Pistons Offseason is Marked by Changes at the Top

It’s been an interesting month for the Detroit Pistons.

On May 31, the team announced the hiring of Trajan Langdon as its new President of Basketball Operations. It was a position that the team announced they were bringing back at the end of the franchise’s worst season – one that saw them finish with a 14-68 record.

“I have committed to building a front office in Detroit that brings together the most advanced capabilities and creative basketball minds,” said Pistons Owner Tom Gores on his hiring of Langdon. “Trajan is an accomplished front office executive with an impressive track record. He’s worked his way up and seen it all as a player, scout, and executive. He’s been successful at every level. I’m confident he will very swiftly get us to the standard of excellence I expect from every business.”

The day after hiring Langdon, the organization fired General Manager Troy Weaver who served in his role for just under four years. Under Weaver, the team drafted all of its current core players, including Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren, all players who are considered building blocks as the team looks to retool.

“I very much appreciate all the dedication Troy displayed to our Pistons franchise,” Gores said in a statement about Wever’s termination. 

“As much as we have struggled lately, we will look back and see Troy as an important person in the remaking of the Pistons. He took the pain of rebuilding head on and he did the hard work to get us the flexibility we have today. He also assembled a great core of young men with tremendous skill and character to give us a path to the future. Make no mistake, I have real appreciation for who Troy is as a person and what he has meant to the organization.”

Now, less than three weeks after relieving Weaver of his duties, the Pistons announced that Monty Williams will not return for a second season as the team’s head coach.  The decision comes after a “thorough review and analysis of the team’s performance during the 2023-24 campaign,” the team said in a statement.

“Decisions like these are difficult to make, and I want to thank Monty for his hard work and dedication,” Gores said.

“Coaching has many dynamic challenges that emerge during a season and Monty always handled those with grace. However, after reviewing our performance carefully and assessing our current position as an organization, we will chart a new course moving forward,” he added.

Just last summer, Gores gave Williams the most lucrative coaching contract in NBA history up to that point, signing him to a six-year, $78.5 million contract. Williams had five years and more than $65 million left on his contract, but Gores is now on the hook for paying the remainder to Williams or negotiating a buyout. (It’s important to note that Williams’ contract doesn’t impact the Pistons salary cap, as coach’s contracts are not looped into cap numbers.)

Gores said the search process for a new head coach will begin immediately.

“We are unwavering in our commitment to bring a championship-caliber team to Detroit,” he said.  “We will be diligent and swift in our search for a new head coach to lead our exciting young core of players and will continue our vision towards building a best-in-class front office that will help us achieve sustainable success.”

With changes being made at the top three front-office seats outside of Gores’, it’s clear that the Pistons understand the problems that led to the organization having one of the NBA’s worst five-year stretches in league history. Since their last playoff appearance in 2018, the team has won a total of just 94 games in the past five seasons (2018-2019 through 2023-2024) while amassing a league-worst 290 losses.

And at the heart of it all, Gores is showing he’s changing by allowing Langdon to have some control. Most teams probably would’ve let Weaver go after failing to assemble a roster of players that could compete night in and night out, and it was evident that this was the case with the Pistons several years ago and well into Weaver’s tenure. But Gores rode it out with Weaver far too long. Langdon wasn’t willing to do with Williams what Gores did with Weaver.

Notably, the Pistons have yet to have an introductory press conference for Langdon, as is customary with new front-office positions. I spoke last week about it in a one-off conversation with a Pistons beat writer, and we both speculated that the lack of a public introduction for Langdon was a clear signal that the team wasn’t finished making moves after Weaver’s firing. That notion turned out to be true. The pending question now is whether the team will hire a new GM and head coach, and just introduce all three together publicly for the first time at a joint press conference.

That would make sense, as I’m sure the team wants to focus on the work instead of the media and pundits (like me) who will surely be critical of virtually any announcement the team makes moving forward until they otherwise prove they are a competitive club on the court.

Nonetheless, popular opinion says the removal of Williams and Weaver were the right decisions. Only time will tell if Langdon as President of Basketball Operations is the right move to fix the freefalling franchise.

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