LAS VEGAS – If you’re scoring at home, credit Mike Breen with the assist in setting Malik Rose on the path that led him to become an NBA executive and ultimately delivered him to the Pistons.
Rose knew what he wanted long before his career was winding down with the Knicks.
“I always had my mind on working with a team,” said Rose, newly named as Pistons assistant general manager, as he settled in to watch a Summer League practice on UNLV’s campus. “I wanted to be around basketball for my entire life and I couldn’t play forever, so this was the next best thing.”
He’d soaked in a lifetime plus of basketball knowledge from the people he’d been around over a 13-year playing career – Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas just a few of the names he ticks off – but it was Breen, longtime Knicks and network TV play-by-play broadcaster, whose advice he followed to start his post-career journey.
“I wasn’t getting as much playing time as I would have liked and Mike Breen and I hit it off. He asked me what I wanted to do after basketball,” Rose said. “He suggested doing television as a way to stay in sight and mind because these jobs are hard to get. There are only 30 of them and there’s a lot of competition. I swear, he was like a prophet, because that’s what I did.”
First for the Knicks and then for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers, Rose spent five years doing TV while simultaneously earning a master’s degree at Drexel, where he also got his undergrad degree, and – surprise – came to thoroughly enjoy it.
“It was kind of bittersweet leaving when I got my first front-office job,” he said.
Rose joined Atlanta’s front office in 2015 and as his responsibilities grew so did his profile as an up-and-comer among NBA executives. When Pistons owner Tom Gores named Ed Stefanski senior adviser in May, Rose’s name came onto the radar shortly thereafter. Rose’s Philadelphia connections to both Stefanski and Arn Tellem, Pistons vice chairman and another Philly native, nudged the door a little further open.
“I’ve known Ed professionally just from being around front-office circles. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Arn and Ed,” Rose said. “When Ed was still working with the Sixers I tried to intern with him when I first retired. I wanted to move back home and work with him, but he was swamped and his plate was full so it couldn’t happen. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity in Detroit. I took this job because I believe in what Ed and Arn are doing. It’s basically their vision – I believe in it.”
If there was perceived uncertainty for outsiders because of the unique nature of Stefanski’s title as senior adviser and how it fit into a traditional structure – and how it would relate to the offered position of assistant GM – Rose admits there was the same question in his mind initially.
“There was a little bit of trepidation, but Arn and Ed put all of that to rest,” Rose said. “They told me how they envisioned things and how they wanted things to go in Detroit and it was music to my ears. I loved it and I signed on. I’m going to be a part of Ed’s decision-making team. A lot of scouting, a lot of personnel – just pretty much a hand in everything. But what I’m really focused on, what I’m really excited about, is I get a chance to really dig in to personnel and take that to a different level.”
While Rose was in the TV world, he’d use every opportunity he could – coffee, lunch, dinner – to pick the brains of front-office personnel around the league, gaining perspective and, not coincidentally, expanding his network of contacts, eager to jump in wherever opportunity took him.
“Any NBA job is great,” he said.
But he has an even greater appreciation for the opportunity with the Pistons and a situation unlike most to confront newly installed front offices.
“I’m excited. I really am. Like I said, no bad jobs in the NBA, but most times when a new GM or a new front-office team is hired it’s because the team was bad or they want to rebuild and you have to go through a lot of losing seasons,” he said. “We don’t have that issue with us. We have a team that’s, by and large, ready made. We have two very good big guys, we have a very good guard coming back from injury, so I’m excited about this team. I really am.
“And I’m very confident in coach Casey. I think we really hit a home run with him as coach. It’s your first job, you come in and you’ve got Dwane Casey as coach and you have three very good players? Man, I’m excited.”