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A night to remember back in Detroit

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Nov. 2
I had the time of my life Thursday night as I returned to the University of Detroit-Mercy campus for the first time in many years. I coached there from 1973-77 and also served as the school's athletic director.

It was fantastic to go back to the offices and the locker rooms, spending time, sharing wonderful memories and moments with people who meant so much to me during my early career. It was beautiful to share moments with former players and to be there for the induction of Terry Tyler and John Long into the school's Hall of Fame. That made it the ultimate, special night.

I've grown so fond of those two as I followed their careers religiously. Terry and John are such special people. They had great work ethic and an unbelievable desire to be better today than they were yesterday.

They treated me like royalty in Detroit, and I don't deserve half of it. It was special being back in Titan territory, and they make it seem like I was there for 25 years. ... I am so proud to be associated with such a rich tradition.

They were a coach's dream. John, as I said while speaking at the University of Detroit Hall of Fame banquet, should have only played with the three-point shot. I can only imagine what kind of numbers he would have posted if he played today!

Long is second on the school's all-time scoring list, behind Rashad Phillips. I don't want to take anything away from Phillips, a dynamite guard who shined for Perry Watson's teams. His Detroit squads beat the likes of St. John's and UCLA in NCAA play in '98 and '99. Phillips had the luxury of the three-point shot, making 348 in his career.

If ever a player was an automatic, it was Long. He was nothing-but-nylon from the baseline. John and Terry Duerod, if only they were together!

I received so much criticism when I drafted John and Terry. People said I was biased, that they were my kids. I took them in the second round.

Terry Tyler was Mr. Consistency; I could count on him for 15-16 points and 10-11 rebounds a night. He was a high-riser, an elevator man, a skywalker! If there was ESPN SportsCenter during the Tyler era, he would have been on there every night.

He was a human highlight film at 6-foot-7. With long arms, he played so much bigger than his size.

The bottom line is those guys were classy people, with passion and love for their families. It was so beautiful to see them both inducted into Detroit's Hall of Fame.

Those two proved that I was right about my evaluation of them. Wow, I was right about something, baby! I won't tell you about the times I was wrong. The two of them combined to play 25 years in the NBA! I didn't say CBA.

Any time you can play a decade-plus at that level (Long played 14 years, Tyler 11 in the NBA), with the greats that perform in that league, you are doing something special.

It was a special night, to share the night with so many wonderful people. Then I had another great moment, talking to Watson's kids. Memories came flooding back in the same locker room where I spent so much time.

I told those youngsters that the one beauty of college basketball is you can take care of business in your own conference and that can help get you far. Yes, you will get your chance against other top-notch teams, but the Horizon League this season has lots of competition, with Detroit, Butler and an improving Cleveland State team under Rollie Massimino.

The Titans have as good a chance as anyone. Detroit has enjoyed four straight 20-win seasons under Watson and 31 straight home wins. Last year, the NIT sent them to three road games, and they still made it to the Final Four at Madison Square Garden.

Watson is one of the most underrated coaches in America. He can flat-out coach, getting the most out of his people. He has instilled discipline, his team shows excellent shot selection, and they really defend.

They treated me like royalty in Detroit, and I don't deserve half of it. It was special being back in Titan territory, and they make it seem like I was there for 25 years. I looked at the wall of the school's Hall of Famers with pride --names like Spencer Haywood, Dave DeBusschere -- and I was inducted in 1991. Then names like Bob Callahan, Duerod and now Long and Tyler, I am so proud to be associated with such a rich tradition.

The only reason I got the job was because I was a dummy. When I was interviewed, I told the school I would take the head coaching position for $15,000 after making about $11,000 as an assistant at Rutgers.

The committee said it was great. Little did I know they had $21,000 budgeted for the job. The Jesuit school was happy to save $6,000 so they didn't have to pass the basket.

The night got even better. I met a man I had spoken to on the phone several times -- one of my favorites, someone who united all people. It didn't matter what the color of their skin was, what they were about. It was someone I observed on the big screen one night.

Denzel Washington portrayed him in "Remember the Titans" -- Mr. Herman Boone.

He was speaking in Detroit to high school coaches. I invited him to be my guest at the Tennessee-Notre Dame football game this weekend.

The place went wild when I introduced Coach Boone. I spent some time with him and his wife, Carol, along with my wife, Lorraine, flying to South Bend.

To have John and Terry talk about their love, like I was a second father, was special. It was great to go back to the place where I got the opportunity to do something I love, coach on the collegiate level.

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