Detroit — Even before the Detroit Pistons and Stan Van Gundy parted ways in May, one popular name starting popping up as a potential replacement as general manager, or even team president.
Billups, who led the Pistons to their last NBA title and was the Finals MVP in 2004, is a fan favorite. Detroit fans embraced him once again, in his return with the Big3 event on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena. He got an ovation, even though he didn’t play with his Killer 3’s squad because of an injury.
Billups’ name also surfaced as a candidate for a front-office job with the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. The Pistons went in a different direction, choosing veteran executive Ed Stefanski to run their front office — at least for the time being.
Billups, 41, still is waiting for his opportunity.
“I have a desire to do that, period. Obviously, you know how I feel about the Pistons,” Billups said Friday. “My desire is to one day run a team, be in a front office and try to build a champion. I know I will and that I will do a good job. When that opportunity presents itself — and it’s a good opportunity — I’ll be ready to go.”
Even from the periphery, Billups has kept an eye on the Pistons through their struggles in the last couple seasons. He sees the move from Van Gundy to Dwane Casey as head coach as a step in the right direction.
“Stan did a good job and Stan is a very good coach but sometimes you just need a new voice. When you’re listening to the same coach and same message every single day, you can stop listening,” Billups said. “Coach Casey has been a very good coach the last few years. He’s really ascended to the top of the ranks in the league and whatever happened in Toronto presented an opportunity for him to come here.
“Just a different message coming across a different way and you see the success he’s had. Only LeBron has beaten Toronto the last couple times; if not for them, maybe they’re in the Finals.
“You have to be happy and hopeful if you’re a Pistons fan or a Pistons player.”
There’s optimism that the Pistons can turn things around, following their disappointing 39-43 record last season and missing the playoffs for the third time in Van Gundy’s four seasons. Their hope is for a trio of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson to become the core of a run back to respectability.
Having them stay healthy is the key to any big jump next season, but adding Casey will help the effort as well. And with LeBron James moving to the Western Conference, there’s room for the Pistons to move up the hierarchy into playoff position.
“They have two All-Stars on their team in Dre and Blake, and when Reggie’s healthy he can play at an All-Star level,” Billups said. “If you have that kind of talent in the Eastern Conference, you should be able to make some noise. They have a really good coach and I’m just excited for the squad.
“They have a chance to make a huge leap, from not making the playoffs at all last year to hopefully being able to make some noise.”