Help Wanted: President Business Operations, Detroit Pistons

Turnkey Search has just been tapped by the Detroit Pistons to find a new president of business operations. The search firm is looking for a smart, hands-on, relentless business builder with a proven track record of driving revenue growth and enhancing brand strength. Let’s go inside the search!   

January 29, 2020 – Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, has been selected by the Detroit Pistons to find a new president of business operations. “The Detroit Pistons are an iconic NBA team that recently moved back into downtown Detroit,” said Len Perna, founder and chairman of Turnkey Search. “Detroit itself is really buzzing as a comeback city with tons of companies, including tech companies like Google and others, and tons of young people moving back into the city.”

“The energy in Detroit is back and a big reason is the Pistons coming back,” he said. “The Pistons build a brand new performance center in Detroit as their new headquarters and it’s the best one in the NBA. Absolutely cutting edge. And the team plays in a brand new billion dollar arena called Little Caesars Arena. So who wouldn’t want to be a part of this rebirth? It’s a dream job.”

Building upon tradition and a history of sustained success, the Detroit Pistons have embarked on a new era with the leadership of head coach Dwayne Casey and general manager Ed Stefanski focused on developing the strategy and development of basketball operations. “Consistent with this vision for the Pistons, team vice chairman Arn Tellem is also elevating the performance of business operations with the hire of a smart, hands-on, relentless business builder to serve as the franchise’s new president of business operations and instill a high performance, high growth culture,” Turnkey said.


The incoming executive will be tasked with leading all existing non-basketball operations, with the strategic directive from Mr. Tellem and ownership to elevate, optimize and leverage all Pistons assets synergistically to aggressively grow revenue, expand PS&E’s brand presence, and forge a symbiotic relationship with the Greater Detroit community and basketball fans around the world.

Owning the business operations P&L, the president will need to develop a forward-thinking, forward-looking business plan for the fast-changing sports world that delivers strong revenue growth across all lines of business– tickets, luxury and premium suites, media, new media and marketing partnerships.

“Continuing to develop a world class sales and marketing team will just be the start,” said the search firm. “Understanding the triggers that drive people to become consumers, incentivizing sales, and building the proper pricing and product bundling strategies will be the strategic efforts that lead to success. Innovative thinking combined with an acute understanding of the marketplace and the community will be also be key factors to achieving growth in consumer-centric and corporate-centric business lines.”

Leadership Characteristics 

“The Pistons are looking for an executive who is hands on, roll-up-the-sleeves, highly energized and engaged with all constituents,” said Mr. Perna. “Who are the constituents of a basketball business? This executive needs to be a servant leader for full time and part time employees like ticket sellers, sponsorship executives, marketing, media, communications, community, etc. And then there is the external role to be a part of the Detroit community and support/serve fans, ticket buyers, companies who are marketing partners, community groups, etc. It’s a big job and a great job.”

The Pistons want candidates that demonstrate an unwavering passion for excellence and continued success in all facets of the Detroit Pistons business operations. They should show a steadfast commitment to ownership, employees, the franchise, partners and fans.

Related: Turnkey Search Places Commissioner for Major League Rugby

The right candidate will exhibits the presence to drive change, influence people, and establish personal credibility both internally and externally. They should be able to “command the room with a non-authoritative, collaborative manner and a presence and style to which people want to associate,” Turnkey said.


“People often ask me if you need to have been a basketball player or coach? The answer is no, although having played or coached the game might help you excel in this role,” Mr. Perna said. “Because the product is basketball. Knowing the game, the sport, the league, the players might enable you to be better at inspiring interest and engagement in the Pistons. Getting people excited about the Pistons is a special job and an honor for the right individual.”

Turnkey Search Recruits Juwan Howard as Head Basketball Coach for University of Michigan

Turnkey Search placed Juwan Howard as the men’s head basketball coach for the University of Michigan, a plum assignment. He is a former Wolverine All-American and NBA All-Star. The appointment of Mr. Howard follows a comprehensive national search led by Turnkey managing director Gene DeFilippo. “A basketball head coaching search is intense,” said Turnkey chairman Len Perna. “Within 24 hours Gene had canvassed the entire pro and college basketball landscape, spoken to more than two dozen coaches and their agents, and had all the key facts.”

Mr. Perna and his team are seeking someone with more than 15 years of experience in sports, entertainment and/or media, or a combination thereof, driving high performance growth teams in dynamic, evolving business settings. “They must be an established, bright, savvy C-level executive with a proven track record of driving profitable growth, ideally in professional sports, entertainment and/or media,” the firm said.

20-Plus Years of Experience

Founded in 1996, Turnkey Search is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm focused on recruiting C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level talent for sports, entertainment and media enterprises. Over the past 20-plus years, Turnkey Search has filled more than 1,000 positions across these three sectors. The search firm helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity firms and other clients identify, recruit and hire top management talent.

Turnkey’s clients include the University of Alabama, the Atlanta Hawks, CitiGroup, the University of Denver, Louisiana State University, the University of Michigan, the Milwaukee Brewers, the University of Mississippi, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the University of Nebraska, the Oakland Raiders, Richard Childress Racing, RocNation, Rutgers University, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Temple University, Ticketmaster, Townsquare Media, the United Center, VStar Entertainment Group and the Washington Nationals.

Mr. Perna manages all aspects of Turnkey Search. A top executive in the sports industry since 1985, he began his sports career as a business attorney for Cap Cities ABC/ESPN and also served as a top executive for the Detroit Red Wings/Tigers and the Dallas Stars/Texas Rangers.

Related: Turnkey Search Recruits COO for the Minnesota Vikings

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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