Former Pistons GM Jack McCloskey dies after battle with Alzheimer's

DETROIT, MICH. - Jack McCloskey, the architect of the Detroit Pistons' back-to-back championship teams in 1989-90, has died after battling Alzheimer's.

The Pistons announced late Thursday that McCloskey, 91, died in Savannah, Ga., where he had been staying at Insignia Personal Care Home, a facility that caters to Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

McCloskey was nicknamed “Trader Jack” for his many astute trades during his tenure as the team’s general manager in 1979-92.  

“He has his good days and not so good days,’’ his wife, Leslie, said earlier this month. “Some days he’s very happy and talks to everybody. Then some days he’s just very tired. You never know. He’s not really eating a lot. I go over every day. Today I took a bunch of food from home to see if I could make him eat that. He’s doing pretty well. He’s in a really good place. He was starting to get really bad at home, and I couldn’t take care of him anymore because he was falling.

“This is a memory care facility. It’s for all people where we’ll all be; with no memory. It’s a very small place; maybe 35 people. They are very nice, and he gets a lot of care. ‘’

She said his memories of being in Detroit are still vivid.

“We always talk about it and a couple of the guys here, especially a guy named Jarvis, are here at night and they’ve watched 30 for 30 (by ESPN) a couple of times,’’ Leslie said. “They’re all really interested. This place finds out about their lives and what they were interested in. Of course he (Jack) had the most interesting life of any of them.’’

McCloskey assembled the teams that won the 1989 and 1990 NBA titles. He had a banner at the Palace, an honor he received in 2008, which now will be hung at Little Caesars Arena.

He left the Pistons in 1992 for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

His Pistons teams made nine straight playoff appearances with five straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals, three straight NBA Finals appearances and two titles.

Always with an eye for talent, McCloskey drafted Isiah Thomas in 1981 and Joe Dumars in 1985, then picked Dennis Rodman and John Salley in the 1986 draft. They helped form the nucleus of the championship teams.

He traded for Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, Rick Mahorn and James Edwards and the most controversial one of all, Mark Aguirre. Aguirre was the last piece that vaulted the team over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1989 Finals.

“Jack was one of the best GMs,’’ former Piston Earl Cureton said. “He did a great job here in Detroit. He wouldn’t hesitate to get rid of people. He’d trade you in a heartbeat. He came to Italy and brought me back home. I still don’t know how he found me in a little apartment in Milan. He said they had a contract worked out for me and to get back home.’’

Cureton said there wouldn’t have been a Bad Boys without McCloskey.

“When you think about the Bad Boys you’re going to think about the Jack McCloskey era,’’ Cureton said. “He came right when I came out of school (Detroit Mercy). He had an ability of putting team’s together and making the right moves.

“When I got here in 1983-84 we were a playoff team. We had a foundation. We had the right parts. He made great moves in bringing in Mahorn and drafting Salley and Rodman. He brought in Buddah (Edwards) and Laimbeer and that created a championship team. Bringing in Vinnie was also huge. That was another key piece.

“He means a lot to the Pistons and the city of Detroit. Without him you don’t have two NBA championships,’’ Cureton said. “He brought in Chuck (Daly) and I was with Chuck in Philly. Jack will always be remembered in this city.’’

Said Mahorn: “He was responsible for bringing me here. Jack knew how to put teams together. He was a great judge of talent and then Chuck was able to mold that talent into a championship team.’’

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