‘An exciting time’: Pistons affiliate Motor City Cruise name DJ Bakker first head coach

Detroit News

The pieces are starting to fall in place for the Motor City Cruise.

The Pistons’ G League affiliate announced Tuesday that its first coach will be DJ Bakker, a familiar face around the franchise. Bakker had been an assistant coach and player-development coach for the past three seasons under Pistons coach Dwane Casey.

The Cruise, who begin their inaugural season playing in Detroit on the campus of Wayne State University, previously had named Rob Murphy as the team president and general manager, and now had its new coach in place ahead of its first year under the Pistons’ banner.

“It’s an exciting time and today is an exciting day. We’re really excited about our first head coach,” Murphy said. “I was talking with DJ today and I said that any time you have the opportunity to be the first to do something, it’s special.”

Bakker has worked under Casey’s mentorship for six seasons, including two years with the Toronto Raptors prior to their time with the Pistons. In his new role, he’ll continue with developing players in the Pistons’ system, as he has done with Luke Kennard and Saddiq Bey in recent years.

More: Pistons affiliate Motor City Cruise to have open tryouts Sept. 15

“We needed someone who does a great job of communicating and teaching with the understanding of making sure we’re keeping the same system in place,” Murphy said. “That was very important for Coach Casey and for (general manager) Troy (Weaver) and there’s no better guy at this time than DJ Bakker, who understands the system, who can teach it and coach it and communicate it well.

“There will be a seamless transition when guys are going back and forth and playing.”

The Pistons have amplified the importance of the connection between the G League and the parent team in developing continuity and preparing players to transition to the next level. Hiring Bakker underlines their commitment to making that connection.

“I’m beyond thrilled and excited for this opportunity to lead the Motor City Cruise franchise,” Bakker said. “I know I’m going to work tirelessly to give our players, our organization and the city of Detroit the G League experience that they deserve.”

Given his familiarity with the team and connection with Casey, Bakker is a good fit for the job, and with the importance the Pistons are placing on continuity with their new G League franchise and the parent club, Bakker was the best choice.

With Murphy assuming a new role as the senior director of player personnel for the Pistons, it’s good synergy between both franchises in develop the roster and their young players.

“We talked to many candidates who were extremely qualified and there was a lot of interest, but I believe we landed in a perfect spot,” Murphy said. “Being able to hire DJ with the understanding of the experience he’s had at the NBA level and being a part of coach Casey’s staff and also learning from a ton of other assistant coaches and people he’s worked with in this professional business, we believe he’s ready to lead the Motor City Cruise and develop our young guys.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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