A Little History, a Lot of Fun

Lawrence Frank connects with kids at Children’s Museum

Detroit Children's Museum Live, Learn, and Play Center
Detroit Children's Museum Live, Learn, and Play Center
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
The first thing Tom Gores hit Lawrence Frank with when it was time for Joe Dumars to present his choice as coach to the new Pistons owner for further vetting was this: “It’s not enough to win a championship. We have to make a difference in the community.”

In all of his previous job interviews, no one had thrown that at him. But Frank didn’t blink. Because that’s what he believes, too. There are some coaches you’d have to drag to an event like the one Frank attended as the face of the Pistons on Wednesday – the dedication at the Detroit’s Children Museum of the 25th Live, Learn and Play Center the franchise has brought to life.

Not Frank, who amazed team employees at his last stop as an NBA head coach with the New Jersey Jets with his enthusiasm for community outreach.

“It’s something I believe in,” he said before diving in a pile of kids situated on plush Pistons bean bags to read from Dr. Seuss. “It’s something we’re about. We try to enrich the lives of others. As coaches, you’re a teacher. You want to make others around you better. You want them to reach limits they never thought possible. It’s so important for me, my family, our staff that it goes beyond basketball. When you see kids like this, to see the smiles on their faces and be able to present them with unique opportunities, that’s life lasting.”

Museum director Julie Johnson, standing amid the 1,400-square-foot renovation as kids buzzed around the eight hands-on exhibits, including a tree house, a Pistons basketball court, actual footprints of past Pistons greats and a wall mural illustrating the franchise’s 54-year history in Detroit, said the Pistons’ support in sprucing up the museum, along with presenting sponsor PNC Bank and a host of corporate partners, on Second Avenue would make for a better experience for its visitors.

“This room used to hold an entire area of classroom space that was underutilized. This will allow them to interact, explore, learn and do hands-on activities that were not available in other areas of the museum. I think it will not only enrich the experience, it will be a magnet because we can advertise this area as a brand new space. It’s unique. Not many other museums have a basketball court, plus we have all the other components that are landmarks from Detroit that you can’t have in other places.”

Johnson said the core audience for the museum are children ages 4 through 8, but adults love reading the signage that accompanies displays and explaining the significance of events and individuals to Detroit’s history. And, she believes, the new Live, Learn and Play Center will appeal to older children, as well.

Frank left certain he’d be a return visitor with his two young daughters in tow – Dillon, 10, and Catie, 8 – and happy that one of Gores’ core tenets, to impact the community by starting with broadening the educational experiences of its children, is being swiftly addressed by the Pistons.

“It’s proven – the numbers indicate that when you are in an early education program what the benefits are,” he said. “So much of life is getting an opportunity. This maybe presents kids an opportunity that maybe they wouldn’t have had. With opportunity, you never know what can happen. You can’t force freed anyone, but putting people in position to succeed is important as opposed to not giving them a chance.”