DETROIT – Tom Gores talked about using the Pistons as a platform for bettering the places its fans call home the day he bought the franchise more than six years ago. On the night the Pistons returned to their roots in the heart of the city, he took pains to tip his cap to the richest part of their history – their 29 years spent at The Palace of Auburn Hills, where all three NBA championships were won – but couldn’t hide his passion for the newest chapter in that history.
“I think the city has tremendous leverage and things start here,” he said. “I respect Auburn Hills and what it did for us. I respect (longtime Pistons owner) Bill Davidson and what he built. I would never take that away from our history. Now we’re making new history. I feel really good about everything.”
The Pistons announced their intention to move downtown and share Little Caesars Arena with the Red Wings last November, setting in motion a hectic 11 months that culminated with their debut at the sparkling new arena on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets – the same team that helped the Pistons open The Palace in 1988.
Gores was struck by the magnitude of the moment on his ride to the arena.
“Back in Detroit,” he said, beaming. “I think that’s a big deal. The city has worked really hard for this and, to tell the truth, I’m not sure how to express it. I’m just so happy for the community. Pretty blessed to be here. A boy from Flint – we were driving up and I saw that Flint sign on the way. I feel really fortunate to be here. Pretty amazing.”
While it’s the seventh season since Gores purchased the team, it’s the fourth since he hired Stan Van Gundy in May 2014 and installed him as both coach and president of basketball operations. Two teams moved away from that model over the off-season, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers. Gores left no doubt where he stands on Van Gundy’s place in the future of the Pistons.
“Do I believe in Stan? Absolutely,” he said. “Do I feel good about the model? I feel good about it. Stan has a lot of support. I believe in the model. We’re seeing this through, absolutely.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver attended the opener and Gores said he’s been in discussions to bring an All-Star game to Little Caesars Arena.
“I think this city represents so much that we have to have an All-Star game here,” he said. “It’s happening. It’s just a matter of when it’s happening.”
Minutes later, the crowd packing the farthest reaches of the arena, the NBA season tipped off with the Pistons back in the city for the first time four decades. In the heart of Detroit, it’s happening.