Tellem gets to work helping Pistons leadership bring big ideas to life

Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

It’s tough to boil down to a paragraph the breadth of Arn Tellem’s mission in his dramatic career switch while becoming vice chairman for Palace Sports & Entertainment. So let’s pare it down even further, to two words: door opener.

In his representation of Pistons owner Tom Gores and in his support of the organization, Tellem will serve as a master facilitator.

“My strength has been my ability to develop relationships,” Tellem said as his first week on the ground in Auburn Hills wound down.

Big ideas are a necessary component of any journey to greatness, but big ideas are more common than the means and the know-how to get them implemented. Enter Arn Tellem.

The bulk of his time, he expects, will be in big-picture projects that enhance the Pistons’ standing in the community, doing the sort of civic outreach that made ownership of one of the NBA’s flagship franchises so appealing to Gores, a Michigan native. That idea of doing something with lasting impact was a prime motivator for Tellem in leaving his resoundingly successful career as a sports agent.

He’s spent his first days reaching out to community, business and political leaders. He’s intent on partnering in yet unforeseen ways with the Ilitch family, owners of the Tigers and Red Wings, and with Dan Gilbert, Detroit businessman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner, already having fostered relationships with them through his representation of star athletes.

He had dinner last week with former Detroit mayor and Pistons Hall of Famer Dave Bing, whom he well remembered through visits to Cobo Arena from Ann Arbor when the Philadelphia native would make the trek to see his 76ers while plowing his way through law school at Michigan.

The next two to three months, he expects, will involve a heavy dose of those types of meetings. After he gets the lay of the land and figures out how the Pistons can best serve the communities where their fans live and work, then comes a plan of action. On that score, stay tuned. The possibilities are fascinating.

Another aspect of Tellem’s job will be supporting the work of president and CEO Dennis Mannion on the business side and Stan Van Gundy, president of basketball operations, in his endeavors.

He also has a strong relationship with Pistons general manager Jeff Bower, negotiating with him during Bower’s time running the New Orleans franchise. Pistons assistant general manager Ken Catanella once worked for Tellem, crunching numbers to complement negotiating positions. He knows well Pat Garrity, Pistons director of strategic planning.

“We have a lot of good, smart people,” Tellem said.

So how does he fit?

In whatever way Mannion, Van Gundy and Bower lean on him for insight and influence.

“It’ll be more to help,” Tellem explained. “My skills complement theirs. If it was just limited to basketball, it would not be enough of a motivation to come and do it. But to have an involvement from an ownership level in basketball and the business and the community and see where we can make a difference and contribute to what's going on here in Detroit and Michigan – that is what excites me."


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