Monday, November 15, 2010

New Pistons Owner?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What could be the Detroit Pistons answer to New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov?

It's not Mike Illitch, the Red Wings & Tigers owner. As much as I admire Illitch and everything he stands for, my instincts tell me that for some reason I don't believe adding the Pistons as his third team is a good fit.

If Illitch were running for Mayor of Detroit or Governor of Michigan, there would be no reason to hold an election because he'd win in a landslide. He'd get my vote in a New York second.

His ideas of building a new stadium in Detroit for the Red Wings and Pistons are good but I'm curious as to how he'd drum up the financing to get this project done with the economy a mess.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If he wants to reach the hearts & emotion of Metro Detroiters, he should move swiftly and build a new Olympia Stadium on the former Tiger Stadium site.

Also, are his assets and pockets deep enough to field three competitive and winning franchises? Baseball doesn't have a salary cap while hockey seems to be raising its salaries gradually without a real money making television contract. The NBA is facing labor problems in the coming year with it's collective bargaining agreement.

For years, Illitch struggled with two teams and the Tigers 43-119 mark in 2003 was the third worst team in major league history and they set the American League record for losses. They finished 47 games behind division winner Minnesota.

The Illitches originally bid in excess of $400 million, higher than expected for an NBA franchise in a season before expected labor issues in a state with a rough economy. I've heard that Illitch Holdings Incorporated lowered it's bid in recent days.

The only way I'd give my full endorsement for the Illitches to own the Pistons is if the fear existed that the team would move out of Michigan.

The Pistons play in a beautiful stadium and belong in Metro Detroit!

Now that the bidding has re-opened, the ownership group that makes the most sense is Beverly Hills billionaire and financier Tom Gores, who has a successful track record of taking unsuccessful companies, changing their business model and making them successful again. Aside from a couple tough years since Owner William Davidson died, Gores transformation shouldn't be as bad since all of the pieces are in place, namely the stadium, airplane, practice facility and venues connected with the purchase.

Gores grew up in Flint, attended Michigan State University and has been active in NBA circles for several years. Since he is a Michigan Man, loves the Pistons, it would appear to be a good fit.

What I like about Gores is the Pistons can continue to play at the Palace of Auburn Hills. There is no reason to move to a better arena. The Palace of Auburn Hills is a gem and they have found a home.

Keeping the Pistons at the Palace would allow Davidson to rest in peace, not turn over in his grave.

I've seen sporting events at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, America West Arena in Phoenix, Chicago's United Center, Milwaukee's Bradley Center, Minnesota's Target Center, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla, St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla, Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla and the American Airlines Arena in Miami. The Palace compares favorably to these venues.

The addition of Gores would provide Detroit with a new face on the ownership scene since he's only 46-years old. His deep pockets will give the Pistons all the financial resources they will need. At least being a Pistons fan gives him the passion to move the team forward.

If Illitch wants to keep the Red Wings downtown then more power to him. With former Pistons Executive Tom Wilson in charge of getting that stadium, the deal should eventually get done. Wilson is the best hire Iliitch has made in a long time.

But two facilities in one area has worked well for years and will continue to do so.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We can only hope that the Pistons have the answer to Prokhorov with Gores and this formula leads the Pistons back to championship status. When the Nets play the Pistons with these two men in charge, we'll call their meeting the "Billionaire Bowl."

As long as the Pistons remain in Detroit, this is all that really matters. Seeing the Pistons not a tenant in the Palace is criminal.

In Gores, We Trust? Stay tuned to see if this is another Beverly Hills/Detroit connection, referring to the hit movie sequel Beverly Hills Cop I, II & III.

Maybe the Pistons will hold a few practices at Detroit Mumford High School and comedian Eddie Murphy will have a court-side seat at the Palace with scenes from Beverly Hills Cop showing Murphy and Gil Hill on the scoreboard between timeouts.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com


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