Joe Dumars #4 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during a game played on November 28, 1989 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.

The irony of being the NBA’s Dean of Discipline is not lost on former Detroit Pistons Bad Boy Joe Dumars. Not so long ago, he received phone calls from the league office telling him who was in trouble and why, most infamously after the Malice at the Palace brawl in 2004.

“No question there is a touch of irony there,” Dumars said in August. “I have been a member of teams and front offices that have had a lot of dealings with this office, but it helps me inform my perceptions of this job.” Dumars’ new job (he began in May) is Executive Vice President, Head of Basketball Operations, also informally known as the league office’s Bearer of Bad News.

Dumars comes in after three years in the Sacramento Kings’ front office. He made a coast-to-coast move and settled on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, easing his commute to the league offices on 51st and Fifth Avenue.

That’s where he will review flagrants, technicals and worse before getting on the phone with team executives, usually to deliver bad news.

How Dumars goes about that job in the 2022-23 season will go a long way toward determining how he is viewed compared to his predecessors Rod Thorn, Stu Jackson and Kiki Vandeweghe.

He met with them over the summer to listen to their advice, and the one common denominator was this: Be a communicator, even when there is no bad news to communicate.

“I had dinner with all three of those guys, and what stuck with me was how they said I needed to get on the phone with all of the people I will be dealing with, and when there is bad news to deliver, call and explain,” Dumars said. “You have to add a personal touch. You cannot just be a hammer and nothing else. You have relationships with these people.”

Dumars is universally regarded as a nice guy, which his predecessors said he needs to use to his advantage.

“Joe has a great personality for that job. It requires neutrality, and he must be even-keeled because teams get highly emotional when dealing with that office,” Vandeweghe said. “The best piece of advice I gave him was to stay in touch with everybody because you don’t want to talk to these people only when there is a problem. You want relationships that are positive at times because people are going to be upset at you most of the time.”

Like many former players, Dumars hears the complaints about how the game has changed in uncomfortable ways for many players from his generation. And while he does not necessarily disagree that the game has become softer and more 3-point-oriented, Dumars is quick to assert that each generation gets to choose the brand of basketball that will be played in the NBA, and today’s players are playing a game that is a product of so much focus on outside shooting at the development level all the way through the pro ranks.

“You are a steward of the game when sitting in this seat, and part of the job is not letting the game get stale, being progressive,” Dumars said. “We cannot allow the game to get stale and outdated.”

Dumars spent much of his first three months of the new job onboarding into his office and his roles with different committees, including the Competition Committee, the General Managers' Committee and the Coaches' Committee. He came aboard during the NBA Finals and quickly had his hands involved in the Pre-Draft Camp, the Draft Lottery and Summer League, all while undergoing the arduous task of relocating, which every once-traded retired NBA player can relate to.

He steps into a role that seems at odds with his disposition, a well-liked former team executive who now must be the designated bad guy when situations call for it.

“Joe will be great in that job because he is respected by virtually everyone for what he was as a player, a cerebral good guy,” Thorn said. “He has universal respect in the league, and coming in with that is a real plus for him. The best advice I gave him was to be himself. I told him you have a good feel for what goes on in the league and to be honest all the time. Treat everybody equally, do what you’ve done your whole life, and you’ll be fine.”

The Competition Committee rules change that everyone will see highlighted this year is the change of the penalty for a “take foul.” The change will award the aggrieved team one free throw and a retained possession on instances where a foul was committed to stifle a fast break while not meeting the criteria for a clear path foul. There were approximately 1,700 such instances last season, each of which stopped a fast break, slowed the game down and took a potential highlight off SportsCenter.

On Dumars’ plate moving forward is finding a way to enhance team rivalries because, for every budding Grizzlies-Warriors dynamic, many fans remember the Lakers-Celtics and Bulls-Pistons battles. And what is best for the game is finding a way to not only please the younger fans who advertisers are catering to but also serve the older fans who often feel overlooked — especially when they tell their grandkids about the glory days.

It is not easy being the designated bad guy, which is what Dumars will have to be in his new role. But anyone who knows him knows that Dumars is the furthest thing ever from an actual bad guy, which is why the NBA’s sportsmanship award is named after him.

“It’s a tough job, dealing with so many entities: Players, coaches, GMs, referees and owners, and competition brings out the best in all of us,” Jackson said. “I told him to remind himself that he knows more about the game of basketball than they do. I told him to keep that in mind.”

He will have to find a way to include his personal touch on unpleasant matters that are going to come across his desk, but you cannot help but believe that he was given this job in large part because everyone who has ever known him genuinely likes him. Whether that dynamic can continue remains to be seen, but there is no doubting that Dumars is about the most grounded person to sit in that seat in a long time. Not that Jackson, Thorn or Vandeweghe were bad guys, because they are most certainly not. But you could always find someone to bad mouth them, whereas the next guy to bad-mouth Dumars may be the first.