Former Free Press Reporter Vince Ellis Joins Platinum Equity-Pistons Content Team

by Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

This doesn’t feel quite right.

During this uncertain and somber time, when lives and livelihoods are threatened, I’m not entirely comfortable touting personal good news.

But the gears of life are turning and it’s time for me to get back to the only way I know how to make a living: Telling stories.

After leaving a nearly 30-year journalism career in February, I’m not getting out of the storytelling business. I’m just going to be doing it from a different vantage point, as a writer and content producer for Platinum Equity, the global investment firm headed by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

My title is “director” and the job description is “content producer,” which doesn’t begin to capture the scope of stories I hope to tell in the weeks and months ahead.

I will remain in the Midtown neighborhood, where I’ve resided since joining the Detroit Free Press in 2002, so my current focus is on the Detroit Pistons organization and the work it’s doing in the community. I’ll also be putting a face on people, places and issues surrounding Platinum’s global portfolio of operating companies. 

In the simplest terms, I’m going to do the only thing I’ve really known since I angrily quit my grandfather’s construction company on a hot Alabama summer day as a teen. I’m going to tell stories, and I’m grateful to continue my storytelling journey.

Natural fit

The Free Press assigned me the Pistons beat almost a dozen years ago. My first major story was the November 2008 trade of Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, and my last was the January 2020 trade of Andre Drummond for a future draft pick.

Between those two significant developments, it was a tough decade for the team with only three playoff appearances and no playoff victories. Arguably, the bigger stories of the last decade came off the court:

Gores purchased the team in 2011.

The franchise relocated from northern Oakland County to Little Caesars Arena in time for the start of the 2016-17 season.

The franchise moved last fall into the $90-million Henry Ford-Pistons Performance Center, located in the New Center area north of downtown Detroit, an easy walk from my apartment.

Followers of my coverage know that I approached such topics with zeal. As a casual basketball fan, I found myself often more attracted to the off-court developments.

That interest creates a natural fit with my new role, where a primary responsibility will be to report not just on basketball, but on the Pistons organization’s progress on business development, community partnerships and philanthropic efforts in Detroit; and then beyond that on similar endeavors across Platinum’s global portfolio of $23 billion in assets under management.

What’s next

The adjustment period has already started. The corporate world is fond of long teleconferences.

But the subject matter is fascinating; I’m receiving a firsthand look at how a complex organization responds to a global crisis.

The coronavirus has interrupted most daily functions; the suspension of the NBA season is the least of concerns.

The crisis has forced me to adjust my expectations for how my post-journalism career would begin: Who would have believed that my first days and weeks on the job would be conducted chilling in my living room?

It’s fair to expect that my initial work will focus on how Platinum and the Pistons are responding to the crisis, contributing to the fight and assisting in recovery efforts on the other side of this unprecedented time.

Some help is already under way.

The NBA announced shortly after the season interruption an “NBA Together” campaign to help people negatively affected by the global pandemic – an effort that promises to raise $50 million. The effort is being coordinated between the “NBA, WNBA, G League and NBA 2K League, with more than $30 million already committed by the leagues, teams and athletes.”

Closer to home, the Pistons announced that all employees, including part-time and hourly staffers that support gameday operations will be paid during the league’s hiatus. From the long teleconferences, you can expect more help from Platinum and the Pistons.

I’ll do my best to bring you stories from the front lines.

In the meantime, I am happy to report that when things return to normal and the teams get back in the gym, you will find me at games. I’ll be in a different seat, but I will be there to interact with fans, friends, my former colleagues on press row and my new – yet familiar - colleagues in the organization.

And my Twitter observations will return.

Beyond that, the storylines are to be determined.

I’m excited to see what the future holds.

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