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News » Pistons join Obama as history makers

Pistons join Obama as history makers

Pistons join Obama as history makers
AUBURN HILLS -- Just imagine if President-elect Barack Obama's vice president were, say, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., former Secretary of State Colin Powell or another prominent African-American politician.

There would be no way to ignore the unprecedented and historical significance of not one but two African-Americans holding such esteemed and powerful positions at the same time.

The Detroit Pistons are making their own history as the only NBA franchise with a pair of African-Americans in the top positions within the day-to-day operations of the team: president of Basketball operations Joe Dumars and vice president Scott Perry.

Dumars, who was hired by Pistons owner Bill Davidson to handle the Basketball operations in 2000, does not shy from the responsibility he feels as an African-American in his current position.

"Every day I wake up and walk out of my house, I know who I am," Dumars said. "And I know that I represent a lot of people. I feel it's incumbent that you do it the right way, with class and respect for those who came before me and will come after me."

For all that Dumars accomplished in his Hall of Fame career as a player in Detroit, which includes two NBA championships, he said the success he has had as the Pistons' top decision maker on Basketball matters is greater.

"It's definitely more gratifying in this role," Dumars said. "It's a reflection of your ability to build an organization, a referendum on your ability to lead, have a vision, execute it and be successful."

Despite Detroit being the only NBA franchise with African-Americans leading the Basketball operations staff, the league has been recognized as being the most diverse among professional sports.

Dr. Richard Lapchick, CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, releases an annual study of how colleges and pro sports teams fare in terms of diversity.

The NBA had the highest grade among pro sports leagues in Lapchick's most recent findings.

Although NBA commissioner David Stern does not necessarily agree with all the factors weighed by Lapchick's study, he said he is proud of the league's diversity efforts.

"It's fun to go to a meeting and look out and see men and women of color helping to drive our success," Stern said.

Being successful and committed to whatever you are doing at that time was among the early lessons Perry learned from his father, Lowell Perry, who was the NFL's first black assistant coach in 1957 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"As an African-American, you are very aware of how you perform in key positions, can impact other African-Americans who aspire to similar positions," said Scott Perry, who returned to Detroit last May after spending one season with the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) as their assistant general manager. "That was something I learned from my father."

Perry has taken those lessons to every stop along his Basketball journey, which before coming to Detroit in 2000 as a college scout included three seasons as head coach at Eastern Kentucky and nine seasons as a college assistant at Michigan, Cal-Berkeley and Detroit Mercy.

Although the bottom line always is to win, getting an opportunity was a victory in itself.

"I never looked for any special treatment or anything like that," said Perry, who held several front-office positions with Detroit before leaving for Seattle. "The only thing I wanted was a fair chance to succeed."

And Dumars was more than willing to give Perry that chance once John Hammond left to become general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I feel truly fortunate to be part of an organization like this," Perry said, "that has afforded me this opportunity to be part of something special."

Dumars' success has prompted some former Pistons to consider pursuing a front-office position when they retire. They include former Detroit guard Lindsey Hunter.

Hunter, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls, often has talked about the possibility of being in the Pistons' front office when he retires. Over the summer, he and Pistons coach Michael Curry talked about him joining Curry's staff before Hunter decided to continue playing.

In an earlier interview, Hunter acknowledged that Dumars' success was a major factor in his desire to consider becoming a front-office executive when his playing days are over.

"Joe showed what you can do as long as you have an owner who believes in you and you have a plan to build a team that has one goal every year, and that's to win it all," Hunter said. "That's something that's definitely attractive to me."

And Dumars has done it very much in the same fashion he excelled as a player -- with very little fanfare.

"He does it quietly, and he does it efficiently," Stern said. "And he always seems to be building for the present with an eye toward the future."

As much as Dumars appreciates the kind words others have bestowed upon him, he would not mind if the day comes when an African-American assumes the role of president of Basketball operations -- or of the United States -- and it is not seen as something unusual.

Dumars said Obama becoming the nation's 44th president, in large part due to the support of young voters, is a reflection of how the views of society have changed.

"For the youth of today, they've seen a different world than the one that you and I and your parents and my parents grew up in," Dumars said.

"To me, it's a sign of progress. It's not perfect, but it's progress. To them, an African-American president, it's not that big a deal to this generation. That's a great thing, man, that's a great thing."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 21, 2009


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