When the interview process gets to the owner, it’s usually a get-to-know-you session so a comfort level can be determined. Bad chemistry can sink marriages that appear ideal fits on paper, as the Troy Weaver union with the Pistons at a critical juncture in their evolution appears to be.
But Tom Gores acknowledges that this time there was another significant component to his face-to-face – well, via the magic of videoconferencing in the age of a global pandemic, at least – meeting with the franchise’s new general manager.
It was a recruitment as much as it was a gauge of Weaver’s compatibility with the leadership team Gores has in place: vice chairman Arn Tellem, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and coach Dwane Casey.
“It was both,” Gores said Monday as the Pistons, in a nod to the times, introduced Weaver as general manager in a virtual press conference. “Troy’s track record and his experience and what he’s done is pretty clear. But that can only speak for so much. We want Troy to lead. He’s going to run the basketball side of things. We have over 100 years of experience between Arn and Ed and Dwane to leverage. The smartest people in the world leverage whatever resources they have. I wanted to make sure he would leverage it.”
Properly satisfied on that front, Gores pulled out his sales skills.
“There was a side of selling it, but I always say, ‘Sell the truth.’ We’re not going to tell him it’s warm in Detroit, but we’re going to sell our truth – which is we have committed people. We like the culture we have. We think we’re great community stewards. Troy was interested in that, as well. We treat our players with great respect. Part of the selling was this is a big move for Troy. It has to be the right move for him.”
Weaver went into the interview versed on what to expect from Gores through his intelligence gathering and interviews with Tellem, Stefanski, Casey and others.
“Tom’s one of the best owners I’ve been around and I don’t know many people who could attest to more owners than I’ve been around,” said Stefanski, a veteran of front offices in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Toronto and Memphis before signing on with the Pistons two years ago. “Tom does it the right way. He’s there for us 100 percent.”
So Weaver was prepared to be impressed. He got more than he expected.
“I was spoiled. I had a tremendous relationship with the owner in Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett. When I met Tom on Zoom, I was blown away. Tremendous energy. What he has in his heart inside of him for the Pistons, who he is and what he stands for, I was sold in the first two minutes.”
Weaver’s had several chances to leave Oklahoma City for career advancement. Two years ago, the Pistons pursued him after Stefanski had joined Gores. He wasn’t ready to leave then, he said, largely because he was committed to seeing the Thunder win a championship with a roster that still included Russell Westbrook and Paul George. He was ready this time, but he wasn’t jumping at the first offer. It had to be the right offer.
“The timing was right,” he said. “It’s all about timing. When this opportunity presented itself, I thought the timing was right. I thought the fit was right and the loyalty that Mr. Gores and Arn and coach Casey and Ed have building made it attractive. My talents fit with those guys there to be collaborative.”
The timing might be better for the Pistons this time around than two years ago, too. Then, the roster was established and didn’t allow for much latitude, given the number of hefty contracts, to tinker. Now the Pistons have more cap space than all but two other franchises and are poised to have a high lottery pick in the October draft.
Weaver prefers “restoring” to “rebuilding,” citing Pistons history and the “tremendous amount of greatness in the walls,” ticking off the biggest names in franchise history. He says “traditional rebuilds are pretty much a thing of the past” and looks at every year as an opportunity to remake the roster and improve. The presence of Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose were drawing cards for him, not line items on a cap sheet.
He’s not coming in to engineer a roster makeover that actively facilitates losing to increase lottery odds, in other words. The battle to better the roster and the franchise at large will be fought on many fronts with all the tools at his disposal.
“We will work day and night, tirelessly, to put a team on the floor that the community can first identify with and second be proud of,” Weaver said. “My number one goal is for people to come to the arena and feel great about the product. And when we’re on the road, old Pistons like Dave Bing and Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton turn on the TV and it just resonates. It looks and feels like a Piston team. We’ll work to ensure we make that happen.”
Gores acknowledged that hiring an African-American was a priority, but in the same breath made it clear that Weaver was hired solely on merit.
“It’s a great win for our African-American community that Troy comes in,” he said, “but at the same time, you can’t take an ounce away. Troy is the best person in the world for this job.”
The boss Weaver leaves behind, Thunder general manager Sam Presti, offers an equally enthusiastic endorsement: “Troy has been an integral member of our organization since 2008. Aside from being a terrific basketball executive, Troy’s personal values of honesty, unity and hard work make him a great addition to the Pistons organization. The Pistons could not have found a better person to lead and direct their franchise.”
It’s a marriage that couldn’t be better positioned to thrive. Troy Weaver exercised great patience waiting for the right partner to come along at the right time. Tom Gores and the Pistons were that partner. This was their time.