Bill Davidson, the Detroit Pistons' Hall of Fame owner and noted philanthropist, died Friday. He was 86.
Davidson died at his Bloomfield Hills home with family at his
side, team spokesman Matt Dobek said. The cause of death wasn't
"The entire Palace family is mourning the loss of Mr.
Davidson," said Tom Wilson, president of Palace Sports and
Entertainment and the Pistons. "He was truly a pioneer in so many
ways. His legacy will live forever."
Davidson, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in
September, also owned the WNBA's Detroit Shock and Palace Sports &
Entertainment, comprising The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy
"We are all deeply saddened by the news of Mr. D's passing,"
Pistons coach Michael Curry said after Detroit's overtime victory
in Toronto. "He's been a great owner who genuinely cared for
players, coaches and employees. He will not only be remembered as a
great owner but also as a person who made a difference in many
people's lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. D and the
entire Davidson family."
Occasionally spotted courtside at Pistons home games, Davidson
shied away from the limelight. He granted only a handful of
interviews and turned down requests for dozens more while three of
his pro sports teams were winning league championships over an
eight-month span in 2003 and 2004.
"I just don't want to be a public figure," he told The
Associated Press in 2004. "I don't see any point in it."
Davidson was chairman and president of Guardian Industries
Corp., a major manufacturer of glass products for the construction
and automotive industries and fiberglass insulation products. He
also was an honored philanthropist, giving away more than $80
million in the 1990s alone.
Spurned in his bids to buy the NFL's Detroit Lions and NHL's
Detroit Red Wings, Davidson became majority owner of the Pistons in
1974 and acquired the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999, spending
lavishly on both teams.
Davidson bought a plane - Roundball One - and built a
state-of-the-art practice facility for the club, and used it
himself to work out.
The Palace, located less than a half-mile from Guardian
Industries headquarters, was built for $90 million - all of it
Davidson's money - and won instant acclaim as a sports and
entertainment venue when it opened in 1988.
"Obviously it's difficult news for those of us that knew him
and for his family, but he lived a very rich life and helped untold
thousands, and probably millions of people with all of his
philanthropic things which frankly he never wanted anybody to talk
about," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who coached the Pistons
for two seasons. "So it was an incredible life that he lived."
The Lightning and the Pistons won the NHL and NBA titles eight
days apart in June 2004, making Davidson the first owner of
concurrent champions in major North American team sports. Under
Davidson, the Pistons also won NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.
The Shock had won the WNBA championship eight months earlier,
having risen from last place and the threat of folding in 2002 to
first place and league-leading crowds the following year. The Shock
also won the league championship in 2006.
Davidson sold the Lightning last year.
Davidson was born Dec. 5, 1922, in Detroit. He ran track at
Michigan, played football in the Navy during World War II and was
an inaugural inductee into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Davidson earned a law degree from Wayne State University in
1949. He practiced law for three years before taking over a
wholesale drug company and rescuing it from bankruptcy. He did
likewise with a surgical supply company and then with his family's
Guardian Glass Co., Guardian Industries' predecessor.
In 1997, the Council of Michigan Foundations honored Davidson
for his lifelong philanthropic efforts locally, nationally and
Services are scheduled for Tuesday at Congregation Shaarey Zedek
in Southfield, according to the Ira Kaufman Chapel Funeral Home.