Pistons president Joe Dumars, left, pictured with team owner Tom Gores, is in charge of the coaching search -- at least that's the company line. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)
Phil Jackson's newfound alliance with the Pistons has sure moved the needle on a franchise that has been absent from the national scene for quite some time.
ESPN discussed what could result of this unpaid partnership, as Jackson's California ties with Pistons owner Tom Gores led to him volunteering his services.
It could be something substantial or merely something to put the Pistons back on the radar.
But wins — and not Hollywood hookups — will put the Pistons back on the path to national relevance.
Gores, knowingly or unknowingly, has opened up Pandora's box of questions he's likely unable to answer at the moment. There's no doubt, at least from this seat, about Gores' desire to win. That doesn't mean his moves aren't above reproach, especially considering this dalliance with Jackson is not only undefined but also difficult to navigate from Pistons president Joe Dumars' seat.
Dumars, by all accounts, is running the coaching search, and, for the first time since selecting Michael Curry in 2008, is in position to choose a coach without certain constraints from ownership.
Not only that, there's the draft coming up, which Dumars has excelled at in recent years, as well as free agency, where Dumars deftly created cap space by ridding the Pistons of bad contracts.
Those two facts seemed to have fallen by the wayside with Pistons fans who suffer from selective memory. They're all too eager to hand the reins over to Jackson, an amnesia one would think Gores is too smart to also suffer from.
Does this mean Jackson will have a real voice in the coaching search? What if he chooses Kurt Rambis or Brian Shaw, and one turns out to be a disaster? Does that fall on Dumars, too? Many have tagged the failures of John Kuester and Lawrence Frank upon him, even though they weren't.
Or is this Jackson thing merely a short-term show, a ploy for some attention on the Pistons' end, and for Jackson a chance to tiptoe into the spotlight without having to fully immerse himself in the day-to-day grind?
If it is a show, then the Pistons are at the "teal" stage, where the shrubbery was more important than the substance.
This frustrated fan base deserves better.
Dumars has shined
I understand the criticisms of Dumars, and some are merited. It wouldn't take truth serum for him to admit the signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon didn't go to anyone's liking, but previous owner Karen Davidson's mandate, which resulted in no activity for two years, prevented him from correcting those mistakes.
If nothing else, under normal circumstances Dumars rids himself of bad draft picks or bad acquisitions, which good organizations do.
It's not an excuse to suggest the two years of Karen Davidson owning the team pushed the team further back than it would've fallen anyways. Imagine a house with a crumbling foundation that goes two years without being touched. It's gonna take time to rectify the neglect, and for the first time, the Pistons are back with their necks above water, with a chance to make a true splash in the marketplace, courtesy of the new collective bargaining agreement.
But that can only happen if ownership and management are in lockstep, and Gores must trust Dumars and his staff to be competent enough to handle this offseason on their own, especially if it's the most important summer in a decade.
Since Gores took over in April 2011, what gripes can one have with Dumars? Is it the selections of Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler, two quality players in what then was billed as a bad draft? What about the selection of Andre Drummond, which looks like a no-brainer in hindsight, but if that were the case he wouldn't have slid down to ninth. Before that, Dumars drafted Greg Monroe when many thought the Georgetown Hoya would be a stiff instead of a productive cornerstone going forward.
Malcontent Richard Hamilton was bought out, Gordon was shipped out, and Tayshaun Prince followed behind him months later.
It's tough, almost impossible, to say those weren't good moves to put the franchise in a position of strength this summer.
Trust in Joe
For Gores to put Dumars, a man he claims to trust, in this position — to have to wonder about the specter of Jackson hovering over his shoulder — is unfair. Whether you want Dumars gone or not, it's a tough spot to sell a team, a city and a culture you're trying to build when everybody doesn't appear to be on the same page.
Gores is a great businessman, no doubt. Dumars has been a great executive and didn't build a team that contended for nearly an entire decade on luck. To suggest he did is irresponsible and uneducated at best and disrespectful at worst.
Before Gores bought the team, I ran into one of his employees at Staples Center in Los Angeles late in 2010.
"He trusts his people and puts them in positions to be successful," the employee said when asked what was great about the then-unknown wealthy businessman.
It would be great for Gores to translate that philosophy to his basketball club.