“Detroit basketball: A house of horrors”

One of my many duties as a prep sports writer at The Detroit Free Press was to organize photo shoots for the paper’s All Metro and All City teams.

The year was 1986.

The Free Press All-Metro team met at University of Detroit’s Calihan Hall to be photographed.

During a 10 minute span Terry Mills who won a national championship at the University of Michigan and played nine seasons in the NBA strolled in. He was followed by Detroit St. Martin DePorres standout Willie Burton who went on to become the second leading scorer in University of Minnesota history.

And finally came Detroit Northern player Derrick Coleman who was called the greatest power forward in University of Syracuse history.

All three played in the NBA. Coleman was drafted first by the New Jersey Nets in 1990. T Mills got drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks but was traded to Denver later that night. Burton averaged 12 points a game during his rookie season. He lasted eight seasons in the NBA where he averaged 10.3 points a game.

I bring you these stories for a reason.

Detroit used to be one of the kings of basketball. Now if you are a top player in the city you are scrambling to play in Florida, California and New York. Anywhere but Detroit.

The Detroit Pistons set a single-season mark by losing 27 straight games. UDM lost its first 26 games before finally winning.

Former Bad Boy guard Isiah Thomas believes the Pistons woes on the court trickle down to the college and prep teams.

“You notice over the course of recent history when we (the Pistons) are good everybody else is good,” Thomas said.

His theory rings true. During the time of my All-Metro shoot the Pistons were on the rise, battling the Boston Celtics for dominance in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons would go on to make NBA Finals in 1988, 1989 and 1990, winning championships in 89 and 90.

Today the Pistons (8-47) are one of the worst teams in NBA history. And recently the Free Press ran a story profiling five Mr. Basketball finalists. None were from Detroit.

I’ve witnessed greatness at Calihan Hall also.

There were decades of excitement behind the play of Terry Tyler, John Long, Terry Duerod, Earl Cureton and Rashad Phillips. Coach Perry Watson led the Titans to two NCAA tournaments and was named Horizon League Coach of the Year in 1998.

Things are not much better outside Detroit. Michigan Coach Juwan Howard is likely to get fired after the season. The Wolverines (8-20) were embarrassed Sunday by opposing fans from Purdue taking over the arena.

Meanwhile in East Lansing Michigan State blew a double digit lead in losing its second straight home game to Ohio State.

Basketball used to be a game of honor here. Now it is a house of horrors.


For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet

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Original Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sports

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By Published On: February 26th, 2024Categories: Detroit Pistons, NBA

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