Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gores Leads Pistons’ Youth Movement

Gores Leads Pistons' Youth Movement
By Steve St-Pierre

The Pistons are committed to rebuilding around a youthful core. It begins at the top with Tom Gores, the franchise’s dynamic new owner.

Chairman and CEO of global investment firm Platinum Equity, Gores reached an agreement in early April with Karen Davidson, former Pistons Owner, to purchase the team along with The Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE Energy Music Theatre and the operating rights to Meadow Brook Music Festival. The deal was announced after several months of negotiations.

“We are pleased to welcome Tom Gores as the new owner of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment,” Davidson says. “Just as my late husband, Bill Davidson, was the face of the Pistons, I am confident that Tom will bring the same energy, dedication and love to this organization. I look forward to seeing Tom follow in Bill’s footsteps and carry on his legacy…we look forward to facilitating a smooth transition under Tom and achieving even greater success in the future.”

The deal is expected to be finalized by June 30, pending league approval and normal closing conditions.

“I’m excited,” says the 46-year-old Gores, who grew up near Flint. “‘Excited’ is not actually the right word. Ecstatic. I’m back in Michigan, where I grew up, and I appreciate everybody welcoming me back.”

Gores considers the opportunity to own the Pistons a dream come true and a chance to be a difference-maker.

“It’s interesting about dreams,” he says. “I mean, of course, I’ve always wanted to own a sports team, but it came together. Everything came together at the right time. I grew up with sports, but mostly I’m excited about inspiring the town.”

The plan is for Gores, once his ownership is completely finalized, to continue traveling between Detroit and Los Angeles. Yet, he vows to take an active role with the Pistons.

“I’ll be whatever owner this team needs and this franchise needs,” Gores says. “When they need me back, I’ll be back. I will be impactful, that’s for sure.

“I want us to be successful. I didn’t show up here to not be successful. (I’ll do) whatever it takes.”

Gores acknowledges that he will not be able to turn the organization around alone.

“This is a community asset,” he says. “This is not an asset that we’re gonna handle alone…we have to do this together. It is a true partnership.”

A number of challenges present themselves to Gores when it comes to improving this basketball team. He has several decisions to make, including the status of John Kuester, Pistons Head Coach, as well as the upcoming 2011 NBA Draft, which will be held June 23. His first task, though, is to meet face-to-face with Joe Dumars, Pistons President and GM.

“We’re in the learning process,” Gores says. “Joe is an amazing part of the Pistons organization, and we have to talk more, make sure we’re all on the same page, but he clearly is a part of this legacy…

“…We’re gonna learn first, so we’re not in decision-making mode. Are we afraid of change? Absolutely not. We’re ready for change, no problem. Sometimes you need change, but we’re gonna learn right now.”

Assuming Dumars remains with the organization, he and Gores will likely focus on the coaching situation. Very few believe Kuester will remain as head coach. Reports have already emerged that the team is considering both former Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer and former Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson, a one-time assistant in Detroit, as possible replacements.

The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery will be held May 17. The Pistons have a 4.3 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, though their best chances are at landing the No. 7 pick. They’re expected to take either a point guard or a power forward.

In the meantime, the sale of the franchise must be officially completed. Gores is thankful to the Davidson family for giving him the opportunity.

“I think Karen handled the situation really, really well,” he says. “Bill (Davidson) clearly built this house, and I have to build on it. I haven’t done anything yet.

“Bill did it all. He built the stadium, he built the team, he built the championships, and we have to go to work. Karen, I think, handled the situation beautifully, and all we want to do now is go to work and help the team, the Pistons organization, the community. All we’ve done is make a deal to buy the team, and we have to do more.”

To anybody who questions Gores’ loyalty towards the community and keeping the Pistons in Detroit, he insists he’s doing just that.

“Do you think I’m crazy? We’re here,” he says. “We’re here.”

Despite the organization’s question marks, its new owner remains optimistic he can turn things around for the Pistons.

“There’s a great, deep organization here that existed before us, and we need to make the most out of that,” Gores says. “This is not a culture you throw away. This is an unbelievable city. It’s an unbelievable organization.

“How long did Bill own the team? 30 some years, right? We need to take advantage of that, and I want to make Bill Davidson proud that we bought the team.”