Pistons GM Search: The two sides of Stu Jackson


Stu Jackson has built his name on the good things he’s done for the NBA. He served for 13 years as the league’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. He became the sheriff in town — not afraid to lay down the law with a hefty fine or suspension. While in the league office, he was a stickler for playing the game right and made it known.

Most recently, he headed up the efforts to get rid of flopping in the NBA.

Beyond that, Pistons fans know Jackson as the former coach of Wisconsin that handed over the keys to Stan Van Gundy. They know him as a possible “paper pusher” candidate in the front office that will follow the orders of the new Pistons president.

Yet there is a dark side to his basketball existence.

After handing the keys to Stan Van Gundy at Wisconsin in 1994, Jackson was hired by the upstart Vancouver Grizzlies franchise as general manager. After six years on the job, the Grizzlies had less promise than when they started up play. The great sports town of Vancouver had given up on the franchise, and a year later, new ownership moved the team to Memphis.

To this day, Vancouver fans believe that it was Jackson who was the main catalyst in the death of the franchise.

Bad trades, horrible drafting, and unbelievable extensions drowned the Grizzlies from the start. The team had five different coaches in their six year existence in Canada. They didn’t make the playoffs for the first time until 2004. In Vancouver, the Grizzlies went an atrocious 101-359 over six seasons.

It’s this background that has to put fear in Pistons fans, despite it being a completely different role under a the same job title. When he interviews later this week, Stan Van Gundy will be looking for a person that can fill the GM role with a unified voice that matches what the organization has planned for the future.

That means at the least, having a voice that’s listened to for major decisions.

Over the years, Stu Jackson has proved that the only place his voice leads franchises is down the tubes.

Draft History

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 Draft Mistakes

Not only did Stu Jackson make horrible decisions on draft day, he made the major mistake of falling in love with the players he drafted.
The Grizzlies past on superstars Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce and Steve Nash — The greatest Canadian born player in NBA history. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Take the first pick in franchise history for example.

Oklahoma State center Bryant Reeves was a monster in college and instantly his game translated to the NBA level. Jackson and company really felt like they found their franchise cornerstone with the sixth pick in the 1995 NBA draft. So much so that they past up on Arizona point Damon Stoudamire, who was drafted by the Toronto — the other upstart franchise looking to build a future.

Reeves would go on to average 15 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game in his first two seasons. In an age where playing decent landed a major contract, Stu Jackson saw enough from “Big Country” that he gave him a six-year 61.8 million dollar contract.

He would average near the same numbers for one more season before he slowly started to disappear from the box score. Three years later he retired from the league due to chronic back problems. Meanwhile Stoudamire was named the Rookie of the Year in Toronto and enjoyed a 15 season career. Other names the Grizzlies passed on in the 95 draft include former all-star Michael Finley as well as Brent Barry and Corliss Williamson.

In 1996, despite drafting well, Jackson missed out on a ton of superstars. With the 3rd overall pick, the Grizzlies went with Shareef Abdur-Rahim out of California. He’d go on to do great things with the Grizzlies and be the biggest star in Vancouver’s basketball existence. He was a good player on a team full of nobodies. He battled night in and night out and always was a factor offensively. He had four seasons where he scored 20 plus points per game.

As much as he defined who the Grizzlies were for a handful of seasons, they also defined him.

Sadly, he didn’t make the playoffs until his 9th season in the league.

Meanwhile teams built success around Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Grizzlies fans were upset that Stu Jackson and company passed on the Canadian born Nash, who is one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA.

In 1997, fans would take another blow when rival Toronto would outdo Vancouver yet again.  After selecting point guard Antonio Daniels with the 4th pick in the draft, Toronto landed Tracy McGrady with the ninth overall selection.

Toronto’s gamble on a high school player paid off.

While Vancouver traded their 4th pick to San Antonio in a deal that landed them Felipe Lopez.

How’d that work out?

A year later, the Raptors paired him up with Vince Carter for one of the more enamoring duos in basketball history.

Meanwhile, with the second overall pick the Grizzlies passed on Carter and took another point guard.

Mike Bibby turned out to be a good player, but Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce will most likely be in the Hall of Fame someday.

The final nail in the coffin came in 1999 when Jackson decided to draft Steve Francis, despite already having Mike Bibby in place. The worst part was Francis’ agent had told Vancouver he wouldn’t play there if they drafted him. It lead to a three team, eleven player deal that sent the Grizzlies Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Antoine Carr, Brent Price and a future first-round pick from the Rockets. The deal seemed to “work out” in the short term, but again — Jackson passed up on the likes of better talent in the draft. Dickerson had two great years in Vancouver, but Baron Davis, Ron Artest, Rip Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and Manu Ginobili all had better careers. The Grizzlies struck out again and Stu Jackson packed his bags for the NBA office.

In May of 2000, he resigned from his post as General Manager.

Despite his role if hired by the Pistons, it’s this mess that should scare fans to death. The General Manager of this team has to be able to broker good contracts and have input  on transactions or draft picks that actually has some meaning. Even if the job is filling out paperwork, there is something unnatural about having that type of experience in your front office.

Here’s to hoping that the interview in place with Stan Van Gundy is just a friend throwing out a bone to someone that has helped him get to where he is today.

Not a glance into how ugly Detroit’s franchise could look down the road.