It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

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It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Rogobob77 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:37 pm

With the substantial roster overlap between the 1976-77 and 1977-78 MBB teams, it probably didn’t make sense for Detroit Mercy Athletics to have a back-to-back 40-year reunion event for the latter Titan team. That said, the 1977-78 season was replete with its own notable history and accomplishments (Vitale/Gaines coaching transition, 25-4 record, Long/Tyler's final season, record-setting home crowds, NIT comes to Calihan, etc.). Although that edition of MBB didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament (despite a 24-3 regular season record), it was a more experienced and arguably stronger team than the previous year. The roster included:

Seniors Terry Tyler, John Long, Kevin Kaseta, Turono Anderson, Walter Smith, and walk-on fan-favorite Richie McDermott.

Juniors Terry Duerod and Jeff Whitlow.

Sophomores Wilbert McCormick, Dave Niles, Billy Harris and Eric Agardy (side note, I have EA’s home white uniform from that season).

Freshmen Kevin Smith (an incoming first-team all-stater from Brother Rice where he averaged 29 ppg his senior year) and Arthur Bright.

Long averaged 21.4 ppg that campaign, Tyler 16.4 ppg (12.6 rpg) and Duerod 17.2 ppg. The field goal percentages for those three sharpshooters were .542, .580, and .547.

The high-powered offense averaged 94.1 ppg, the defense gave up 77.2 ppg to opponents.

The team’s losses were by 29 points at Calihan (a coming out party for Magic Johnson), a one-point loss at Georgetown, a three-point loss to Marquette, and a season-ending seven-point loss at North Carolina State in the second-round of the NIT.

Home attendance that season averaged 8,299. The home opener against Adrian drew 9,105; the MSU attendance was 10,316; 9,550 stopped by to watch the Titans take on Loyola. The crowd for the regular season finale against Marquette was 11,065, more than two-thousand over Calihan Hall’s capacity. The 94-86 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the first-round of the NIT was witnessed by 8,865 paying customers.

The close loss to MU certainly cost U-D an NCAA bid. The schedule included way too many cupcakes (Adrian, CCNY, Oakland, Wayne State), and that weak slate was was cited as a prime reason U-D was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee.

IMO, like the year before, the 1977-78 Titans had the depth of talent to conceivably win the national championship.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Tacitus651 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:42 pm

So, you're saying we've experienced somewhat of a decline?
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Commissioner » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:33 pm

Thanks Bob. Good memories of a team that, you're quite right, often gets overlooked.

The Titans were jobbed on an NCAA bid. Remember, in those days it was just a 32 team field (it would expand to 40 the next year), and I recall pretty broad agreement that the Titans got treated poorly in the selection, despite their weak schedule. The Titans were actually ranked #18 in the final AP poll, and while it was a weak schedule, their average margin of victory was 17 points. The best teams they beat during the regular season were St. Bonaventure (21-8), Toledo (21-6), and Iona (17-10; coached by Jim Valvano, featuring Jeff Ruland) on the road, and Dayton (19-10) and Loyola (16-11) at home. The win over the Bonnies was close (by 2), and Iona just by 5, but the Titans walloped Toledo, Dayton and Loyola by an average of 15 points. For what it's worth, the weak schedule was partly the result of trends in college ball in which big schools were starting to refuse to go on the road ( we see that today for non-conference scheduling, much worse, but then, imagine trying to schedule a full season with no conference games), one reason why the Titans tried to get into the Metro Conference in 1976, which included Cincinnati, L'ville, Memphis, Ga. Tech, St. Louis, and eventually joined the MCC in 1979).

A couple other notes: Freshman Arthur Bright wasn't a key member of that team, but he was a star recruit out of Chicago area (maybe NW Indiana). In today's parlance, both he and Kevin Smith were "top 100" (even "top 50") recruits. I don't remember what happened to Bright, if it was academics or injuries, he only played the one season. But he was a big time recruit when he signed his LOI.

Imagine how many points Duerod would have scored with a 3 point line. Long, too. They both shot nearly 55%, and both took lots of long shots.

The teams we lost to during the season were a combined 72-17. Georgetown reached the NIT final 4 and was ranked most of the season. Marquette closed the season ranked #8, after being ranked as high as #1 and being #3 when we played. MSU ended the season ranked #4.

Had we beaten NC State in the second round of the NIT, we would have played Georgetown again. NC State beat the Hoyas by 1.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby R.B.J1 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:19 pm

Rogobob77 wrote:With the substantial roster overlap between the 1976-77 and 1977-78 MBB teams, it probably didn’t make sense for Detroit Mercy Athletics to have a back-to-back 40-year reunion event for the latter Titan team. That said, the 1977-78 season was replete with its own notable history and accomplishments (Vitale/Gaines coaching transition, 25-4 record, Long/Tyler's final season, record-setting home crowds, NIT comes to Calihan, etc.). Although that edition of MBB didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament (despite a 24-3 regular season record), it was a more experienced and arguably stronger team than the previous year. The roster included:

Seniors Terry Tyler, John Long, Kevin Kaseta, Turono Anderson, Walter Smith, and walk-on fan-favorite Richie McDermott.

Juniors Terry Duerod and Jeff Whitlow.

Sophomores Wilbert McCormick, Dave Niles, Billy Harris and Eric Agardy (side note, I have EA’s home white uniform from that season).

Freshmen Kevin Smith (an incoming first-team all-stater from Brother Rice where he averaged 29 ppg his senior year) and Arthur Bright.

Long averaged 21.4 ppg that campaign, Tyler 16.4 ppg (12.6 rpg) and Duerod 17.2 ppg. The field goal percentages for those three sharpshooters were .542, .580, and .547.

The high-powered offense averaged 94.1 ppg, the defense gave up 77.2 ppg to opponents.

The team’s losses were by 29 points at Calihan (a coming out party for Magic Johnson), a one-point loss at Georgetown, a three-point loss to Marquette, and a season-ending seven-point loss at North Carolina State in the second-round of the NIT.

Home attendance that season averaged 8,299. The home opener against Adrian drew 9,105; the MSU attendance was 10,316; 9,550 stopped by to watch the Titans take on Loyola. The crowd for the regular season finale against Marquette was 11,065, more than two-thousand over Calihan Hall’s capacity. The 94-86 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the first-round of the NIT was witnessed by 8,865 paying customers.

The close loss to MU certainly cost U-D an NCAA bid. The schedule included way too many cupcakes (Adrian, CCNY, Oakland, Wayne State), and that weak slate was was cited as a prime reason U-D was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee.

IMO, like the year before, the 1977-78 Titans had the depth of talent to conceivably win the national championship.


The MSU game was the first basketball game I ever attended, it was loud, colorful and fun. I wish we could get back to that level.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Rogobob77 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:54 pm

A footnote to the roster: 1977-78 was slated to be Keith “Baby Bull” Jackson’s senior year, but he was redshirted that season due to injury.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Rogobob77 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:08 pm

As you can see, that was a senior-laden team. Both freshmen would eventually leave the program (not sure where Bright went, Smith took his skills to MSU where he scored a ton of points and was arrested shoplifting bottles of wine from an East Lansing sParty store). Two of the four sophomores left, those being Harris and Agardy. Those combined personnel loses were part of the reason for the program decline in the early 1980s, although the following year’s incoming class was very strong (it included transfer Earl Cureton, prep all-American Jerry Davis, and Joe Kopicki, a local kid from Warren Fitzgerald HS who would eventually log time in the NBA).
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Living in Carolina » Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:46 pm

Fond memories. I think I made it to every home game that year as my older brother dragged me to the games. As I recall the team could have been stronger as there was some mess up in Cureton's transfer where we thought he would be immediately eligible similar to transferring from a JC. I also recall listening to the Georgetown game and believing we got jobbed by the referee's in what I think was an OT loss.

The NIT team game against VCU featured a large contingent of fans from the opposition who before the game chanted repeatedly VCU! VCU! until the home team crowd behind our bench (which may have included Rogobob and/or his brother) yelled back We See You Too. - it was funny if you were there and it shut them down.
I also recall it as having one of the silliest coaching complaints ever made for losing the game when the VCU coach complained about the brand of ball that was used in the game.

It still was a pretty amazing team despite all the could have been's. This was the three year peak for the program in terms of product and popularity. I think we finished just above Indiana State in the polls that year which was Larry Bird's red-shirt junior year and during the season we were rated higher in both polls (back then there was the AP -sportswriters and the UPI college coaches polls) than the final ranking. Heck it was early in the season when we played MSU and going into the game we were higher ranked and favored to win. We ended up getting blown out as we continued to press most of the game and Magic picked us apart. It also wasn't great that it was televised locally (this was pre ESPN and getting on TV for even a single game outside the NCAA tournament was a big deal). The following year's team missed it's chance at a rematch with MSU when we lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to the Billy Tubbs coached Lamar team. We did get revenge on what at the time was a ranked Georgetown team the following year when Terrry Duerod led a 20 pt rout of the Hoya's. Consider the talent on that team as when you include Cureton who was sitting out but practicing with the team, the group featured players who would log a cumulative 41 years in the league and gather 4 NBA championship rings.

Notable to compare to today's game as there was no shot clock nor three point shot yet we averaged over 90 points a game.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Rogobob77 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:27 pm

March 4, 1978, 40 years ago to the day, a facility-record 11,065 fans (more than 20% above official capacity) crammed into Calihan Hall to see the University of Detroit face its biggest rival (and defending NCAA national champion) #3-ranked Marquette. You had to see it to believe it: every seat-back chair occupied, students packed like sardines in the bleachers, people siting on all the aisle steps throughout the arena, multitudes of standing fans clustered in all four corners framing the Calihan court.
Last edited by Rogobob77 on Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Titan Jim » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:34 pm

I was there. It was a truly amazing experience...hopefully, not once in a lifetime.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby Commissioner » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:17 am

Rogobob77 wrote:March 4, 1978, 40 years ago to the day, a facility-record 11,065 fans (more than 20% above official capacity) crammed into Calihan Hall to see the University of Detroit face its biggest rival (and defending NCAA national champion) #3-ranked Marquette. You had to see it to believe it: every seat-back chair occupied, students packed like sardines in the bleachers, people siting on all the aisle steps throughout the arena, multitudes of standing fans clustered in all four corners framing the Calihan court.

I used to have a photo of Calihan that night, and it burns me up that I lost it.
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Re: It’s been 40 years: Remembering the 1977-78 Titans

Postby TerryTylerFan » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:10 pm

I was there as well. As I’ve posted before, this was the game where Butch Lee stripped Dennis Boyd while Vitale called him over for instructions and scored a key late basket to seal the Marquette win.

I feel your pain Commissioner, a photo would have been sweet.
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