Emphasis for Pistons is getting job search done right

There are some big decisions on the Pistons’ horizon awaiting a new basketball executive.
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by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Aside from a few names thrown out speculatively and just because, it’s all quiet on the GM job front. A noisier search probably would do more to convince fans something is getting done. But the stealth search the Pistons are running almost certainly has a better chance of ending well.

Keep in mind that until a week ago, nearly half the league’s teams were still involved in the postseason. That’s been pared to about a quarter now and soon to a final four. It’s fair to guess that serious candidates will emerge from some of those teams still playing – successful franchises tend to get poached, for obvious reasons – but that’s all it is: guesswork.

As this process gets closer to completion, there inevitably will be a few candidates whose names emerge. They’ll almost certainly come from the agent side of things because that’s where leaks almost always originate. Even if their client doesn’t win the race, getting his name out there is generally perceived to be a good thing.

Except when it isn’t. Earlier in the process, when the net is cast wide, the candidates and their agents might well be leery of public linkage. Is it a job they really want, first of all? Is there a comfort level with ownership? You need to be careful about the jobs you pursue. Employers get that most employees below GM level want to run their own team someday, but you can erode trust pretty fast if you have a wandering eye for every opportunity. So the quiet so far? Understandable and preferable.

Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill was clear last week when he spoke with Matt Dery, midday host of the new Pistons radio flagship station Detroit Sports 105.1 WMGC-FM, about a few things: All options are on the table and discretion was a foremost desire of the search team headed by Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, two other Platinum partners, with guidance from Jed Hughes of the prominent executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.

“All options” means there can be no rigid timetable placed on the search. In a perfect world, they’ll find their guy in time to make the big decisions on their immediate horizon.

The draft is June 26, a little more than six weeks out. Beyond the obvious – exercising a lottery pick, if the Pistons make good on the 82.4 percent odds they’ll get to keep it – is the fact that the draft, essentially, is a more significant movement day than the February trade deadline for consummating trades.

Then there’s the July 1 start of free agency, where the fate of Greg Monroe will be determined.

No two people are likely to make the same series of moves across those issues, so you can bet the folks conducting the job search have those dates in mind. Their preference, surely, would be to put the decisions in the hands of the person they determine is best to lead the Pistons into their next chapters.

But better to push the decision past those dates than to rush the search to an unsatisfactory end just to leave the tough choices to a new executive who hasn’t convinced ownership of his expertise.

Assistant general manager George David has been point man on the draft even before he succeeded Scott Perry as the organization’s No. 2 executive two years ago. Ken Catanella came to the Pistons from NBA headquarters nearly three years ago, regarded as one of the league’s brightest at the use of analytics. He very quickly won the trust of ownership and co-workers with his diligence and perspective.

Those two will have the Pistons well positioned to make whatever calls must be made on the draft, trades or free agency, whether that means conveying all relevant information to a new executive or collaborating with the ownership group to inform their decisions.

The draft? It’s business as usual, and my guess is they’ll have about a dozen serious names under consideration if they stay at No. 8 after the May 20 lottery draw. Trades? They know their team – and the things the roster might lack – intimately. Free agency? Retaining Monroe is the likeliest course, no matter who’s in charge, simply because nobody lets 23-year-old rising big men walk for no return.

Bottom line, it’s better to get it done right than to get it done fast. Get it done fast and you might have to get it done again, and fast. The goal is to find the person who can build a third championship era of Pistons basketball. Ten or 20 years from now, no one will remember if that needed one month or three to get accomplished.