Pistons history - Detroit Pistons history - history of the Detroit Pistons - history of Detroit Pistons
1941-48: The Zollner Pistons
Automobile-piston magnate Fred Zollner launched the club in 1941 and christened it the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. The Pistons joined the National Basketball League, a circuit that consisted primarily of teams fielded by Midwest corporations. Fort Wayne posted a 15-9 record in that inaugural season and reached the NBL Finals before losing to the Oshkosh All-Stars.
From 1943 to 1946 Fort Wayne posted the NBL's best record, and the Pistons survived the playoffs to claim the championship in 1944 and 1945. The team's star was 5-11 Bobby McDermott, the league's perennial Most Valuable Player. In 1947 and 1948 the Pistons put together strong regular-season records before falling in the early rounds of the playoffs.
1948-57: From The NBL To The BAA To The NBA
Four NBL teams, including the Pistons, jumped over to the rival Basketball Association of America for the 1948-49 season. Fort Wayne fell to a 22-38 record and finished in fifth place in the BAA's Western Division.
1957-61: Coaches Come And Go, But They All Lose
In 1957 the Pistons moved to Detroit, and Coach Charles Eckman was replaced by Red Rocha 25 games into the 1957-58 season. The team finished at 33-39. Through the 1950s and 1960s the Pistons continued to post losing records. Coaches came and went-including Rocha (.423 winning percentage); Dick McGuire (.432); Charles Wolf (.275); Dave DeBusschere (.356); Donnis Butcher (.458); Paul Seymour (.367); Butch van Breda Kolff (.471, although he did take the Pistons to a 45-37 mark in 1970-71, the team's first winning season in Detroit); Terry Dischinger (0-2 in two games); and Earl Lloyd (.286).
1961-66: A New Arena And A New Star
1966-70: Pistons Draft Future Hall Of Famer
The Pistons owned the No. 2 pick in the 1966 NBA Draft and selected Dave Bing, a 6-3 guard who became one of the top scorers in franchise history. He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1966-67, the only Pistons player ever to receive that honor. It was the start of a career that would end in the Hall of Fame.
Toward the end of the 1966-67 season, with Detroit laboring at 28-45, Dave DeBusschere was replaced as coach by Donnie Butcher, and the team went 2-6 for the remainder of the schedule.
The 1967-68 team averaged 118.6 points, an all-time Pistons record, and moved to the Eastern Division as expansion teams in Seattle and San Diego were added in the west. Bing burned the nets for a league-leading 27.1 points per game and joined DeBusschere in the All-Star Game. Bing was also named to the All-NBA First Team.
Detroit ran up a 40-42 record and made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. However, the Pistons faced a powerful Boston Celtics team in the division semifinals and were dispatched in six games.
The 1968-69 campaign yielded a 32-50 record and saw Butcher replaced by Paul Seymour early in the season. Bing continued his sensational play, averaging 23.4 points and 7.1 assists and making his second straight All-Star appearance. DeBusschere was traded to the Knicks on December 19, 1968, for Walt Bellamy and Howard Komives.
Butch van Breda Kolff was brought in as coach for the 1969-70 season. The Pistons posted a typical 31-51 record, led by Bing's 22.9 points per game.
1970-78: Mr. Inside Joins Mr. Outside
In 1970 big Bob Lanier, a 6-11, 265-pound former All-American from St. Bonaventure, was chosen with Detroit's No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Throughout the early 1970s future Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Lanier were an effective inside-outside team. By the end of their careers their numbers were almost identical-Lanier was the all-time Pistons scoring-average leader with 22.7 points per game, and Bing was one tick behind with 22.6.
1978-80: The One And Only Dick Vitale
In 1978-79 the Pistons began playing home games at the Pontiac Silverdome, where they would stay for a decade. The club had a new head coach, Dick Vitale, who later gained fame as a television sports personality. Vitale didn't have the answers for the Pistons, as Detroit dropped to 30-52. The team's roster was a model of inconsistency, with 20 different players appearing in the lineup at one time or another. Still, there was a bright spot-Kevin Porter led the NBA in assists with 13.4 per game. He recorded a season-high 25 assists twice, against Boston on March 9 and versus Phoenix on April 1. Many of Porter's assists went to center Bob Lanier, who poured in 23.6 points per game but missed 29 games with a knee injury.
1980-83: Pistons Hit The Jackpot
After a slight improvement to 21-61 in 1980-81, the Pistons hit the jackpot. Wielding the No. 2 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft, Detroit selected Isiah Thomas, a multitalented guard from Indiana University. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, Thomas had led the Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship and had been named tournament MVP. Detroit also used the 12th pick to take Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka.
The Pistons showed immediate improvement in 1981-82, finishing 39-43. The two rookies were Detroit's representatives at the 1982 NBA All-Star Game. For Thomas it was the first of 13 consecutive All-Star selections. In a November 1981 trade with the Seattle SuperSonics the team also acquired guard Vinnie Johnson in exchange for Greg Kelser.
The club made another fortuitous swap in February 1982 when it acquired center Bill Laimbeer and Kenny Carr from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Phil Hubbard, Paul Mokeski, and draft picks. Laimbeer was a 6-11, 260-pound bruiser, a rugged rebounder and an accurate shooter from the outside. The team's wheeling and dealing paid off throughout the decade - Tripucka, Thomas, Johnson, and Laimbeer comprised the team's scoring nucleus for several years.
Tripucka put up big numbers in 1982-83, raining in 26.5 points per game, third best in the NBA. Laimbeer collected 12.1 rebounds per game, also good for third place in the league. There was little support from the bench, however, and Coach Scotty Robertson's team went 37-45.
1983-86: Detroit Acquires Daly And Dumars
In 1983 the Pistons hired Chuck Daly as coach. Daly had started his coaching career at Punxsutawney High School in Pennsylvania, then had worked his way through the college and pro ranks, spending part of a season as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Early in the 1983-84 season the Pistons participated in the highest-scoring game in NBA history. In a December 13 contest against the Denver Nuggets, Detroit notched a 186-184 triple-overtime victory. Isiah Thomas (47 points), John Long (41), and Kelly Tripucka (35) had huge scoring nights, as did Denver's Kiki Vandeweghe (51), Alex English (47), and Dan Issel (28).
Bolstered by that record night, as well as by the arrival of Daly, Detroit made a dramatic improvement to 49-33 in 1983-84. Bill Laimbeer pulled down 12.2 rebounds per contest, while Thomas and Tripucka tied for the team scoring lead with 21.3 points per game. In a January game against Chicago, Tripucka tallied a team-record 56 points, topping Dave Bing's 1971 mark of 54. Then in February, Thomas set a club record by making 13 consecutive field goals against Cleveland. Thomas's 204 steals on the season set another franchise record, and he also earned the first of three consecutive All-NBA First Team selections. In the All-Star Game he scored 21 points and had 15 assists, numbers that earned him the MVP trophy.
Detroit returned to the NBA Playoffs in 1984, but an inexperienced Pistons squad lost in the first round to the New York Knicks.
The team slipped a bit to 46-36 in the 1984-85 season. Thomas led the league with 1,123 assists (13.9 apg), wresting the crown from Los Angeles' Magic Johnson and setting an NBA mark that was later broken by Utah's John Stockton. Thomas also tied Kevin Porter's team mark for assists in a game by dishing out 25 against the Dallas Mavericks. Laimbeer's 12.4 rebounds per game ranked him second in the league to Moses Malone of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons won a playoff series for only the fourth time in franchise history when they swept the New Jersey Nets in the first round. Detroit then ran into a Finals-bound Boston Celtics squad and lost in six games.
In the 1985 NBA Draft the Pistons picked 6-3 guard Joe Dumars out of McNeese State, securing the third member of the Thomas-Laimbeer-Dumars triumvirate that anchored their championship teams of the future. Before the season Detroit also acquired power forward Rick Mahorn from the Washington Bullets.
The team repeated its 46-36 record in 1985-86. Laimbeer led the league in rebounding with 13.1 per game. Near the end of the season the Silverdome roof collapsed, and the Pistons played their final 15 games at Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Arena. Isiah Thomas earned his second All-Star Game MVP Award, scoring 30 points at Dallas. Detroit faced the Atlanta Hawks and Dominique Wilkins in a first-round playoff series and lost, three games to one.
1986-88: "Microwave" Cooks, And So Do Pistons
The 1986-87 Pistons were led in scoring by Adrian Dantley (21.5 ppg), who had been picked up from Utah in a trade for Kelly Tripucka and Kent Benson. Dantley was still an offensive force, even though he was nearing the end of a career that would land him among the NBA's top 10 all-time scorers. The dominating backcourt of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars was supported by Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson, who was sent into games to provide instant offense. The Pistons were also becoming known for their tough defense and physical play, which earned them the nickname "the Bad Boys."
1988-89: 63 Wins, A New Arena And A World Title
Just nine years after hitting rock bottom with a 16-66 record, the Pistons reached the top of the basketball world in 1989. Their 63 wins in the 1988-89 season were a franchise best. That season the Pistons also moved into a new home-the 21,454-seat Palace of Auburn Hills.
The team started slowly but took off after a midseason trade sent Adrian Dantley and a No. 1 draft choice to Dallas in exchange for Mark Aguirre. Far from disrupting team chemistry, the deal enhanced the squad's spirit.
The Pistons were the league's best team all season. They had a guard-oriented offense featuring Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, a solid work ethic, and they lived up to their Bad Boys image with tough, physical play. (When Bill Laimbeer missed a game on January 29 to serve a fighting suspension, it interrupted a string of 685 consecutive games played that dated back to 1982.)
The Pistons were led by Thomas, whose angelic smile belied a fiercely competitive nature. He could shoot from the outside or drive to the basket and was always among the league leaders in assists. Backcourtmate Dumars had many of the same offensive skills as Thomas, though he wasn't expected to pass as much, and he was a formidable defender. Laimbeer was a bruising inside player but not a traditional center; his shot from long range became a trademark of the Pistons' offense. In addition, Laimbeer developed his persona as a villain, becoming a player opposing fans loved to hate.
These star-quality players were augmented by a cast of role players and specialists. Aguirre possessed as inventive an offensive repertoire as any NBA player. Vinnie Johnson was capable of torrid shooting streaks. Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn, James Edwards, and John Salley each brought different assets to the front line while sharing playing time.
Dumars and Rodman were named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team at season's end, starting a long string of selections for Rodman. Thomas led the club in scoring with 18.2 points per game, but the scoring burden was well distributed-five players averaged more than 13.7 points. Rodman displayed an unerring nose for the ball, led the team in rebounding (9.4 rpg), and, unexpectedly, led the league in shooting percentage (.595), mostly by declining to shoot anything but point-blank layups.
The Pistons fashioned the NBA's best regular-season record at 63-19 and shredded opposing teams in the playoffs. They cruised through the first two rounds of the postseason, eliminating Boston and Milwaukee without suffering a loss. The Chicago Bulls provided a little more resistance before falling in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In a rematch of the previous year's NBA Finals, the Pistons demolished an injury-plagued Lakers team by sweeping the defending champs in four straight games. A new star was born as Dumars averaged 27.3 points in the series and was named Finals MVP. In 17 playoff games Detroit held the opposition to only 92.9 points per game, the stingiest defense of any NBA champion since the advent of the 24-second shot clock in 1954-55.
1989-91: Thomas Leads Detroit To Repeat Performance
The Pistons won the NBA Finals again in 1989-90. From January 23 to February 21 they ran off a 13-game winning streak, an all-time club record. They lost once, then won another 12 games for a 25-1 mark from January 23 to March 21. By then the Pistons' most evident quality was a punishing defense. For the season, they held opponents to a league-low 98.3 points per game.
1991-92: Detroit's Rebounding King
Dennis Rodman dwarfed the rest of the league as a rebounder during the 1991-92 season, leading the NBA with 18.7 boards per game. He set new team standards for most rebounds (1,530), most offensive rebounds (523), and most defensive rebounds (1,007) in a season. He had an all-time Detroit high of 34 boards in a game against Indiana on March 4, breaking Bob Lanier's 1972 mark by a single rebound. Just 10 days later Rodman set the Detroit standard for defensive rebounds in a game with 22 against Sacramento. On December 1 another of Lanier's marks fell when Isiah Thomas passed him to become the Pistons' all-time leading scorer. (Lanier, the Pistons' center of the 1970s who had retired in 1984, was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.)
1992-93: Playoffs A Thing Of The Past
In 1992-93 the Pistons plummeted to 40-42 under new coach Ron Rothstein and finished out of the playoffs for the first time since 1983. Joe Dumars led the team in scoring with 23.5 points per game, a career best and the highest Pistons average since 1982-83, when Kelly Tripucka had scored 26.5 points per contest. Dumars also set a team record by knocking down 7 three-pointers in a game against the Knicks on February 26. When Bill Laimbeer pulled down his 10,000th career rebound against Philadelphia on December 5, he became the 19th player in NBA history to record 10,000 points and 10,000 rebounds.
By the end of the 1992-93 season Laimbeer had become the team's all-time leading rebounder. Thomas, with 1,793 career steals, had twice as many as runner-up Chris Ford, and his 8,662 assists were also more than double the total of the No. 2 man on the Pistons' list, Dave Bing, who had handed out 4,330.
Don Chaney was named head coach during the offseason, replacing Rothstein. Chaney, a one-time Detroit assistant, had held the head-coaching reins with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets, winning Coach of the Year honors at Houston in 1990-91.
Realizing the need to rebuild its fading franchise, Detroit used its two first-round draft picks in 1993 to restock its backcourt, acquiring guards Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston.
1993-94: Still Out of Contention
However, more was needed in 1993-94 as the Pistons slid to their worst mark, 20-62, since the club's 16-66 record in 1979-80. Prior to training camp Detroit traded a disgruntled Dennis Rodman to the San Antonio Spurs for Sean Elliott. Bill Laimbeer retired 11 games into the season, leaving the club with only two players, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, who had been Pistons during the team's two championships. The Pistons' season featured losing streaks of 14, 13, 8, 7, and 6 games; Detroit was 1-14 in January and 0-13 in April.
1994-95: Hill Highlights Pistons' Disappointing Season
The Detroit Pistons started the 1994-95 season with only two players remaining from the 1992-93 campaign and just one (Joe Dumars) from their championship years. Inexperience, the players' unfamiliarity with one another, and injuries made the season a difficult one for Detroit, as the Pistons finished at 28-54 and in last place in the Central Division. Ten players were injured during the season for a combined loss of 194 player-games. The injuries piled up early in the campaign, and some nights it almost seemed as if the Pistons would not be able to field a team. Detroit used 25 different starting lineups during the year.
1995-96: Collins Leads Pistons Back to Playoffs
The most pivotal member of the 1995-96 Pistons was not the veteran Joe Dumars, the last link to the Pistons' championship glory...it was not Allan Houston, who emerged as an offensive powerhouse with a 19.7 ppg average...it wasn't even Grant Hill, who led the the team in points, rebounds and assists
The key to the Pistons' success didn't even wear a uniform. Doug Collins, first-year coach of the Pistons, led the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 1991-92, as the Pistons finished 46-36, an 18-game improvement over the previous season.
The postseason ended with a first round ouster, compliments of the Orlando Magic, but nevertheless, the Pistons looked like a team on the rise. OK - maybe Hill, Houston, Dumars and the rest of the Pistons had something to do with it.
Hill, in particular, emerged as one of the games brightest stars, even upstaging Michael Jordan as the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game, the second year in a row that Hill had topped the voting list. Hill led the league with 10 triple-doubles, and posted averages of 20.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 6.9 apg, among the league's top 20 in all three categories. After the season, he represented the United States in the Atlanta Olympics as a member of the Dream Team, adding a gold medal to his list of accomplishments.
Although Hill was the Pistons main man, Detroit relied on many other players to provide a team effort. Dumars and Otis Thorpe suplied a steadying veteran influence, Terry Mills offered a punch off the bench as a backup forward, while Houston established himself as one of the league's premier sharpshooters. Following the season, though, Detroit suffered a blow when Houston signed with the Knicks as a free agent.
1996-97: Hill, Pistons Forge Forward
Two years removed from a 28-win season, the Detroit Pistons emerged among the NBA's elite in 1996-97, posting 54 wins and advancing to the postseason for the second straight season. Although the season ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the team continued its rapid progress under coach Doug Collins.
1997-98: Many Changes in Motown
Detroit signed a new center, pulled off a big trade and replaced their coach. The one constant to the Pistons' season was forward Grant Hill, who was voted to start in the All-Star Game for the fourth year in a row.
Hill averaged 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. Despite Hill's stellar season, the Pistons finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs.
Center Brian Williams, who signed as a free agent in August, proved to be a valuable acquisition. He was second on the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), led the Pistons in rebounding (8.9 rpg) and posted 30 double-doubles.
Jerry Stackhouse was also a welcome addition to the Detroit rotation. The promising swingman averaged 15.7 points in 57 games with the Pistons after he and Eric Montross were acquired from Philadelphia for Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie.
Alvin Gentry replaced head coach Doug Collins after Detroit's 21-24 start. The team went 16-21 the rest of the way.
1998-99: Joe D. Hangs 'Em Up
During his 14-year career, Joe Dumars was a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star and full-time gentleman. And when he played his final game - an 87-75 loss to Atlanta in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series - an era ended for the Detroit Pistons.
1999-2000: #4 is Retired, Dumars is Back
The Pistons retired the number 4 jersey of former guard Joe Dumars on March 10, 2000 and was named the team’s President of Basketball Operations on June 6, 2000. Dumars was further honored for his 14 seasons in the league when Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik announced that the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award would be renamed the Joe Dumars Award. Dumars, who won the inaugural award in 1996, became the first player to have a postseason award named after him.
The Pistons finished 42-40, fourth in the Central Division, and made the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. In the playoffs though, they were eliminated in the first round by the Miami Heat three games to none. George Irvine took over head coaching duties 58 games into the season and guided the Pistons to a 14-10 mark in the last 24 games and losing only once to a non-playoff team.
Jerry Stackhouse played in the 2000 NBA All-Star Game for the first time, finished third in balloting for the Most Improved Player Award and averaged a career-best 23.6 points per game. His 618 free throws were the most by any NBA player. Grant Hill averaged a career-high 25.8 points with 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists en route to his fifth All-Star appearance. At 49.4 points per game, Hill and Stackhouse comprised the second-highest scoring tandem in the NBA. The Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant averaged 52.2 points.
Jerome Williams ranked 10th in the NBA in rebounding (9.6 rpg) despite playing the fewest minutes of any player ranked in the top-10. He had a team-best 23 double-doubles and improved his scoring and rebounding averages for the fourth consecutive year. Lindsey Hunter ranked third in the NBA in three-pointers made (168) and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.432).
2000-01: Despite Glum Season, Stackhouse Prevails
Detroit finished 32-50, fifth in the Central Division and did not make the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Pistons led the NBA in rebounding at 45.5 rpg. The team lost eight straight home games from December 30 through February 2.
Jerry Stackhouse was named to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team for the second consecutive season and led the Pistons in scoring (29.8 ppg, 2nd in the NBA) and assists (5.1 apg). Stackhouse scored a season-high 57 points vs. Chicago on April 3, 2001, breaking Kelly Tripucka’s old Pistons record of 56 points set against Chicago in January 1983. Stackhouse also broke Dave Bing’s single-season club record for total points and George Yardley’s record for season scoring average. He scored in double-figures in every game and led the team in scoring 72 of his 80 games. He had a career-high eight 40-point games.
Ben Wallace had the best season of his five-year career, achieving career-highs in every statistical category, including scoring (6.4 ppg), rebounding (13.2 rpg, 2nd in the NBA), blocks (2.33 bpg, 10th) and steals (1.34 spg). Wallace became the first player to lead the Pistons in rebounds, steals and blocks. He led the NBA in total rebounds with 1,052. Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo were the only players to have back-to-back 20-rebound games. Chucky Atkins achieved career-highs in scoring (12.0 ppg), assists (4.1 apg), rebounds, steals and minutes. In 27 games with Detroit following a trade with Toronto, Corliss Williamson averaged 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Overall, he shot 50.2 percent from the field, the ninth-best percentage in the league. Mateen Cleaves scored 16 points in the Schick Rookie Game on NBA All-Star Weekend.
2001-02: Pistons are Central Divison Champions
The Detroit Pistons finished 50-32 and captured their first Central Division title since 1990 and made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Detroit defeated Toronto three games to two in the first round and lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals four games to one.
Rick Carlisle was named NBA Coach of the Year, becoming the second Detroit coach (Ray Scott, 1973-74) to win the honor. With 50 victories, Carlisle became the winningest first-year coach in franchise history. The Pistons led the league in blocked shots (6.89 bpg) and had the fewest shots blocked (4.09 bpg). The team lost 11 consecutive road games from December 4 through January 11 and won a franchise-record seven consecutive road games from January 18 through February 22.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Pistons in scoring (21.4 ppg, 14th in the NBA) and assists (a career-high 5.3 apg). He also shot a career-high 85.8 percent from (495-577 FT) from the free throw line.
Ben Wallace led the league in rebounds (13.0 rpg), blocked shots (3.48 bpg) and steals per turnover (1.97) en route to being named NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Wallace became the fourth player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounds and blocked shots in the same season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Hakeem Olajuwon. He also averaged a career-high 7.6 points and 1.73 steals (T-14th in the NBA). Wallace, an All-NBA Third Team selection, pulled down an NBA season-high 28 rebounds in a March 24 game vs. Boston and had 10 blocks (tying for the franchise single-season high) in a February 24 game at Milwaukee.
Corliss Williamson was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 13.6 points in 78 games, 71 off the bench. He shot a career-high 51.0 percent from the from the field (8th in the NBA) and 80.5 from the free throw line… Clifford Robinson was second on the team in scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (4.8 rpg) and earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors. Zeljko Rebraca earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors.
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