Originally created 06/16/04

Pistons chief executive enjoys a remarkable runTitle wave hits Detroit



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Detroit Pistons chief executive Tom Wilson had hoped to win at least one championship during his career. Wilson, who also holds the titles of president and CEO of Palace Sports and Entertainment, could soon have five.

The first two came with the Pistons' NBA crowns in 1989 and 1990. The Tampa Bay Lightning raised the Stanley Cup a week ago, and the Detroit Shock won the WNBA championship in September. Now the Pistons are a win from being league champs again.

"It's one of those rare circumstances where your reality exceeds your dreams," Wilson told The Associated Press. "You go into the business hoping that you get one somewhere along the line anytime in your career.

"But to have all the stars align like this. It's a unique pleasure and privilege to even be having the conversation. It really is. It's a pinnacle for all of us who work here."

Wilson joined his hometown Pistons as sales director in 1977, when they played at 10,000-seat Cobo Arena and had only a handful of front-office employees. By 1978, Pistons owner Bill Davidson had promoted Wilson to be the team's CEO. Wilson, 54, is now the face of one of the nation's most successful sports and entertainment enterprises.

Palace Sports and Entertainment's other holdings include The Palace, DTE Energy Music Theatre and the Arena Football League's Detroit Fury.

"I've had the same job in a sense for 25 years," Wilson said. "It's grown to the other teams and other venues. So it's never stopped, and that's probably the reason I'm still here."

Wilson is a perfect complement to Davidson, an understated 81-year-old billionaire.

"I think his track record has proven that he's one of the best in the business," said Joe Dumars, the ex-Pistons star who has been president of basketball operations since 2000. "Tom and I have a great relationship, and we both have the same goals."

Those goals include success but never at the expense of hard work and doing things the right way.

The Bad Boys version of the Pistons won championships through skill and toughness, and the current group is no different. The tag line for Pistons' advertising campaign is "Goin' To Work."

"It's a branding thing like Bad Boys was back in the '80s and '90s," Wilson said. "It became who the Pistons are and what we stand for. ... It's all around us. It permeates the organization.

"And we tell even our staff that comes in, if you're in housekeeping or you're in sales or whatever, we're going to be the hardest-working organization in basketball or in sports."