In a polite but direct way, Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy in a radio interview Friday told Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to mind his own business. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Detroit native Dan Gilbert lobbed a shot at the Pistons on Friday, claiming the team should remove "Detroit" from its name because the Pistons play in Auburn Hills.
Gilbert was on “Mojo In The Morning” on 95.5 FM and was asked about the Pistons.
“Detroit doesn't have an NBA team, because they're somewhere 30 miles north of here, right? They're in Auburn Hills, right?” queried Gilbert.
“Now that Sacramento is building an arena downtown, they're the only one not in an urban core. The only one. It's really not good business. It's nothing against Auburn Hills, Oakland County or L. Brooks Patterson. An arena in the middle of a field is not an ideal thing.”
Later in the day, newly minted Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy fired back on 105.1 FM in an interview with Matt Dery.
In a polite but direct way, Van Gundy told Gilbert to mind his own business while also sticking up for his employer.
"Dan Gilbert has some selfish interests for saying what he said," Van Gundy said. "I think we know what those are. Finally I think he has enough to worry about with his own team than worrying about us."
Gilbert has invested millions into downtown Detroit, and certainly the prospect of the Pistons moving downtown would be a boom to his own personal portfolio, which is what Van Gundy was alluding to.
The Pistons had sellout streaks from 1988-93 and 2004-08. The Cavaliers are in downtown Cleveland and have higher attendance than the Pistons, even though both teams have struggled recently.
“If you're a championship-competing team, people will go anywhere to see you,” Gilbert said.
“When you go downtown you can go to the casino, go to dinner, make it a night. If a team isn't a championship team, you're not gonna walk 300 yards across asphalt in the middle of February, you're not gonna make a night of it.”
Gilbert said he’s spoken to Pistons owner Tom Gores “four or five times, and at the owners meetings,” where he’s broached the topic of moving the team downtown.
"If you're gonna convince someone like that, and I've said it to him, long term for business reasons, that's not a viable place that you're gonna have a long-term successful, profitable venture,” Gilbert said. “People want entertainment, a whole night of it, a whole experience."
Van Gundy defended Gores in his radio interview, pointing out that the Bad Boys reunion, which raised over $300,000 last month, benefited six Detroit charities. Van Gundy also pointed out the Detroit Pistons playing in Auburn Hills isn't a rarity in sports. The Los Angeles Lakers used to play in Inglewood, Calif. The New York Giants and New York Jets share a stadium in New Jersey.
The Pistons are the lone major professional team in Detroit that doesn't play downtown, having moved to Pontiac in the 1970's before late owner Bill Davidson moved them to The Palace in 1988.
"Tom Gores has been involved in the city of Detroit, not just the surrounding area," Van Gundy said. "There are teams all over the place that carry the name of the city but represent an entire area. Where we play isn't that much relevance."