Remembering Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson
March 14, 2009
For any successful organization or business, you have to have integrity, and you have to make everything as straightforward as you can make it.
~Detroit Pistons owner William Davidson
Sometimes when I don’t know what I’m going to post on Michigan in Pictures, it’s a happy thing. Other days, like today, it’s not.
Last night we lost a man who has done as much as anyone to bring athletic excellence to the Palace and the state of Michigan. On his photo from December of 2005, Dave wrote “These five guys have brought a lot of joy to the Motor City in the last 18 months.” I think that Detroit Pistons owner William “Bill” Davidson certainly merits consideration as a sixth man.
William Morse Davidson was born on December 5, 1922 in Detroit. He played football in the Navy during World War II and was a member of the track-and-field team at the University of Michigan, where he majored in business, following it up with a law degree from Wayne State in 1949. He eventually transformed the family business, the Guardian Glass Co., into Guardian Industries, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of architectural and automotive glass.
From William Davidson’s Wikipedia entry, I learned that Davidson was only the second owner the Pistons have ever had and that his name is on the Palace floor along with Piston legends who all played during his tenure: Dave Bing, Bob Lanier, Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, Chuck Daly, Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas. The Detroit Pistons web site tells the story of his involvement with the Pistons and the WNBA’s Detroit Shock:
Mr. Davidson owned the Pistons since 1974 and won three NBA Championships (1989, 1990, 2004), three WNBA Championships (2004, 2006, 2008) and one NHL Championship (2004). He became the first owner in sports history to win championships in three different professional sports leagues during the 2003-04 calendar year (NBA – Detroit Pistons, NHL – Tampa Bay Lightning and WNBA – Detroit Shock). In September 2008, Davidson’s contributions to the game of basketball were honored when he was officially enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1988-89, the Pistons began play in The Palace of Auburn Hills, a state-of-the-art arena built with Davidson’s financial support: a privately-financed facility, which when combined with the Pistons, formed the foundation of his entertainment business.
…The Pistons have played in the postseason in 19 of the past 25 years, including 11 of the past 13 seasons. Davidson acquired the Detroit Pistons in 1974 from the late Fred Zollner, the man who founded the team in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the 1940s. With a franchise-record seven straight seasons of recording 50 or more wins, the Pistons have won 384 regular season games (.669 wining percentage) since 2001, including a franchise-record 63 wins in 2005-06. The club has compiled 73 playoff wins in that same span and made six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Detroit has won six Central Division titles in the last seven seasons and nine overall since 1987-88. Only the San Antonio Spurs have won more division titles in the same 20-year span.
The Detroit Shock joined the Washington Mystics as the first two expansion teams in the WNBA in 1998 and the team was an immediate success in the upstart league. The Shock have won three championships since their inception (2004, 2006, 2008) and set a WNBA attendance record (22,076) in Game 3 of the 2004 WNBA Finals while also becoming the first team since 1890 to go from the worst team in a professional sports league to the best team.
The Detroit Free Press has a nice article on Bill Davidson that tells more of how Davidson presided over the transformation of a team that was “basically a laughingstock” into one that has won 3 championships and appeared in the post-season far more often than not. You probably will be happiest, however, with Mitch Albom’s September 2008 interview with Bill Davidson. They also have a nice photo gallery as does the Detroit News (the second photo in the gallery is great!)