Chevette to Corvette No. 45: The 1962-63 Detroit Pistons



  • Actual record: 34-46
  • Pythagorean record: 31-49
  • Points Per Game: 113.9 (6th of 9)
  • Opponent points per game: 117.6 (5th of 9)
  • Arena: Cobo Arena
  • Head coaches: Dick McGuire


Lost in first round to the St. Louis Hawks, 3-1


  • Points per game: Bailey Howell (22.7)
  • Rebounds per game: Bailey Howell (11.5)
  • Assists per game: Don Ohl (4.1)

Top player

Bailey Howell

Howell had his best season scoring and shooting the ball in 1962-63. He averaged 22.7 points per game, the second highest average of his career, and shot 52 percent from the field, a career high. In his five seasons in Detroit, few players can claim his consistency. He never averaged fewer than 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds in a single season.

Key transaction

Drafted Dave DeBusschere

The NBA used weird things called ‘territorial selections’ in the draft until 1966. Basically, it was an attendance ploy. The NBA in the 1950s and 60s was still struggling to gain attention of sports fans, and most teams suffered from poor attendance. The college game was far more popular in most areas. So, if there was a college star who might help spark interest in his nearby NBA team, that team could ‘claim’ the player through territorial rights in the draft and forfeit it’s slotted first-round pick.

DeBusschere, a star at the University of Detroit, went to the Pistons as a result. He’s possibly one of the best athletes the state of Michigan has ever produced. Tom C. Brody of Sports Illustrated:

"It takes real ingenuity for a typesetter to squeeze David Albert DeBusschere into box scores. Usually it comes out D’Buss’e or DeBuss’re or D’Bus’r, and the typesetters’ problem seems to last all year. From mid-April until the end of September, DeBusschere (pronounced de-busher with the umph on the bush) is employed by the Chicago White Sox, or one of its subsidiaries, as a right-handed pitcher. Then, as soon as he turns in his baseball uniform, he rushes off to join the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association.Competing professionally in the major leagues in two sports is rare though not unique. Gene Conley, for example, recently retired as baseball and basketball player. But Dave DeBusschere does more than just play in the two leagues. After two years of preparing him in the minors, the White Sox are thinking seriously of using DeBusschere as one of their starters and, when you consider that the Sox have the best pitching in baseball, that is high status indeed. In basketball, critics stopped using such guarded terms as "promising" right after DeBusschere’s first professional game. If you look closely at the line of figures following his name in that box score, you will notice that he is nearly always one of his team’s leading scorers, re-bounders and playmakers."

DeBusschere would also go on to coach the Pistons as a player-coach. It was certainly impressive that he tried two pro sports and also gave coaching a shot early in his career. Of course, it has also been pointed out that DeBusschere truly blossomed as a basketball player when he left behind coaching and baseball and went to the Knicks, where he focused solely on basketball and helping the Knicks win a championship.

Trend watch

The last of the playoff teams

Current Pistons fans are familiar with playoff streaks ending. Dan recently covered the team that ended an eight-year playoff streak. In the 1990s, a nine-year streak was snapped. This would be the last season of a 14-year streak of playoff appearances for the Pistons.

Why this season ranks No. 45

Coach Dick McGuire really did all he could with this team. The Pistons had almost no size. Howell, DeBusschere and Ray Scott were at times forced to play center where they gave up significant size and strength many nights. Howell was the only regular on the team who shot better than 43 percent. Darrall Imhoff, a young center acquired from the Knicks who had been the third pick in the draft two years prior, showed that the Knicks were right to give up on him so soon (though, somehow, Imhoff, despite showing little basketball ability, was one of the three players packaged from the Lakers to Philadelphia in exchange for Wilt Chamberlain just a few seasons later).

The Pistons could’ve been a lot worse, but McGuire, in his final season as Pistons coached, coaxed just enough out of the team to secure the final playoff spot by three games over San Francisco.