Pistons candidate Dwane Casey known for building player relationships

Rod Beard
The Detroit News


Dwane Casey

The Detroit Pistons have been without a head coach for three weeks — and the sky is not falling. After parting ways with Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons have been very deliberate in assessing their situation, looking at all the viable options in both the coaching ranks and in the front office.

They made one big move last week, hiring Ed Stefanski from the Memphis Grizzlies as a senior adviser, tasked with restocking the executive staff and hiring a new coach. Stefanski will start his work this week — and the work won’t start with the coaching staff.

Because it doesn’t need to.

The preliminary signs point to Dwane Casey as the obvious choice, even after he was ousted by the Toronto Raptors, following a franchise-record 59 wins this season. Casey, 61, is the best veteran coach on the market — and with the Pistons’ veteran roster, the lean could be toward getting a vet more than trying a rising assistant coach such as Jerry Stackhouse or Becky Hammon, among others.

Casey abruptly became available after the Raptors were ousted from the playoffs for the third straight season at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Casey inherited a roster that had won 22 games in 2010-11 and they had three 50-win seasons.

Still, it wasn’t enough.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri told reporters after firing Casey. “I’ve never met anybody that classy in my life. I can honestly say I don’t know that I will work with a better person.”

Casey is regarded for having good working relationships with his players, one of the biggest criticisms of Van Gundy in his four seasons with the Pistons. Casey helped to nurture a budding DeMar DeRozan, who was just beginning his career with the Raptors and helped build the chemistry to make Toronto a perennial contender.

That’s where the Pistons would love to be in the coming years, given the proper captain guiding the ship. Casey looks to have that blend of building player relationships and coaching. They loved him in Toronto and they could love him in Detroit.

“This guy is phenomenal,” Ujiri told reporters. “A listener, a learner, a performer, a real person. To be honest, in our business, you value real people – people that look you in the eye and tell you, and you know what they’re telling you is what they’re telling you. That’s coach Casey, a good man, a good ball coach.”

Dwane Casey

There’s a wealth of experience that Casey could bring to the Pistons, if they choose to make the move.

Casey played in college on the Kentucky championship team of 1978-79 and was an assistant for the Wildcats until he was caught up in a pay-for-play scandal involving Chris Mills in 1988. He also has coaching experience overseas with Japan’s national team.

Casey started in the NBA as an assistant coach with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1994-2005 and he was head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves for one and a half seasons in 2005-07. He was fired by the Timberwolves in January 2007 after a 20-20 start.

He spent the next three seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks before getting the Toronto job. Stefanski was in the Raptors’ front office in 2011 when they hired Casey. Things could come full circle in the coming weeks.

But there’s no rush.

The bigger priority for the Pistons is getting their front office set — Stefanski’s first priority. Some of those initial interviews have taken place already, but the key will be getting a general manager first, then moving on to the coaching staff.

The Pistons’ courting of Casey could begin this week, but with only two other teams with coaching vacancies — the Magic and Raptors — the Pistons look to have the inside track on getting Casey, if he’s their main target.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard