Pistons legend and former team president Joe Dumars is embarking on a new journey in the NBA as the league’s newest executive vice president and head of basketball operations.
In a recent interview with Andscape, ESPN senior NBA writer Marc Spears talked to Dumars about his latest role with the NBA, his Hall of Fame playing career and how former Pistons owner Bill Davidson convinced him to join the franchise’s front office.
Before his recent appointment, Dumars served as the chief strategy officer with the Sacramento Kings for the past three seasons. His new job responsibilities include the oversight of all basketball operations matters for the NBA, including the development of playing rules and interpretations, conduct and discipline, and policies and procedures relating to the operation of games.
When Dumars was asked why he was interested in the NBA executive vice president job, he said he thought about the role over a three- or four-month period, mainly centering on the impact that he could have on the game, before he informed NBA commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum of his decision.
“The further along I went, the clearer it became to me this is an excellent, excellent, perfect scenario for me,” Dumars said.
Dumars, 59, played 14 seasons in the NBA — all with the Pistons — and captured two championships alongside Isiah Thomas in 1989 and 1990. He was named MVP of the 1989 Finals.
Dumars earned six All-Star selections during his career. He also received the inaugural NBA Sportsmanship Award in 1996, an award that now bears his name.
“I understood the importance of it, even on the first phone call,” Dumars told Spears. “And then over the years, as time has gone by, it starts to mean even more to you because as you get older, you realize what’s really important. It wasn’t that jump shot from the corner. It’s having an impact where people respect what you’ve done enough, where they are willing to honor you with something like that.”
Dumars served as the president of basketball operations for the Pistons from 1999-2014 and was the architect of the “Goin’ to Work” era. Detroit made six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals and recorded 50 wins or more in seven consecutive seasons. Dumars earned the 2003 Executive of the Year award and won a championship as an executive in 2004 when the Pistons triumphed in the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
When Dumars was 35 years old, Davidson offered him the opportunity to take over the franchise as team president. Dumars admits he never thought about working in the front office, because he was focused on running his personal business, Joe Dumars Fieldhouse, which featured a couple of large sports complexes.
Dumars said Davidson told him if he combined his expertise in basketball and business, that he would be “excellent” as the Pistons’ team president.
“But if he never calls me, I don’t think I ever pursue a front-office job or anything,” Dumars said.
Several of the Pistons’ key players from the 2004 championship team have remained within the NBA in some form or fashion, whether it’s coaching, the front office or the media. 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups is now the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. Darvin Ham is entering his first season as head coach of the Lakers. Richard Hamilton often makes appearances as an analyst on NBA TV. Tayshaun Prince is vice president of basketball affairs with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“And I think my guys on that particular team, being exposed to someone like myself, sitting in that seat, exposure gives you something to think about,” Dumars said. “It’s like Davidson with me. If he doesn’t say that, I don’t even think it. He exposed my mind to think that. And so, therefore, ‘OK, yeah. I can do that.’”
Dumars will have another chance to make his imprint on the league he’s dedicated his life to for nearly 40 years, and he doesn’t intend to fail in this new role.
“Change is good,” he said. “Just know this: I embrace it and failure is not an option.”