A number of things have combined to make the Pistons winners this year. Center Joe Strawder has been aggressively gathering in rebounds. Former Coach DeBusschere and last year's rookie star, Dave Bing, have been averaging close to 30 points a game. Terry Dischinger, a top player before going into the Army for two years, is back and playing well. The team, lacking height, has been playing a pressing defense—"like a pro football blitz," says Butcher—that has rattled many teams. The Pistons are not yet ready to beat the 76ers or Celtics, but when you consider their past record, third place is never-never land.
There are times when it seems that Zollner's interest in pursuing an NBA championship is waning. He appears at fewer and fewer home games. Instead, he goes fishing. In his 48-foot air-conditioned cruiser he pursues blue marlin off the Bahamas and sips Scotch at the Bal Harbor Club. Regulars at Cobo Hall remember seeing him chain-smoking away at only six or so games last season, and only two this year. Is the Big Z tiring of the Pistons? Would he ever sell them?
Not a chance, says Zollner, especially now that the team is winning. In the Zollner style, he is merely trying a new approach. Swooping down in his plane, the Flying Z, he has concentrated on road games. That way, he explains, "you can pick out the players who play well before their friends but loaf when they're not at home.
"I don't think this franchise will ever be for sale, except by my estate. I'm a sportsman. I enjoy it. We're going places."