Beard: A heartfelt thank you as my time on the Pistons beat nears the end

Detroit News

Philadelphia — When I started writing on the Pistons beat, I never thought about when the end would come. My mentality was that each game was just part of a continuous cycle each season, connecting to the offseason, to the draft and to the next season.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Well, stop repeating.

After five years covering the Michigan basketball beat and now seven seasons on the Pistons beat, I’m taking a promotion to become an Assistant Sports Editor at The Detroit News.

I believe in things being divinely ordered, and I took some important lessons from the last couple of big stories that I wrote recently, on the Pistons’ women executives and on Saddiq Bey’s faith and spirituality.

Representation matters, opportunities don’t come often, and staying faithful always yields results. There are plenty of Black beat writers — including four on the Pistons beat — but having representation in the managerial ranks has become a bigger issue. Opportunities in beat writing usually come along every few years, and managerial openings are even more rare.

I try not to complain about my job because there are plenty of people who don’t get to do what they love. For 12 years, I’ve gotten to fly around the country, watch basketball games and write about them.

Being on the Pistons beat was a blessing, and I have so many people to thank for making it such a valuable experience in my career.

It would have been impossible to be a beat writer and be married for 20 years without having the endless love, support and understanding of my wife, Chiretta, who always nurtured my dream of being a sports writer — without complaint. She’s been our family’s steadying force while I’ve been on road trips, and she always made sure our three children had what they needed. She’s been nothing short of a superhero, and I love her dearly for that.

The Pistons media-relations team, led by Kevin Grigg and Cletus Lewis, was always professional and accommodating, and they don’t get the credit that they richly deserve for being the best media0relations group in Detroit, and one of the best in the country. They frequently went over and beyond to make sure that we had the access to players and coaches that is so necessary to do our jobs well.

My fellow Pistons beat writers helped make many memories. Being on the road can be a draining and dreary experience without some good colleagues. James Edwards of The Athletic has become a lifelong friend in his five years on the beat. We bonded over hundreds of meals together on the road and in the endless hours of waiting for practices to end and press conferences to begin, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching him become a rising star in the writing game. Vince Ellis showed me the ropes when I started on the Pistons beat, and I vowed to do the same for Edwards and the next group of beat writers. The cycle continues.

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The coaches I’ve covered, Dwane Casey, Stan Van Gundy and John Beilein at Michigan were three of the best coaches a writer could ask for. Casey was always personable and genuine, and he always made time for writers’ questions — home and visiting — making it a point to know each name. Van Gundy was a common man’s coach, able to break down complicated concepts in one breath, but also willing to take to his soapbox on politics or any other topic. He made every day enjoyable and informative. Beilein remains the consummate teacher and professional, and I learned so much about basketball just in small conversations. Start building the statue for him in Ann Arbor.

The continuous cycle of the beat has its unsung heroes, and the staff at Little Caesars Arena gave me joy at every home game. Marla Foster wasn’t just an usher; she always had a smile and a welcome greeting — and in the midst of a season-long grind, that’s clutch. Reva Edwards wasn’t just a food services worker; she was a wonderful light who extended so many kindnesses that helped me smile and get through the dog days of the season.

Pistons Twitter is a special place with special people. You accepted me from the very beginning and though some of your hot takes, trade proposals and commentary were maddening at times, it always felt special to be heard and read every day. For every mean tweet, there was an encouraging DM that let me know I was valued.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the coaches in the Detroit Public School League, who were so instrumental in helping me develop my confidence in my craft when I was starting out. They embraced me, pushed me to cover the untold stories and encouraged me to be the best. Even after I left to cover Michigan basketball and the Pistons, they cheered me on and let me know that they were proud of me — because if I made it, they made it.

We’ve made it to a new phase and a new cycle; it’s onward and upward.

We’re going from #StartWriting to #StartEditing.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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