I love the Detroit Pistons' president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars. But I think it would be best for both the Pistons and Dumars if they each go their own way after this season in order to help protect Dumars' legacy.
Dumars is beloved in Detroit, first as a Hall of Fame guard who won two championships in 1989 and 1990, then winning a third title in 2004 as the president of basketball operations.
Dumars spent his whole playing career with the Pistons and then transitioned into the front office. Dumars started out brilliantly when he took over control of basketball operations, but unfortunately, over the past few years he has made some poor decisions.
As a fan, while I have disagreed with some of Dumars' recent personnel moves, I haven't taken for granted his loyalty to the Pistons—particularly his staying and helping them transition from the ownership under the Davidson family to the current owner, Tom Gores.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that two ownership groups tried to hire Dumars, but he opted to stay with the Pistons:
Two league ownership sources told Yahoo! Sports that they tried to hire Dumars away during the ownership unrest between the Davidson and Gores eras, and he wouldn't meet with them.
Once this season concludes, I believe it would be the perfect time for Dumars to quietly step away from the Pistons and let Gores bring in his own GM with fresh ideas.
Dumars owes it to himself to go to another team that he can rebuild from the ground up and experience a new challenge in a different environment.
Part of the reason Dumars gets a lot of the heat these days on social media is that he is a victim of his own success. From the beginning of the 2001-02 season through the 2007-08 season, he built a team that had a regular-season record of 384-190. The most mind-boggling statistic is that this also included six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals from 2003 through 2008.
Dumars' vision wisely included centering his team around point guard Chauncey Billups and center Ben Wallace. These two players represented the city of Detroit perfectly by focusing on defense and hard work, which made the fans embrace them.
In 2003, Dumars found the right coach at the right time in Larry Brown. Brown's hire helped the Pistons finally realize their potential and win a championship.
Brown is considered a brilliant coach who was also a bit of a nomad, coaching at nine different colleges/NBA teams (10 if you consider his stop at Davidson where he resigned before coaching a game) prior to coming to the Pistons in advance of the 2003-04 season.
Brown, whose motto is to "play the right way," was a bold hire by Dumars. Realizing that the Pistons needed a strong leader, Dumars took a chance on Brown and then really solidified their team by trading for Rasheed Wallace. Those two moves helped the Pistons win the 2004 championship.
Unfortunately, Brown, who has been known to get restless and move on to new challenges quickly, jeopardized the Pistons' chances to repeat as champions in 2005. He did this by being more concerned about the Cleveland Cavs than his current position with the Pistons, as Ian Thomsen at SI.com detailed.
Even though the Pistons made it back to the NBA Finals, I believe they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games due to all the distractions. Dumars knew Brown's coaching history, yet I believe if you ask him if he had any regrets hiring Brown, he would say all that mattered was the championship.
When Brown left after the 2005 playoffs, Dumars for some reason started losing his golden touch in the front office. I believe Dumars made his first mistake by hiring Flip Saunders to coach the Pistons. Saunders enjoyed success in the regular season, but the Pistons could never get back to the NBA Finals.
In my eyes, the team never fully embraced Saunders' personality and coaching style, and a critical mistake was made by Dumars in keeping him as head coach too long. According to Chris Sheridan, formerly of ESPN, Saunders was one of the reasons why Wallace left after the 2006 playoffs and joined the Chicago Bulls.
At this point, I believe Dumars started making several errors that rapidly led to a quicker-than-it-should-have-been decline of the Pistons. Once Saunders was fired after the 2008 playoffs, the team should have hired an experienced coach—but instead turned to Michael Curry, who had no experience leading a team.
Then at the start of the 2008-09 season, Dumars made a trade that many fans refer to as his worst by moving the heart and soul of the team, Billups, along with Antonio McDyess, to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN, Dumars made this trade thinking that Iverson's expiring contract could be used to bring in younger players and would help the team transition into a new era where they would keep competing for championships.
As I discussed in my previous column about Rodney Stuckey, I believe Stuckey's future isn't in Detroit and that he should be traded as soon as possible.
I feel there are several other areas where Dumars has made the wrong move that has set the Pistons franchise back. Several of those mistakes were in the NBA draft, which robbed the Pistons from having either a younger player who could grow into a starter/star or a player that could be traded in a package for an established starter.
While drafting is usually hit or miss, I don't think any fan would disagree with me when I say that Mateen Cleaves, Rodney White, D.J. White and Austin Daye are considered busts and every Pistons fan wishes they could do those drafts over. Recently, Dumars has had success in the draft with potential stars Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond joining the Pistons, but these players were arguably the best players on the board and fit a need at the time.
Many fans will disagree with me on this, but as I detailed in a previous article about Pistons draft busts, I can't fault Dumars for drafting Darko Milicic.
Dumars has also made questionable head coaching hires after Brown left by going with either player's coaches (Saunders) or inexperienced coaches (Michael Curry and John Kuester) that should have remained assistant coaches. I believe he finally got his last head coaching hire right with Lawrence Frank, but time will tell.
While I always felt Dumars was a good judge of talent with free-agent signings in the past such as McDyess and Billups, I think he has been making very poor decisions on the free-agent market over the past few years. Some of these regrettable signings are Nazr Mohammad, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, along with the ill-timed extension he gave to Rip Hamilton.
I understand that at the time some of these moves were popular, but most front offices get judged on results on the court—which unfortunately for the Pistons, has been very poor since the start of the 2008-09 season. Most teams would not be so tolerant with this poor of a record, but due to Dumars' previous success and loyalty to the Pistons, he was always given the benefit of the doubt.
I think that while neither the Pistons nor Joe Dumars would admit that they would probably be better off getting a fresh start, deep down they know it to be the case.
Dumars is a Pistons legend and should always be held in high esteem with the fans. Sadly, over the years I think all the losing is tainting his legacy in Detroit. Dumars has been a class act in Detroit and we as fans owe him a lot of thanks for the three championships that he was responsible for. That is why he should be allowed to leave the Pistons with dignity and on his own after this season.
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