Joe Dumars officially broke his silence in a major way, talking at length to Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical podcast.
It’s a quick reminder how chill, intelligent and down-to-earth Joe Dumars is, especially for Pistons fans still licking wounds from the disastrous end to his 15-year run as GM in Detroit.
In the interview Dumars discusses his childhood growing up in Louisiana, the work ethic of his truck-driver father, why he chose basketball, his admiration for Chuck Daley and, of course, his tenure running the Detroit Pistons.
If this is step one on Dumars’ career rehabilitation tour as he looks to secure another GM coaching job, it couldn’t have gone much smoother.
I recommend everyone listen to the podcast, but here are a couple things that stuck out to me immediately:
1. The Allen Iverson trade was a salary dump
Perhaps this is revisionist history, but it seems to go along with other contemporary news reports. Woj and Dumars discuss the failed Pistons “reload” that began with the disastrous trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson.
Dumars makes it pretty clear that the primary attraction to Iverson was his expiring contract and the idea the team needed the flexibility to make moves.
2. If Dumars could do it all over again he would do a full rebuild
One of the things that comes across clearly during the interview is that the idea of rebuilding on the fly was a huge mistake. Dumars admits he should have tore the entire franchise down, gotten bad and rebuilt the proper way. The desire to stay competitive was too great and self-sabotaged the team’s need to rebuild after the Going to Work era.
3. Dumars might be an old-school guy, but he’s a fan of the modern game
As a former player, and someone whose tenure ended unceremoniously, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some stigma attached to Dumars as he hunts for a new opportunity. But Dumars makes it explicitly clear that he’s a fan of the pacing, style and execution of modern basketball.
He talks about today’s wide-open game and highlights specifically the space that people have to work with not just on the perimeter but in the paint, in glowing terms. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to close Pistons watchers as Dumars talked for years about positionless basketball and emphasized perimeter ability in many of his acquisitions. The problem, of course, was execution. Positionless basketball was right on the money, but an endless stream of combo guards, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye are not really the shining example of that philosophy.
4. The biggest lesson of the Darko debacle — background checks
This is something Dumars has explicitly talked about in the past, but he emphasizes the point when discussing Darko. It was more important to know his background, work ethic, and likelihood (or lack thereof) of improvement as opposed to evaluating his skillset. Dumars said post-Darko the team radically transformed how they evaluate the background of draft picks or possible acquisitions.
In his discussion about Darko he also implies something else — if it wasn’t Darko Milicic, the Pistons probably would have drafted Chris Bosh. Dumars talks about how the draft was prior to the Rasheed Wallace trade and that the team, at the time, needed front court help.
So it likely wasn’t Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade. It was probably Bosh. However, if Bosh is on board do they trade for Wallace? Do they win a title? Do they win several titles? Are we stuck with the Heatles? Is Bernie Sanders president? We’ll never know ...
5. Dumars wants another job, and he’s willing to start at the bottom
Typically, when a high-profile coach has success he makes exorbitant demands to be enticed back to work — front office control, championship contender, etc. Dumars sounds like he’s more interested in building something out of nothing.
When asked about his interest in joining the GM ranks again, he doesn’t dance around it — yes he’s interested. But he talks about the desire to build something again. He talks about the importance of building a culture as well as a team, and the need to listen to what the players need and not just prescribe your previous version of success.