Pistons making progress in general manager search from robust candidate pool

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

For two years, the Pistons have had one of the more unusual structures to their front office in the NBA. After moving on from Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower, who were team president and general manager, respectively, the Pistons brought in Ed Stefanski, who served as senior adviser to team owner Tom Gores.

Since his arrival, Stefanski has been the de facto president of basketball operations but hasn’t held that title. Moreover, there hasn’t been a general manager to run the day-to-day basketball activities, but Malik Rose and Pat Garrity were two assistant general managers reporting to Stefanski.

Ed Stefanski

After two years, the Pistons are moving toward a more traditional structure, beginning with a search for a general manager.

Stefanski most likely will remain in charge of basketball operations, with the new general manager reporting to him. Additionally, the Pistons will be looking for at least one new assistant general manager, as Rose is leaving the organization to pursue another opportunity with the NBA league office.

With two major openings in the front office, the Pistons already have begun looking at several candidates for both positions. A source familiar with the search told The Detroit News the team is considering more experienced candidates to become the new general manager while vetting others for possible assistant GM role.

Garrity’s future with the organization remains unclear. He was a holdover from the Van Gundy era and is the associate general manager, but multiple league sources say he is not a candidate to become general manager. According to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Chris B. Haynes, Garrity is one of several candidates who interviewed for the position of executive director of the National Basketball Players Association to succeed Michele Roberts, who will not run for another four-year term.

The search for Roberts’ successor has been suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding the short-term future of the league after the season was suspended on March 11. Roberts has two years remaining on her contract, but the players union is looking to find its next leader well before her term ends.

There’s something to be said for continuity in filling out a front office. Garrity has been the leader in managing the salary cap, which is one of the biggest successes from the past two years. The Pistons had one of the top five payrolls in the league, without the postseason results to match.

The new front office has guided the Pistons through the past two years, without taking on significant additional salary to try to contend, with the patience and prudence to wait out some of the bigger contracts on the roster, including trading Andre Drummond — who had a player option for $28.8 million for next season — before the deadline. 

Garrity could remain with the Pistons, but his long-term future likely will be a decision left to the new general manager.

There is no timeline to finish the process of adding the new pieces to the front office, but the Pistons have reached out to get permission to talk to some of the candidates for general manager.

Oklahoma City assistant general manager Troy Weaver and Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Jeff Peterson are among other candidates on the Pistons’ list, according to a source familiar with the process. 

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported that the Pistons are considering former Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, former Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox and Los Angeles Clippers assistant general manager Mark Hughes, a former Michigan player.

There is a longer list of candidates for assistant general manager, but the primary focus seems to be on securing a general manager first and letting that person fill out the remainder of the staff.

Former Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince could be considered for assistant GM. He has been in the Memphis Grizzlies' front office for the past three years, and after beginning as a special adviser to the general manager, he was promoted to vice president of basketball affairs last year.

Before Stefanski’s tenure with the Pistons, he was the vice president of player personnel with the Grizzlies, so there is some familiarity with Prince.

Prince’s focus has been as a liaison between the players, coaches and front office, along with evaluating the talent in the G League. He is flourishing in that role and another promotion could be in the works.

Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups could be another candidate. Billups had been a finalist when the Cleveland Cavaliers where looking for a general manager in 2017. He turned down that offer but he’s still looking for the right fit, preferably with the Pistons.

“I have a desire to (be in a front office), period. Obviously, you know how I feel about the Pistons,” Billups said in 2018. “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.”

It’s unclear what impact the NBA’s planned restart of the season will have on the Pistons search. Some of the candidates on their list are working with some of the 22 teams that will take part in the resumption of the season, which is planned for July 31 in Orlando.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard