Tom Gores on the state of the Pistons: ‘There’s something special going on’
Tom Gores is in his fifth season of Pistons ownership, which gives him the type of institutional knowledge he relies upon to make the shrewd business decisions that helped him build Platinum Equity into an industry leader.
And what he’s seeing from this Pistons team is strikingly different than what he’s seen from previous editions.
He hosted a get-together for the team and staff Sunday, two days before the season-opening win on the road against an Atlanta team that won 60 games last year, and it hit him.
“They were interacting in a way that I haven’t seen players interact before,” he said before Wednesday’s home opener. “They wanted to be here. They were enjoying each other. And if they didn’t have a game in a couple of days, they would’ve stayed late, late, late. There’s something special going in.”
And Gores has no difficulty tracing the effect to its roots.
“I give so much credit to Stan Van Gundy on this. I could speak about culture, I could speak about chemistry. But that has to get done every single day and that has to get done on the floor. It’s really kind of walking the talk and I feel like, right now, my vision is able to walk the talk because of the people on the ground.”
Gores believes the environment Van Gundy has cultivated helped shape the decision Andre Drummond made to put off contract talks until next July, a move that effectively will provide the Pistons with nearly an additional $13 million in cap space. Equal credit, though, goes to Gores for nurturing his relationship with Drummond since the day the Pistons drafted him in June 2012 as an 18-year-old. In fact, their relationship was cited by Van Gundy as the critical factor in Drummond’s decision.
“I think my role with Andre started four years ago,” Gores said. “There’s a bond that was created and there was a trust and a belief. What great respect I have for Andre and the maturity he had to make a very big decision and put the team first. As well as I know Andre, for a young man to be able to do that is pretty incredible. I think this community should look up to him.”
The community – Detroit in particular, but all of the places where Pistons fans live and work throughout the region, essentially – remains Gores’ abiding passion. His desire to make them better places with greater opportunities for the people who live there was a driving factor in Gores’ pursuit to bring in Arn Tellem as vice chairman.
“Arn is going to take everything we’ve talked about together and he’s going to supercharge it,” he said of Tellem, who is spending his first few months on the job meeting and hearing the needs of civic and business leaders before developing a plan of action to implement big-picture ideas.
“We’ve got pretty powerful leaders in the community and we can’t develop our final thinking unless we also talk to them. So Arn is really taking his time. He’s patient, thorough, smart and he has a real dedication to this community. We have a vision for Detroit to really come back totally. It’s the most important thing to me and I feel like what Arn does for us is supercharge our initial vision.”
At the recent NBA Board of Governors meeting Gores attended, he said, his peers expressed amazement he could bring Tellem on board.
“Most of the owners were wondering, how the heck did we get Arn? He lives in great weather, he’s probably the most renowned NBA agent ever, he knows everybody in basketball – and we convinced him to come to Detroit,” Gores said. “That was the good secret in the room. ‘How the hell did you do that, Tom?”
He grinned as he said, the grin of a man who feels pretty good about the state of the Pistons and the changes he’s implemented, the leaders he’s put in place – Stan Van Gundy, Arn Tellem and Dennis Mannion, president and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment. He’s not expecting overnight miracles – though he admits to yelling, dancing and high fiving during the win at Atlanta – but the trends he sees fill him with optimism.
“Patience with progress,” he said, the guiding principle he uses in assessing the Pistons. “I think we’re making tremendous progress. I expect this team to be a championship team. This is why we’re here. We do have a lot of young guys on our team. But I don’t want young to be an excuse. We have talented people. I actually told the players that I started a company when I was very young and everybody said, well, geez, you’re too young to start a company. It’s just like being too young to have a championship. I said, no excuses. I expect a lot out of this team.”