Ethan Davidson: Dad wanted to move Pistons back downtown

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Bill Davidson holds the Pistons' 2004 NBA championship trophy.

Detroit — Bill Davidson took the Pistons out of Detroit.

But he had plans to bring them back.

"I can tell you that right before he died, he was contemplating a future move back down here. We don't know if it would've happened, much less what it would've looked like," said Ethan Davidson, Davidson's only son. "I think he anticipated the city was coming back.

"I think he'd be pleased to see the Pistons coming back downtown to be a part of that."

The Pistons left the City of Detroit in 1978, first for the Pontiac Silverdome, then for The Palace of Auburn Hills, which opened in 1988.

Davidson bought the Pistons in 1974, and saw them win three championships, most recently in 2004.

Davidson died in 2009, leaving the team to his wife, Karen. She sold to Tom Gores in 2011, and on Tuesday before a packed crowd of press and VIPs, Gores and Ilitch Holdings CEO Chris Ilitch announced a co-tenant agreement for Little Caesars Arena, starting next season.

Ethan Davidson was first told a move might be in the works back in January.

"I was talking with Dave Bing," Davidson said Tuesday, at the crowded gathering at Detroit Cass Tech High School.

"The crowd we had here is a bigger crowd than we used to get at Cobo!"

Gores thanked the Davidsons during the press conference, and Oakland County, which is losing one of its highest-profile tenants.

That led to speculation on the future of The Palace, which was state of the art when it opened, became a model for other NBA franchises building arenas, and remains an elite venue today, thanks in part to the millions Gores has spent renovating and upgrading the amenities.

Gores said Tuesday the future of The Palace hasn't been determined, though there are a number of possibilities -- including redevelopment of the valuable land.

In other words, there's a chance The Palace will be demolished.

‘The right move’: Pistons returning to Detroit

"The place has had a great, great run," Davidson said. "But these things move on. It's gonna be sad for me to no longer see pro basketball there. On the other hand, I'm happy to see it down here."

One big concern among Pistons fans on the move was that Little Caesars Arena might have more of a hockey feel than a basketball feel.

Davidson has been hired by Gores to make sure that's not the case.

He will be curator of the Pistons' historical homage at the arena, which will be owned by the DDA, not either team.

Davidson took the job two weeks ago, and will work with his counterpart at the Red Wings as the process moves along. Gores and Ilitch both requested he be a part of the transition.

"They've had quite a jumpstart on us in this process," Davidson said of the Red Wings. "They've been at it for about a year. I've got a lot to learn. We want to make sure when fans come in, they're immersed and can interact with Pistons and Red Wings history.

"People are really going to feel a full Detroit experience in there."

The building, Davidson said, also will pay tribute to the city's musical heritage, including the Motown label. Davidson is a musician.

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