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Pistons win championship the right way

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 17, 2004 | ESPN.com's NBA Finals coverage

There used to be a myth that a team needed a superstar to have a chance to win an NBA championship. Some even felt two great players were needed to prevail in the pro ranks, but that notion was clearly dispelled by the Detroit Pistons.

Coach Larry Brown and his squad played as a team and got the gold trophy by beating up on the superstar-driven Los Angeles Lakers in five games. This series could have ended earlier if Kobe Bryant didn't hit a big shot in Game 2.

Larry Brown
Larry Brown's team did things the right way.
GM Joe Dumars did a brilliant job assembling this team. His acquisition of power forward Rasheed Wallace was a stroke of genius. Wallace fit in with the Pistons perfectly, giving them size and toughness plus rebounding and scoring as a post presence.

Brown had a simple philosophy that worked: "play the right way." That means three things. The first is to play and defend as a team. The second is to share the basketball, set screens and play unselfishly. Finally, play hard and show a work ethic that's second to none. Brown has preached those principles for years and now he sits as the only coach to win both NBA and NCAA championships (he led Kansas to the 1988 title).

A genuine Hall of Famer, Brown is a teacher and motivator who gets the maximum out of his people. His teams have gotten better everywhere he's gone and this group proved to be special.

The Pistons did not let down after Brown took over from former coach Rick Carlisle, who raised expectations after back-to-back 50-win seasons (Carlisle coached the Indiana Pacers to the best record in the NBA this season). Dumars pulled the trigger and hired Brown, the experienced mentor -- and boy, did that move pay off!

The Pistons got it done with some interesting pieces of the puzzle fitting together. Point guard Chauncey Billups, the former No. 3 overall draft pick, bounced around from team to team before things really worked out. People questioned whether he was a true point guard. He has an MVP trophy to answer those critics with.

Lots of people are celebrating in the Motor City, and none are happier than owner Bill Davidson, who also owns the Tampa Bay Lightning. He pulled off an amazing ownership double -- winning the NBA title with the Pistons and the Stanley Cup championship with the Lightning. What a magical year for the owner, who should give a clinic to other sports moguls on how to run a franchise. Davidson gives his people the best resources and the best opportunity to win.

The theme of the Pistons has been to do it the right way, and they certainly have. The Lakers pouted and sulked and didn't play with the energy and passion you'd expect of a team competing in the NBA Finals. A lot of that is due to the way the Pistons suffocated them and deflated them on the defensive end.

It's a magical time for the beautiful fans in the Motor City!

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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