Matt Dobek Rumors

Palace Sports & Entertainment put the eight days between Pistons home games to good use. The corporation dedicated the Matt Dobek Press Room before Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics to honor the late Pistons vice president of public relations. More than 10 members of Dobek’s family were on hand to watch the ceremony featuring comments from Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, Palace president Dennis Mannion and longtime NBA public relations executive Brian McIntyre. Pistons play-by-play announcer George Blaha presided.
Last weekend, Matt Dobek took his own life. I suspect that a lot of fans did not even know who he was until he died. That’s a shame, because good people like Matt, who was one of several employees fired by the Pistons in May, are an essential part of the sports world. Most fans do not know (or need to know) about the tug-of-war that goes on behind the scenes between reporters and athletes. Athletes often don’t want to give interviews; reporters, of course, would like to interview point guards as they dribble up the court during playoff games.
In mid-April, I flew to Detroit to interview Detroit Pistons public relations director Matt Dobek for a book I’m writing about the 1992 Dream Team. In Barcelona, Matt served as one of four press people attached to the U.S. team, his primary responsibility being coach Chuck Daly, with whom he worked in Detroit. Matt did a superior job, which wasn’t surprising; he was a major player in those halcyon days of the NBA, someone who skillfully walked the line as both an advocate for his team and an honest resource for the press. A few weeks after our interview, Matt called to tell me that he and three other longtime Pistons employees had been abruptly fired by the team. I’m not sure what happened with the other three (I didn’t know them), but Matt was escorted out of the building, driven home by a security official and subsequently informed that he would be receiving no severance package. The stated reason for the firing was that Matt had violated a confidentiality clause in his contract.
After the firing, we talked on the phone several times and he seemed depressed. (I’m not a doctor so I’m not making an official diagnosis.) The Pistons were, to a large extent, his life, and he felt betrayed by the manner in which he was fired and by what he saw as the lack of support from people in the organization, where he had run the p.r. operation since 1981. I don’t know if the Pistons had just cause to fire Matt. I do know that the organization is a mess. The Davidson family still owns the franchise, but the “For Sale” sign is out and the 2004 champions have sunk to the level of mediocrity, having gone 66-98 in the last two seasons.
Even before the firing, Matt didn’t seem happy. In mid-March of last year, longtime Pistons owner Bill Davidson died. Two months after that, Daly died of pancreatic cancer. While it’s typical for a strong bond to grow between a coach and p.r. man, the one between Chuck and Matt went well beyond that. They hadn’t worked for the same organization since 1992, but they had remained extremely close. During the 2007 NBA Finals in San Antonio, Matt and I and a few other NBA types were riding home from a get-together when Matt decided to call Chuck. “It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, Matt,” I said. “Don’t worry,” Matt said. “Chuck’s up. I know when he sleeps.” Daly answered on the first ring and Matt passed around the phone.
The Pistons’ former longtime director of public relations died Saturday. Matt Dobek, 51, spent 29 years with the organization before he was fired in May as the team’s vice president of public relations. Hired by former Pistons executive Tom Wilson, Dobek was a confidant to many players during the Bad Boys era, including Isiah Thomas, Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars. He remained close through the years with former coach Chuck Daly, and when Daly died in May 2009, Dobek served as the family spokesman.