Some 43 years after Gordie Howe got it, looks like another Detroit sports legend is about to get the “mushroom treatment.”
Old-timers will remember this one. The Red Wings, after Howe retired in 1971, gave him a job title—Vice President—and an office inside Olympia Stadium.
Gordie didn’t find the new “job” all that enthralling.
“They give me the mushroom treatment,” Gordie said to reporters back in the day about his new role, in words that reverberate to the old-timers—yours truly is guilty as charged—to this day.
The mushroom treatment, Gordie?
“They keep me in the dark and every so often they dump (manure) on me.”
The Red Wings’ pathetic effort to keep the franchise’s—and perhaps the sport’s—greatest player in a meaningful role lasted just two years before Gordie got tired of the mushroom treatment and came out of retirement to play in the World Hockey Association with his sons, Mark and Marty.
Gordie would play professional hockey for seven more seasons—six in the WHA and one last go-round in the NHL.
So now it appears that the mushroom treatment is being dusted off and brought back out of the dark office, so to speak.
Joe Dumars’ tenure as Pistons president and GM effectively ends at the final horn of Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma City. His contract, which officially expires at the end of this dreadful (again) season, will apparently not be renewed.
But that’s not all.
Dumars, it is being reported, will take an advisory position with the Pistons. It is shaping up to be a do-nothing, strictly titular job that will have no influence over the thinking—and I use that term loosely here—of owner Tom Gores and his Platinum Equity minions.
The Pistons are going to be giving Joe Dumars, one of the team’s iconic players, the mushroom treatment.
Let’s hope he doesn’t put up with it for two years, like Gordie Howe did with the Red Wings.
Maybe this will be Dumars’ way of slowly fading from view and from our consciousness. Maybe there is method in his madness. Frankly, if I were Joe, I would have told Gores to take his adviser role and shove it where a basketball doesn’t fit.
That, of course, isn’t Dumars’ style.
Maybe we’ll see Joe on TV sometime soon, perhaps as a studio analyst for NBA TV or ESPN. The cast of characters on those two networks is filled with ex-players but not really any executive types. Joe is both, but his playing days ended some 15 years ago. He’d bring a different perspective.
But today isn’t so much about Dumars’ future as it is about his recent past.
As the Joe Dumars Era, Part II winds down this week, it’s easy to do the “What have you done for me lately?” thing. I’ve been guilty of it already, in the wake of the news that broke last week that Dumars likely wouldn’t be coming back as team president/GM.
But then I got to thinking about what it is that Dumars is leaving. And he should be thankful that he’s going.
In too many horrific ways, current ownership reminds me of the Pistons circa 1978.
Bill Davidson, still finding his way as Pistons owner—he bought the team out from a group of investors in 1974—was clueless about the sports ownership thing in ’78.
Davidson moved the Pistons from Cobo Arena downtown to the cavernous Silverdome in Pontiac in time for the 1978-79 season.
To help augment the move from a PR standpoint, Davidson took leave of his senses and bowed to pressure from local riff raff, such as sports columnists, and hired Dick Vitale to be coach and de facto GM in the spring of 1978.
Vitale fed Davidson—and those same columnists—a line of bull and miraculously, his suspect stomach, which supposedly forced him to resign his gig as U-D’s coach in 1977, all of a sudden got all better in time for him to take the Pistons job.
Davidson bought the bull and, dazzled by the allure of hiring Vitale—who at the time could have been elected mayor of many cities around town—the owner gave Dickie the keys.
Of course, it all blew up in Davidson’s face just 16 months later and Vitale got the ziggy, but not before leaving a path of destruction to the franchise in Dickie’s wake.
The Pistons were a circus in those days, and Dickie Vitale was the leading clown under the big top.
The Pistons are back to being a circus again, but this time the owner is the biggest clown.
The Pistons, right now, are beneath someone of Dumars’ stature, and I have been one of Joe’s harshest critics in recent years. In fact, I was browbeating Dumars before it became fashionable to do so.
The Pistons are a joke, being run by an absentee owner who directs his Platinum Equity Dweebs—Phil Norment and Bob Wentworth, Detroit’s PEDs—to keep an eye on the franchise in Detroit while the owner hobnobs in TinselTown.
The Pistons were absentee-owned by Fred Zollner, who was based in Florida, when Davidson bought the team in 1974. Forty years later, they are again owned by someone who barely sees the team play in person.
Dumars, I have a feeling, may be somewhat relieved that his run as a Pistons executive has ended. The difference between Davidson’s personality and style, and that of Gores, couldn’t be much further apart. I also have a feeling that Dumars knows that what Tom Gores knows about sports ownership could fit into a thimble.
All this being said, Joe Dumars is certainly not without culpability for what the Pistons franchise has become since their last appearance in the NBA’s Final Four in 2008. There is blood on his hands, for sure.
But that’s what it has become on the basketball court. And the Pistons, today, are more than just broken on the court. They are broken upstairs, and the confidence level as to whether Gores can hire the right person to fix things from the top down can’t be terribly high among the fan base.
Nor should it be. Gores is a clown under a big top.
But the owner can stuff those words down my throat and reverse his image if he somehow, by hook or by crook, makes a good hire (or two) this off-season.
Pistons fans are pretty united that when it comes to turning points in team history, the biggest came on December 11, 1979, when Davidson, stung by Vitale’s turbulent tenure, hired Jack McCloskey off the Indiana Pacers bench (assistant coach) to be the team’s GM.
By the end of the next decade, the Pistons were starting a three-year run in the Finals, winning two of them.
Gores could make a great hire this summer. Because you know what? Davidson hired McCloskey off a recommendation.
The recommendation came from Dick Vitale.
So you never know.