UD bringing back alums in bid to turn program around

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee John Long speaks with the media Friday night.

Detroit – New Detroit men's basketball coach Bacari Alexander has his hands full in returning the Titans to glory.

He's already overhauled the roster, and the coaching staff.

Now he's turning to the glory days.

In February, Alexander plans to bring back many players from the late 1970s, who played in a pair of NCAA Tournaments, and made the NIT quarterfinals.

"He's bringing back my whole team, he's gonna honor us," said former Titan – and later Piston – John Long, ahead of Friday night's Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, during which he was enshrined.

"I think that's starting things off on the right foot. He wanted to get ex-players involved. He's trying to turn that program around, and I'm gonna do everything I can in my power to help him turn that team around and turn that program around.

"Because it's long overdue."

Long and Terry Tyler led the Titans to the Sweet 16 in 1976-77, under coach Dick Vitale, who later took the Pistons head coaching job – and drafted both of them, amid some rather loud criticism from fans and pundits.

Alexander, a long-time assistant coach at Michigan, takes over for Ray McCallum, who coached eight seasons at Detroit before being fired following a 16-15 performance in 2015-16. He made one NCAA Tournament in eight years, 2011-12, when his son was the star.

That is Detroit's lone NCAA Tournament appearance since making it back-to-back seasons, in 1997-98 and 1998-99.

"I get tired every time the NCAA Tournament comes around, 'John, when's you're team gonna get back to the NCAA Tournament?'" Long said. "When we get back to that, then I can have more bragging power, more bragging rights."

No word, yet, if Vitale will be among the ex-Titans returning for the February ceremony.

He coached the Titans for four seasons, from 1973-77, going 26-3 that last season, and making the Sweet 16.

He then coached the Pistons for less than two seasons, before eventually becoming one of the most well-known and enthusiastic broadcasters in all of sports.

Long never saw that level of fame for Vitale, but he knew this: He could always talk.

"To this day, I talked to him a few weeks ago. It's funny. Every time I talk to him, 'Coach, how are you doing?'" Long said. "I just hold the phone up the whole time.

"I've been used to that my whole career. He's a speaker. He's always been like that."


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