Detroit Pistons’ Bill Bayno can’t remember a team so eager to get better in the offseason

Detroit Free Press

Bill Bayno slept for 14 hours Sunday night, because he slept six hours total during his previous two nights. The Detroit Pistons assistant coach was in Kigali, Rwanda, doing what he loves most — teaching the game of basketball.

Bayno planned to arrive back in the United States on Monday night to meet Cade Cunningham in Los Angeles, where the Pistons will hold team workouts in June. But annual trips to Africa have become a passion for Bayno, and he anticipates he’ll continue making trips to the continent even after he retires from the NBA.

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The Basketball Africa League hosted two coaches clinics this past weekend  that were led by Bayno and Indiana Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce. Bayno, hired by the Pistons last offseason and an assistant in the NBA the last 17 seasons, estimates he’s made 20 trips to teach basketball Africa since his first time there in 2003.

The BAL, founded in 2019, is jointly run by the NBA and FIBA. Bayno is close friends with BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall, who was previously NBA Africa vice president & managing director and has also long been involved with Basketball Without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development program that began in 2001.

“It’s phenomenal how far they’ve come since the first year back in 2003, I think, how they’ve grown it,” Bayno said to the Free Press on the phone from Rwanda. “Africa, to me, has always been the new frontier. There are more potentially NBA players walking around this continent than anywhere in the world. We just need to get them the tools and resources to develop them.”

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It was a busy weekend for Bayno, who arrived in Kigali early Saturday morning. He attended BAL playoff games on Saturday, and on Sunday, he and Pierce hosted a three-hour clinic and question-and-answer session for around 50 coaches in-person, and another 60 coaches who participated via Zoom. Bayno hosted another session on Monday, and he also had dinners with FIBA Africa president Hamane Niang and other FIBA delegates throughout the weekend.

For years, Bayno would travel to Africa and only teach players. But there was a need to teach coaches as well because those players wouldn’t often receive proper instruction after the clinics ended. It’s a commitment Bayno intends to keep for a long time.

“I’m going to do this and help out Amadou and help out NBA Africa until I leave this Earth,” Bayno said. “It’s something that gives me joy and I see instant results. Any time you can do work and you see it carry over, it just gives you more meaning and makes you want to do even more to help out.”

Bayno is also eager to return to the Pistons, who ended this season with a momentum that has carried into the summer. This is the first offseason in his NBA career he can recall where players voluntarily returned to the practice facility three weeks after the season ended. He recently spent two weeks in Detroit, and 11 of the 15 players on the Pistons’ roster were at the practice facility working out in the weight room, getting rehab and playing each other on the court. Cunningham and Isaiah Livers were playing one-on-one, he said.

“It says a lot about our guys and how excited they are and how much they believe in our future success,” Bayno said. “The way we played after the All-Star break, our guys realized you know what? We’re young but we pretty much were one of the top teams in the NBA after All-Star break with three 20-year-olds, a couple 23-year-olds and they believe and they see if we keep working and we keep the same chemistry, keep the same unselfishness and togetherness, we’ve got a chance.:

Dwane Casey has set a goal for the Pistons to make the biggest jump in win totals next season. There’s a lot of room for the team to grow, considering they finished last season with a 23-59 overall record. They’re not talking about making the playoffs quite yet, but they’re optimistic they can make a leap next season.

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“We may make the playoffs, that would be great, but our whole focus is get better every day and let’s try to improve on those 23 wins and get to 33 or 34, 35 or even more,” Bayno said. “But the energy’s been great and our guys are so much fun to work with, to have young guys. They give you energy and they give you life, and I love working there. Troy (Weaver) has put together just a phenomenal group of young men that are fun to work with, and you don’t always have that in the NBA. A lot of teams are dealing with attitudes, and all it takes is one or two guys to mess that up, and we just have a great group of guys. The future is bright. It’s Detroit versus everyone.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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