Ed Stefanski’s hiring became official on May 24, which makes Saturday his 100th day on the job. Good luck finding an administration that’s had a more productive first 100 days.
Stefanski – hired a month before the NBA draft and not much more than that before the start of free agency – had to move quickly on several fronts. In addition to the draft and free agency, he needed to hire a head coach and restock his front office.
One thing he had going for him was a returning core and a relatively stable roster that included all five starters in the fold. Stefanski wouldn’t have been interested in the position Tom Gores was offering – essentially, to oversee basketball operations – if the mandate included a tear-down and bottom-up rebuilding.
But that has never been part of Gores’ DNA and it wasn’t about to be now after last winter’s trade for Blake Griffin meant he was presiding over the most talented roster of his tenure as Pistons owner.
With this week’s hiring of a new medical and training staff – Michigan natives Bernard Condevaux (Berkley) and Jim Scholler (Grand Haven) are coming home after extensive careers spent largely out of state – Stefanski has wrapped up what appears a five-star summer of hirings.
If you checked out when the curtain fell on the debut Little Caesars Arena season, you might have missed the details. Here’s how Stefansk has spent the past three months.
Hired Dwane Casey as Pistons coach – Stefanski put the coaching hire first and foremost on his agenda. His prior relationship with Casey – they spent two years together in Toronto – likely made it a more comfortable decision. But you’d have a hard time finding a more ideal candidate for the Pistons as currently constructed if you punched desired qualities into a 3-D printer and it spit out a composite coach.
Casey coached a team led by All-Star talents DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to five straight 48-plus-win seasons – the last three averaging 55 wins – but also showed an uncanny ability to develop and employ young players.
The Pistons match both ends of that equation with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond as their All-Stars and a need for increased contributions from Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.
Drafted Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown – Stefanski went into the draft with the 42nd pick, a range where little can be expected. But this was widely considered an unusually deep draft, so Stefanski rolled the dice with the odds in his favor. He dealt two future second-rounders for the 38th pick, betting that (a) future drafts might not be as fruitful and (b) the Pistons will be sending back much less favorable picks when they come due. Thomas and Brown, meanwhile, showed in Las Vegas what Stefasnki expected to see: toughness and a readiness to contribute now if needed.
Signed Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia – Much as with the draft, Stefanski used limited resources in free agency to maximum effect. Robinson was the prize, not only plugging the only serious hole on the roster – a small forward to complement Johnson – but coming with the prospect of untapped potential. He’s young, athletic and an above-average 3-point shooter at a position where such prospects are scarce. But don’t dismiss Calderon and Pachulia. They’re one and the same at opposite ends of the positional spectrum. Calderon, point guard, and Pachulia, center, are alike in their professional carriage and reputations as ideal teammates, both still capable of rotation roles but valuable for their character traits even in non-playing roles.
Put together a young, dynamic front office – Stefanski hired three young assistant general managers: Pat Garrity, who was retained from Stan Van Gundy's staff and directed the club's draft preparation, Malik Rose and Sachin Gupta. Gupta’s expertise in acclaimed stints with Houston and Philadelphia is analytics and the salary cap. Garrity and Rose, Stefanski said, would be involved in all aspects of basketball operations. Stefanski also reached into his past to add Gregg Polisnky, an NBA personnel veteran with a keen eye for talent, to head up the scouting staffs – college, pro and international. The Pistons pried Rose from Atlanta’s front office and lured Sammy Gelfand – who’ll provide Dwane Casey with all manner of analytical input before and during games – from Steve Kerr’s staff in Golden State.
That was a lot to pack into 100 days. Stefanski did it with a few days to spare. Which might allow him to enjoy the Labor Day weekend before his second 100 days kick into high gear.