AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Joe Dumars has masterminded one of the great success stories in sports.
He's the reason the Detroit Pistons won the NBA championship a year ago, need two more wins to capture another title and have re-established themselves among the league's elite franchises.
A future Hall-of-Famer from his playing days with the "Bad Boys,'' Dumars, who now works in the Pistons' executive suite at the Palace that his blood, sweat and tears helped build, is doing what Jerry West did for so many years with the Lakers, what playing contemporaries Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge are attempting to do, and what Michael Jordan failed to do.
Dumars is the sensible choice to replace West as the foremost ex-player to mold his old team into a champion because he's fast becoming the NBA's top executive.
The reason for Dumars' quick ascension - much quicker than those of his contemporaries - is that he works without an ego.
Every great athlete has had a huge ego, Dumars included. You don't survive dozens of head-to-head battles with Jordan, as Dumars did, unless you believe the sun rises and sets on your person.
No. The major difference between Dumars and the likes of former Pistons teammate Thomas, or Jordan, is that Dumars the front-office executive doesn't concern himself with who receives the credit.
It dates to Dumars' playing days with the Pistons, back even earlier when he was drafted out of tiny McNeese State. Dumars has always had to prove himself, prove that he belonged.
Playing in the same backcourt with Thomas was no picnic. Thomas was a great player with a huge opinion of himself. Dumars and Thomas forged a common ground because their will to win was greater than Thomas' ego.
Dumars was also smart enough to recognize that if the Pistons won big, so would he. Dumars' Pistons won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
Since moving into the Pistons' front office in 2000, Dumars has owned the league's general managers. But you didn't hear it from him.
Quiet and efficient, Dumars is most comfortable working behind the scenes and away from the media spotlight.
Building the Pistons in his own image, Dumars acquired castoffs Rasheed Wallace (Bill Laimbeer), Ben Wallace (Dennis Rodman), Chauncey Billups (Thomas) and Richard Hamilton (Dumars), then hired Larry Brown (Chuck Daly) to mold them into champions.
"It starts with management. We've got a great general manager who has been here before as a player,'' Brown said. "He understands how important it is to have good, tough competitive guys in the locker room. Joe Dumars brought a culture to Detroit about bringing in character guys that respect the game and respect each other. That's why we're here.''
The Pistons are a direct reflection of Dumars, the coaching staff and the players he assembled.