The Detroit Pistons are turning to the reigning coach of the year to help reverse the fortunes of a franchise that hasn't reached the postseason for two straight seasons.
A source with firsthand knowledge of the process confirmed to the Free Press on Monday former Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey will be named the 36th head coach in franchise history on a five-year deal.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report the Casey hiring.
Both sides signed the deal early Monday morning. The worth of the contract is has not been disclosed. An introductory news conference is not expected until next week. Casey plans to meet with players immediately in Los Angeles where most of them work out. Casey then has Father's Day plans and then will head to Detroit.
"I am excited and honored to join the Detroit Pistons, a franchise with a championship history and a roster that is ready to win now," Casey said in a statement released on Monday. "Tom really won me over with his vision for the team and the city. He clearly wants to deliver for the fans in Detroit and I believe in the strength of his leadership to do so.
"I'm confident that this team has the pieces in place to compete at a very high level," Casey said. "There is a lot of talent, a solid core and some exciting young players eager to get better. We're getting to work right away on the things that will make us all successful."
A source says the deal will average $7 million per year, about what Stan Van Gundy made with the Pistons.
Casey joins a franchise that ownership expects to reach the playoffs next season.
The news ends a lengthy process that began when Pistons owner Tom Gores fired Stan Van Gundy on May 7 – almost four weeks after concluding the regular season with a 39-43 record.
Van Gundy was relieved of his duties as team president and coach after reaching the postseason once in four seasons.
"Dwane is one of the most successful and highly respected coaches in our league," Pistons owner Tom Gores said in the released statement. "He's a great communicator and a leader who will connect with our players and accelerate their growth. Having spent many hours with Dwane over the last few weeks, I'm confident he is the right person to get us to the next level.
"In our meetings he displayed great insight into what this roster can accomplish, and great passion about our city and the team's role in bringing people together," Gores said. "He's an outstanding man with impressive character. He embodies our culture and will be a great representative for our franchise."
Casey, 61, was fired four days later despite leading the Raptors to a 59-23 record and earning the National Basketball Coaches Association's coach of the year award.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Raptors out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the third straight season the Cavs ended the Raptors' playoff hopes.
Casey molded the Raptors into an Eastern Conference power after taking over the franchise in 2011-12. He won four division titles, reached the playoffs the past five seasons and the 59 wins were a franchise record.
The dismissal set off a wave of criticism on social media from NBA players. The outburst was not surprising.
Casey is known for having strong relationships with players. He also brings a strong reputation for player development, something that will be stressed with youngsters Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson.
A calmer sideline demeanor will represent a stark contrast to the emotional Van Gundy.
The coaching search included notables such as Miami Heat assistant and former Michigan star Juwan Howard, TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith and Toronto Raptors assistant Nick Nurse.
Casey beat out Michigan coach John Beilein and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ime Udoka for the job.
Beilein bowed out and returned to Michigan when it was clear he was not the top choice, leaving the decision between Casey and Udoka.
Udoka, 40, interviewed Wednesday and is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks.
But Udoka, who also interviewed for openings in Toronto and Orlando, couldn't surpass Casey, who looks like the safe choice.
Casey came into the process with lukewarm expectations based on questions of game management – questions that dogged him during his time with the Raptors.
But he blew the search team away and was prepared with detailed notes and video clips.
He carried the momentum into a Los Angeles meeting June 5 with Gores.
With the trio of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the organization believes it has a foundation of a team capable of excelling next season – if players remain healthy.
Casey was on ESPN First Take on Friday and complimented the trio.
"(Griffin's) ability, his IQ are off the charts. I'll let you know when I coach him down the road," Casey said. "You got Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, so you've got some good pieces there in Detroit."
Casey will likely report to senior adviser Ed Stefanski, who was hired May 24. Stefanski worked with Casey in Toronto from 2011-13.
The relationship makes the job attractive.
Casey appeared on ESPN's The Jump later Friday.
"I've had a couple of great meetings – one with the management, with Ed Stefanski, who was a great GM, great guy, he's big time," Casey said. "And he's the main reason why the job is very appealing.
"I had a great meeting the other night at (Pistons owner) Tom Gores' home in L.A. Very dynamic owner, I'm very impressed with him and his leadership, his vision."
Stefanski told the Free Press a lack of cap space and no first-round pick makes major roster upheaval unlikely. It also means hope for an improvement on last season's 39-43 record will come from the current players.
"There's not a lot of room from a free-agency standpoint, but what I see right away is in this league you need good players to win," Stefanski told the Free Press after his hiring. "The Pistons have three high-level players in Reggie Jackson, in Andre Drummond and in Blake Griffin so that's a good start."