The Detroit Pistons have hired Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski as a senior adviser responsible for overhauling the franchise’s basketball operations, he told ESPN on Thursday. He will assess the current front office and oversee the process of hiring a general manager and coach in Detroit’s post-Stan Van Gundy era.
Stefanski, who has a three-year contract, will report to owner Tom Gores.
“I’m going to Detroit to meet with all the employees, and I am going to listen to all their thoughts and visions,” Stefanski told ESPN. “And then I am going to give advice to our owner, Tom Gores, on how we are going to structure things going forward. The big thing right now, though, is that we need a head coach and a GM. Those will be two items that we will probably do simultaneously.”
The Pistons’ top target in the coaching search is former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, according to league sources.
Stefanski, 64, is regarded as a well-connected and energetic executive, with a Wharton School of Business background.
A formal announcement is expected to come Thursday.
A veteran NBA executive, Ed Stefanski has previously served as the general manager of the Nets and Sixers, and been a part of the front offices in Toronto and most recently in Memphis.
Sources said Stefanski will move quickly to assess Pistons general manager Jeff Bower and the existing front-office staff, which had been largely assembled under Van Gundy. Stefanski will work on separating the powers of basketball operations and the coaching staff, which had belonged to Van Gundy as president of basketball operations and head coach for the past four years.
Stefanski and the Pistons will immediately start a coaching search and plan to engage Casey immediately, league sources said. Stefanski was part of a Raptors front office, along with Bryan Colangelo, that hired Casey in 2011.
The Pistons’ new front office, centered on Stefanski, will look closely at hiring a rising front-office executive in a general-manager-type role, league sources said. Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon met with Detroit officials to discuss such a high-level role and will remain a serious candidate, league sources said.
Television analyst Brent Barry, a 15-year NBA veteran and two-time champion, is a front-runner to land in a complementary role in the Pistons’ front office. Popular ex-Pistons player Tayshaun Prince — who is completing his first year in the Memphis front office — will also be a strong candidate to join Stefanski in Detroit, league sources said.
Stefanski was the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers from 2007 to 2011, before joining the Raptors as executive vice president of basketball operations from 2011 to 2013. Memphis hired Stefanski in 2014 as vice president of player personnel.
Stefanski was part of rebuilding the Nets under Rod Thorn, building a roster that advanced to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. He was the Nets’ general manager from 2004 to 2007 after starting in the team’s front office in 1998. Stefanski played college basketball for legendary Pistons coach Chuck Daly as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Pistons are still a contender to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs next season. Van Gundy and Bower engineered a trade for LA Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin in January but played without starting point guard Reggie Jackson and Griffin for much of the final stretch of a 39-43 season due to injuries. Together, Griffin and Jackson were 3-1. With Jackson in the lineup, the Pistons were 27-18 on the season.
The Pistons missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, after earning the eighth seed with a 44-38 record and losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of 2016 Eastern Conference playoffs.