The decision to hold Tom Gores’ introductory press conference at The Palace instead of the Pistons’ practice facility surprised me a bit. Then, the ostentatious setup for the event – turning off the lights around the arena, tinting the stage at center court with a blue light and lowering the banners to flank a large TV screen – took my wonderment to another level. When I saw the Pistons hats adorned with what’s apparently Gores’ motto – BE IMPACTFUL – that were given to everyone in attendance, I thought I had it all figured out.
This wasn’t going to be a press conference. It was going to be a show.
Midway through the video that featured Gores quotes over Pistons highlights followed by several friends and associates praising him, I was certain I was right. It all certainly seemed IMPACTFUL, if not over the top.
Then, Gores took the microphone.
He was impactful, alright. But it wasn’t a show.
Gores dressed nicely – wearing a black pinstripe suit with a with a dark blue pocket square, a Pistons pin and barely buttoned white shirt with no tie – but his outfit wasn’t extravagant. He spoke well, but he didn’t possess the rhythm and grace of a great orator. He told jokes, but they didn’t all land.
It wasn’t a show. Gores didn’t take advantage of any tricks to dazzle and captivate his audience. He just spoke about his message, and that was enough to impress.
Of course, the new owner didn’t say much about any specific plans on his first day in charge, but he still spoke about a couple personnel issues.
Gores hinted more basketball people could join the front office, but he said Joe Dumars will remain in his current role of President of Basketball Operations.
“Yes, of course,” Gores said.
“Joe and I are getting to know each other. We agree on core values. We’ll see. We’re going to have to fight it out. We’re going to have to fight it out. Joe’s ready, and I’m ready.
“Our job isn’t to agree with Joe. Our job is to challenge Joe. Hopefully, that will make the outcome better.”
I don’t suspect Gores will have to challenge Dumars on a coaching change. Anyone can see John Kuester, who holds a career 57-107 record, should be fired. Asked about Kuester’s future with the Pistons, Gores indicated it may be limited to one more task.
“I haven’t had a meeting with Coach Kuester,” said Gores, who pronounced the coach’s name, Kooster. “I need to provide him the courtesy of that meeting.”
The current players in attendance – Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva – laughed at Gores’ gaffe, according to Ryan Slocum of ABC 12. They’ll sure be pleased when Kuester gets fired, but how many of them will remain? Gores walked the line between praising the Pistons’ base of players and expressing a need to upgrade the roster.
I’m not entirely sure Gores knew the implications of of his twice-stated support of practice – “It’s hard work. You go to practice.” “You have to practice” – but I hope the players who want to stay in Detroit heard the message. For those who want out, maybe Dumars can accommodate them now.
The process of making those decision will begin tomorrow. Gores said the sale’s close was moved up from June 30, so he could begin making moves sooner. As Gores said when he changed microphones after his first didn’t work, “Gotta adjust, right?”
David Stern clearly realized Gores needed to begin what will surely be a substantial rebuild. Gores realizes that, too, and he didn’t make any grand promises. He admitted he and his people will make mistakes, which particularly impressed me. I’m sure there will be missteps with all the tasks at hand.
Two of Gores’ partners, Phil Norment and Bob Wentworth, joined him at today’s press conference, and they’ll be involved in running the organization. They’re both based in Boston, and it will obviously take time for them to integrate into the workflow – or perhaps, for current employees to adjust into Norment’s and Wentworth’s system.
Gores must also convert his kids from Lakers fans to Pistons fans. It will be good practice. There are plenty of Michiganders who need to be (re-)converted into Pistons fans. He said his son now rates the Pistons as one of his top-four favorite teams.
“We’re making a lot of progress on that front,” said Gores, who admitted he “used to be” a Lakers fan.
The California resident doesn’t sound like someone who’s bought into the Lakers’ star culture, though. Asked about his Pistons memories growing up, he singled out Vinnie Johnson and praised The Microwave for being an ideal role player. At one point, Gores called himself a team player.
I was glad to see so much substance from Gores.
He was humble. “I don’t fly solo.”
He was excited. “It’s overwhelming. … I’m ready for it.”
He was accountable. “We need to deliver on the standards of your passion … I promise I will lose sleep to deliver to the standards.”
Gores could’ve coasted on style today, but in the long run, only substance will make the Pistons’ successful. He appears up for the challenge.
“Starting tomorrow, we’re going to go full speed ahead,” Gore said.
Finally, the Pistons are churning.