'Great opportunity': Pistons hire Ed Stefanski as senior adviser

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior adviser on Thursday.

The Pistons have made some progress in determining the next stage of their front office and coaching staff. Amid mostly silence about the two vacancies after they parted ways with Stan Van Gundy two weeks ago, the Pistons finally made a move Thursday.

The Pistons announced the hiring of Ed Stefanski as a senior adviser, reporting directly to team owner Tom Gores. Stefanski, 64, will assist in the search for a new head of the front office and head coach, the two positions Van Gundy held in his four years with the team.

Stefanski has nearly 20 years of NBA executive-level operations experience and most recently served as executive vice president of the Memphis Grizzlies, who hired him in 2014. He also had lead management roles with the Toronto Raptors (2011-13), Philadelphia 76ers (2007-11) and New Jersey Nets (1998-2007).

“It’s a great opportunity,” Stefanski told The Detroit News. “I know Detroit well and my head coach when I played at Penn was Chuck Daly and he had a terrific run in Detroit. I wish Chuck was here today and I think he’d enjoy that I’m running the Pistons.”

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Stefanski agreed to a three-year deal, and he is tasked with reshaping the front office and hiring a general manager and head coach. Though his current title is senior advisor, the role could evolve over time, as he’ll maintain a close advisory relationship with Gores and the front office.

The Pistons are moving from a different structure with a president, general manager and coach but it’s unclear whether they will have they same three-tier system or move to a different model under Stefanski.

One of his first tasks will be working with current Pistons general manager Jeff Bower to assess the situation and make recommendations about how to proceed.

“I’m going to go to Detroit next week and sit with Jeff Bower first. Jeff and I have been friends for years and pick his brain and hear his thoughts, vision and focus and what he feels are the positives and what may need to be corrected,” Stefanski said. “I’ll talk to all the employees and get the same thoughts and ideas from them. I come in with a clean slate.”

Among the names the Pistons reportedly are considering for positions in the front office, in addition to Bower, are Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon, Heat executive Shane Battier (Detroit Country Day) and Brent Barry. They may not all be in the running for general manager, but they could occupy complementary roles. Former Piston Tayshaun Prince, who worked with Stefanski last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, also could be in line for a role in the front office.

As they continue their search for a new head coach, the Pistons likely will focus on former Toronto Raptors coach Dwayne Casey, according to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Former Piston Jerry Stackhouse and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon among others being considered. Stefanski was in the Raptors front office that hired Casey in 2011.

Bower has been in charge of the front office since Van Gundy left. He led the Pistons’ contingent last week in Chicago at the NBA Draft Combine and has handled the day-to-day operations since he joined the staff with Van Gundy four years ago.

The Pistons finished 39-43 last season and missed the playoffs but with the hopeful healthy return of Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, they could make a jump back into postseason contention, with a new coach.

“We’re going to be looking for a new head coach and general manager and there’s a lot to be done. If you look at the roster, we’ll see what we can do to improve it. There’s three very good basketball players in Detroit with Jackson, Drummond and Griffin,” Stefanski said. “That’s a good way to start; they’re on the cusp of making the playoffs and that has to be your goal.

“The only way you can win it all is to make the playoffs. We’ll be working toward that. It’s a lot of work ahead of us but it’s a great opportunity for everyone.”