Pistons’ Casey leaves on own terms, will ‘support’ new head coach

Detroit News

Detroit — In an era of the NBA when coaches are relieved of their duties for a lack of wins or failure to meet expectations, Dwane Casey walked away from his post as Pistons head coach on his own terms.

Casey, who announced his decision to step down and move to the Pistons’ front office on Sunday afternoon, did so after deliberating with his wife, Brenda, and several conversations with owner Tom Gores. He called it “a tough process,” but ultimately the right decision for his family and the organization.

Tuesday was the final time Casey was required to address a group of reporters before he ushers into his next chapter with the franchise.

“The one thing in this league that’s probably the most difficult thing to do is to develop and win at the same time,” said Casey, who led the Pistons to a 17-65 record this season.

Casey, who was given an extension through the 2023-24 season, had a year left on his contract, which was worth $7 million annually. He could’ve opted to finish the remainder of his deal, but he said it was a risk that he didn’t want to put his coaching staff or the organization through again.

“The hardest thing to do is go in that last one year as a lame duck (coach), especially in a restore/rebuild situation because there’s no guarantees,” Casey said. “You could grow and things could light up and turn the corner, or it could take (losing) into next year. That was a risk there as far as going through that again and putting the organization in that situation and ourselves as a staff. That’s what led to that. When Tom gave me the option of being in the front office and working with Troy (Weaver), that fits where I am in my career and this stage of my life.”

Casey, 65, said he doesn’t know what his role in the front office will entail, but he’s certain that he and Weaver will find the right fit for his skill sets. He didn’t visualize himself becoming apart of an NBA front office, but he revealed he had a conversation last year with Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, who made the transition to an executive role after serving as head coach for eight seasons.

“We had a long conversation about when he first went in about how (Stevens) enjoyed it,” Casey said. “We’re in different roles. I’m more of a support role. He’s more the head guy, but to go from coaching to that is a different rhythm a different cadence and I’m looking forward to it.”

The wins weren’t there, but Casey says the last three seasons of the Pistons’ rebuild were “the most rewarding years of his career” because of the imprint he left on his players, including Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren, who praised their former coach during their exit interviews on Monday.

“Definitely sad to see him step down, but I know he said he’s going to stay around the team and around the organization,” Duren said. “I just talked to him. I thanked him for giving me the opportunity. Like we just talked about, everybody thought I was going to be in the G League. They thought I was too young, but him and Troy, they gave me an opportunity and drafted me and took a chance. I just told him I appreciated that. I feel like he helped me grow as a man and as a player.”

The next Pistons’ coach will be one that Troy Weaver hires for the first time since he was named general manager in 2020. Casey said his successor will have his full support and he’ll tell the candidate the truth about what the job entails.

“I don’t want to step on any coach who’s coming in behind me because I know how that feels, but I will support whoever we bring in as a coach,” Casey said. “I’ll be there as a sounding board, information, what guys can do, strengths and weaknesses, I’m there for those guys to do that, too.”

Before Casey ended his press conference, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver stopped him to publicly thank the former Pistons coach for his service and dedication to the organization in a three-minute speech.

“Coach, before you leave, I just want everybody to know that what this man did for the organization, we’re eternally grateful,” Weaver said. “When we had to change courses, that’s not easy for an experienced and successful coach. I can’t thank him enough.

“He’s taken bullets for the organization. It’s not easy winning 20 games. That’s tough. You can criticize this man, but he did it with style. He did it with grace. He did it with integrity, and that’s the reason he’s going to continue to be with us because the way he conducts himself is what the Pistons organization is all about.”

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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