Pistons Committed to Thorough Exec Search

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

While maybe the most competitive first round in NBA playoff history played out, the Pistons proceeded with an executive search designed to thrust them into the mix for the league’s next postseason.

That search will be as thorough as it is discreet, Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill told Matt Dery on the new home for Pistons basketball, 105.1 FM WMGC, on Monday afternoon.

“We’re in a process and that process entails a number of steps,” Barnhill said. “Step one is to the extent people are currently employed, you’ve got to go to the folks they work for and get permission. It’s a process that will continue to move forward over the next few weeks.” Barnhill said that some potential candidates could be employed by the eight teams that advanced to the second round, as well.

The search is being led by Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, Platinum Equity partners, with the aid of executive search firm Korn/Ferry International’s Jed Hughes, who most recently led the Toronto Raptors to hire Masai Uriri from Denver’s front office. Barnhill said the search team embarked on the process with open minds, both in terms of candidates and structure.

“I wouldn’t want to rule anything out,” he said. “We’re looking as broadly as we can (for both a basketball chief executive and a head coach). The nature of this process is it’s methodical. At various times, names have been thrown out there. There’s no benefit to commenting on any of them. This process will play out soon enough.”

Asked by Dery if a new chief executive would be in place for the June 26 draft, Barnhill said, “It’s hard to say. It’s not necessarily the case. We’ll just have to see how this process plays out.”

When Dery asked what the response would be to an executive candidate who felt chasing a playoff berth next season shouldn’t be a priority, Barnhill said, “I would say it’s premature to put specific goals in place. But your objective is always to be competitive and make the playoffs and ultimately compete for a championship. Our expectations are always going to be that the team is going to play hard, it’s going to be competitive and if we put the right pieces in place it’ll compete for a playoff position and ultimately contend for a championship.

“Do we know a young team needs to grow and evolve over time? Sure. But anybody who tells you their objective is not to be competitive or not to be a contender in the league, they’re in the wrong business.”

Pistons owner Tom Gores, Barnhill said, “is close to this process and ultimately will be involved in this decision with respect to who moves into these positions.”

Gores said in February when the Pistons changed coaches, firing Maurice Cheeks and elevating assistant John Loyer to interim head coach, that, “We have not made the kind of progress that we should have over the first half of the season.” The Pistons clearly felt their 29-53 record didn’t accurately reflect the young talent on their roster.

“I think certainly we’re disappointed with the results last year,” Barnhill told Dery. “There’s no question we felt the team is better than its record showed. It puts the onus on all of us, from ownership all the way down, to put those players in a position to succeed. We think we have a great nucleus and a great opportunity to build and to bring this team to the great position it’s been in the past.”

Barnhill also said the search team wasn’t locked in to choosing a chief basketball executive before finding a coach, but fit would be a foremost concern. “I think we’re looking at both in tandem,” he said. “Obviously, they’re interrelated and we want to make sure whoever winds up in each of those positions, there’s great chemistry between them.”