Gores bets on Casey, Griffin to steer Pistons’ push through adversity

Pistons owner Tom Gores is upbeat about the Pistons future and the major moves over the past year to add Blake Griffin and Dwane Casey to the organization
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

LOS ANGELES – If the first half of the season hasn’t unfolded quite to Tom Gores’ liking, the Pistons owner remains unrelentingly positive about the two franchise-shaping moves made over the past 12 months: trading for Blake Griffin and hiring Dwane Casey.

And he expects those moves to pay off even if the return isn’t immediate.

“I like this team,” he said at halftime as the Pistons lost Wednesday to the Lakers at Staples Center. “I think they can work through adversity. We discussed it last night. This team expects to be in the playoffs. This team does expect excellence. You’ve got Andre (Drummond) and Blake out there – these are major, major players and it does expect excellence.”

Gores hosted the Pistons on Tuesday afternoon at Platinum Equity, the private-equity firm he launched in the ’90s after graduating from Michigan State and resettling in Southern California. Though one of the industry leaders today, it wasn’t always so. And that was a message Gores imparted to the players, coaches and staff he hosted.

“We’re very, very close,” he said. “We’ve just got to stay the course. I told them the other night, in my own business, around 2000, we could’ve busted as a business. We stayed the course. They have something very good going on. We had a meeting, non-mandatory, every player showed up, coaches showed up. They really do care. We’ve got to trust the process.”

Gores believes in Casey, aware of his track record in Toronto, taking over an adrift team and developing the players he was handed while adjusting his coaching to both maximize the roster and adjust to a changing NBA.

“Dwane is a great communicator,” he said. “He’s building trust with the players and then after you have trust, you have respect. We knew – Dwane knew – coming in that this was going to be a process. I don’t have any doubts about what he’s doing. He is a great communicator and he’s developing one minute, one second and one day at a time.”

Gores installed Ed Stefanski as special adviser last May to oversee the front office and Stefanski has stocked it with some of the NBA’s brightest young minds, including assistant general managers Malik Rose and Sachin Gupta to go with holdover assistant GM Pat Garrity.

“The thing I liked about Ed, he had a very flexible way to look at things,” Gores said. “I think we’re stocking the front office with good, open thinkers. We’ll only know in a few years how we’re doing there.”

The mission is to find undervalued talent, whether on other NBA rosters, on the other side of the world or coming through the draft pipeline. In Griffin, the Pistons have an anchor that gives them the blueprint for how they need to build the roster around him.

“We couldn’t expect more from Blake than what he’s done,” Gores said. “He has done incredible, incredible work. Beyond his stats, he really has been a great leader. I think we should all look back and think about the Blake move, it was a pretty good move.”