Just five days ago, the Detroit Pistons announced that they’ve hired Dwane Casey, the expected 2018 NBA Coach of the Year, to a five year contract.
Casey was coming off a disappointing playoffs, but excellent tenure, with the Toronto Raptors. He was highly celebrated for turning that Raptors franchise into a near contender after years of Eastern Conference basement dwelling by the team up north. And while Casey’s recent track record is more than impressive, his hiring did not come without it’s fair share of hand wringing by those who cover the league.
One of the most regurgitated criticisms that followed the Pistons hiring of Dwane Casey, was the fact that Tom Gores and Pistons leadership hired head coach before general manager. Your standard NBA basketball leadership organization chart goes, Owner > President of Basketball Operations > General Manager > Head Coach, but Tom Gores don’t play like homie, and homie don’t play like that.
As noted, a lot of people, had a bone to pick with the Pistons’ process...
Dwane Casey spent the last 5 years working for Masai Ujiri, a GM who didn't choose him and was eager to get rid of him.— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) June 11, 2018
The Pistons don't have a GM, so whoever they hire didn't choose Casey and will likely be eager to get rid of him
The NBA is dumb https://t.co/LWXbYg4UqP
Dwane Casey is a good coach. No doubt. But it absolutely baffles me why the Pistons hired a coach before a GM.— Mike Sullivan (@MikeSullivan) June 11, 2018
Did the Pistons hire a coach before a GM?— Ayčić16 (@Aykis16) June 11, 2018
These criticisms (and the countless others like it) do have some validity. General managers are one of the most important actors in an NBA organization when it comes to overall basketball philosophy, player acquisition, and team structure. The fact that the Pistons hired a head coach prior to GM could cause friction in a locker room should the incoming GM not see eye to eye with Casey regarding personnel, player development, or one of the countless other areas that they’ll both have to collaborate on, on a day to day basis.
The NBA is a pressure cooker, and one major disagreement could lead to a disastrous divide within Detroit’s leadership. Couple that possibility with the current fragile state of Pistons basketball, and well, it looks like you could be viewing another few years of personified ineptness on the hardwood.
Enter Ed Stefanski. Stefanski was hired on May 24 as Senior Adviser, reporting directly into Tom Gores. He was tasked with rebuilding the Pistons basketball organization, and relieved incumbent GM Jeff Bower on June 1. Stefanski had his eyes set on Dwane Casey as soon as he arrived in Detroit. One of the most unknown elements to Stefanski’s role was his shadowy title, Senior Adviser.
What does that title entail? At first glance, it sounds like an individual you’d hire from a consulting firm, who’ll come in and make quick, hard-hitting adjustments, collect his check, and continue on to the next dumpster fire looking for a quick makeover. That is not the case in Stefanski’s regard, as he was given a three-year contract to remain with the Pistons, seeing this process through for the long haul.
Just take a glance at Stefanski’s last few titles in the NBA - General Manager, Philadelphia 76ers (2007-2011), Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, Toronto Raptors (2011-2013), Vice President of Player Personnel, Memphis Grizzlies (2014-2018). Stefanski enters Detroit with years of experience as a senior leader in NBA front offices and is reportedly well connected amongst league brass. There should be no doubt whether or not he’s qualified for a(nother) senior leadership role in the NBA.
Those who closely follow Detroit had assumed that Stefanski was essentially acting as President of Basketball Operations, who was aiming to hire a young mind he could groom as general manager. The candidates he chose to meet with mirrored that sentiment, as he brought in the likes of Shane Battier, Brent Barry, and Tayshaun Prince for consideration in front office positions with the team.
Today it is being reported that Stefanski could be named the official President of Basketball Operations and GM, effectively removing the title of Senior Adviser. Per the Detroit Free Press’ Vince Ellis...
A bit of clarity. #Pistons are exploring assistant GMs to oversee three possible areas: scouting, player development and analytics. Ed Stefanski could have senior adviser title removed and is named GM/POBO. https://t.co/zSIMI9WuOW— Vince_Ells56 (@Vincent_Ellis56) June 16, 2018
There is some importance in individual titles, they help clarify power structures within complex organizations. But more important than a title, is the day to day actions individuals do while at work. Perhaps the Pistons could have provided more clarity regarding their org chart, but since Stan Van Gundy was removed from his throne, it’s become more and more clear who is in charge.
The current head of Pistons basketball landed his top choice for head coach, which should result in a harmonious bond between the two, and who share the same vision for the future of Detroit Basketball.