesday, Sept. 29.
There is a story to be told.