Editor’s Note: I attended some of the festivities at the University of Detroit’s Legends and Traditions Weekend Sept. 22 and will have four interviews with people I ran into there over the next two days, so keep checking back for those. — P.H.
Few college basketball programs, Mid-Major or otherwise, can compete with the legacy the University of Detroit basketball program has when it comes to producing Hall of Famers, All-Stars and others who have impacted the game at the professional level after playing for U of D. I caught up with current coach Ray McCallum Sr. after the Titans alumni game Sept. 23 and asked him a few questions about what being a part of that legacy means both to him and his current players.
What’s it like for you as a coach to have all of these eras of Detroit basketball basically as a resource for you and your current program?
It’s a program and university of great tradition. We’ve talked about it since I’ve come here and I’ve just embraced it. As a youngster, I grew up following Dave DeBusschere on the great New York Knicks teams. I was a kid growing up in the backyard just shooting shots trying to be like him. I remember watching Spencer Haywood and then an era when Dick Vitale had a tremendous run. Following that, there was John Long, Terry Tyler, Terry Duerod, Earl Cureton … all from U of D on to the NBA. We’ve embraced that, and the great thing is they’ve also reached out to us and supported us. Our current players are able to see highlights of those guys when they played and understand how important Titan basketball is to a lot of people. This tops off a great weekend.
It’s interesting to see the guys who were some of the top leading scorers for the school can still put the ball in the basket.
There’s not only a great basketball tradition here, but there’s also a lot of U of D guys who have made names for themselves by being active in their communities, working with kids and giving back. How important is that aspect to see for your current players?
That’s great, these guys are examples and role models. The came here and had successful careers athletically and obtaining their degrees and they’re still around impacting people in a positive way.
Your team is coming off a NCAA Tournament appearance last season. What’s it going to take for you to get back there?
The most important part of our season is the Horizon League season. We break it up into three parts — the non-conference season, the regular season and the conference tournament. We were able to be conference champions last season and we have a group of about six or seven guys who experienced that championship level last season. It’s a feeling that they enjoyed and we want to try and get back to. We’ve got a great non-conference schedule to prepare us for that.