Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Detroit Pistons: Leadership on the Court and in the Community

Detroit Pistons: Leadership on the Court and in the Community

July 14, 2021

Detroit Pistons’ Head Coach Dwane Casey took the stage to discuss leading and rebuilding the team as well as his perspective on the city of Detroit. In a one-on-one conversation with Greg Kelser, Pistons television analyst for Bally Sports Detroit, Casey offered insights on the Piston’s effort to have a lasting impact on the Detroit community.

Rebuilding the Team

In his first year as Pistons’ Head Coach back in 2018, Casey got the team back to the playoffs. Now embarking on what will be his fourth season with the organization, Casey is working to reorganize and restore the team.

“When I first got here, we had a team that was put together in a way that fit Coach Van Gundy, and we made the playoffs. We got there and competed, but there was a ceiling with that team….and our organization had to make a decision whether to continue with that team or start over and rebuild,” said Casey.

Prior to joining the Pistons, Casey served as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, ending his run with an NBA Coach of the Year award win. After departing Toronto, Casey jumped straight into the role of head coach for the Pistons, noting that he was drawn to the team in part by the history and tradition of the city of Detroit and Pistons basketball.

When Casey joined the organization, the team had a veteran roster that was hit hard by injuries. Nearly four years later, Casey’s focus has shifted to the challenge of reorganizing and building young talent.

“What helps me, and my staff is that I went through it in Toronto,” said Casey. “And one thing you have to do in this league is teach. Our young players have stayed here in Detroit this summer, working in the weight room, working on their shooting. So, this summer is about work.”

First Round Draft Pick

At the end of July, the Pistons’ will have the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, a selection that Casey and his team have been prepping for. Over the last few weeks, much of their time has been spent at the combine in Chicago, researching and talking to potential players.

“One of the first thing I ask the players is ‘Do you make your bed in the morning?’ That tells you a lot a young man…it tells you something about their character, about their organizational skills,” said Casey. “All of the players are talented, but one thing that separates them from each other is their character.”

The Detroit Fanbase

The city of Detroit is one of tradition, including the tradition of basketball and the Pistons have created a strong and knowledgeable fanbase in the city.

“You can’t fool the fans here in Detroit, which is great. It keeps me motivated, it keeps the players motivated,” said Casey. “The fans are real and that’s something you can’t put a premium on because it keeps the fire going within myself and the players.”

Coaching Through a Pandemic

Last season was one of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Casey falling ill in March. The team leaned on their relationship with Henry Ford Health System to ensure the safety of their staff and players, testing twice a day.

“It was difficult. The players were more isolated, in good times and bad times. The families couldn’t come to the hotels. The fans weren’t at the arenas, so it was a very difficult season probably more mentally than physically,” said Casey.

Now the organization’s priority is working to getting their players vaccinated. Reaching an 85% vaccination rate will allow for a more normal next season, with fewer restrictions and less testing.

“Getting vaccinated is more of a selfless act than a selfish act. The science shows if you’re vaccinated and you do catch the variant, you won’t die from it or be hospitalized from it,” said Casey. “There are so many reasons to get vaccinated, I’m doing it for my family, for my kids, for my neighbors.”

Detroit Pistons in the Community

Casey was recently recognized by Focus Hope as a recipient of their Hero’s for Hope award. For Casey, having an impact on the community has been one of his primary goals since his very first meeting with Pistons’ Owner Tom Gores.

“There is something about the city of Detroit that everybody and businesses alike are willing to give a helping hand, and that motivated me,” said Casey.

When the 2019-2020 season was brought to a halt, Casey and the Pistons organization shifted to helping the community, partnering with Focus Hope to distribute food and resources to people who needed it most.

“It was something I could give back, something the team could give back. And as Tom says, we can be impactful,” said Casey.

In addition to serving the community in the face of the pandemic, Casey also stepped up and became heavily involved in racial justice initiatives in the city.

“I’m a basketball coach, I’m not a politician, but right is right and wrong is wrong. Our country was so divided and that’s what motivated me,” said Casey. “Even if I could just reach one person, touch their heart and touch their mind to do what’s right and be that person that reaches across the aisle.”