The Terry Duerod Interview
Michael D. McClellan
Saturday, April 16th, 2005
Garbage time is hardly the place where legends are born – those moments are usually reserved for the huge, pressure-packed situations, when everything is on the line and the fans are on their feet, their throaty roar engulfing the participants, swallowing them whole – but all of that changed on December 12, 1980, when then-head coach Bill Fitch emptied his bench in a home game against the New Jersey Nets. The final score read 119-104, but it really wasn't that close. A young triumvirate of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale had just finished toasting a horrid Nets squad, putting on a basketball clinic and, in the process, earning some well-deserved time on the bench. With less than four minutes remaining, Fitch turned toward the direction of Terry Duerod – the same Terry Duerod who had been signed to a ten-day contract only eight days before – and motioned for him to enter the game. The Boston Garden faithful welcomed the University of Detroit product onto the parquet floor, where he quickly rubbed off his defender on a pick and nailed a mid-range jumper. Chants of "DO-O-O-O" cascaded from the partisan crowd, many of whom had stayed just to cheer the scrubs. Two possessions later he found the ball in his hands again, and once again he had an open look at the basket. Heeding the advice of Fitch, who had given him the green light, Duerod did what all shooters do in that situation: He let one fly. The baseline jumper found the bottom of the net, and the spontaneous, heartfelt chant grew stronger.
Had it ended there, the Garden faithful would have gone home happy and Duerod would have simply become obscure trivia fodder. Instead, Duerod found himself twenty feet from the basket, launching a shot that would instantly elevate him to cult-hero status. With the remaining crowd now chanting "DO-O-O-O" in unison, the ball followed an almost impossibly high arc before dropping cleanly through the hoop. Everyone on the bench jumped to their feet, Bird included. There was still time on the clock for one more possession, and one more chance for Duerod to cement his place in Boston Celtics lore. With Bird directing his teammates to get Duerod the ball, the Net reserves inexplicably backed away from the hottest player on the court. Duerod drained the open three – and with that final basket, a legend was born.
Terry Duerod's circuitous journey to the Boston Celtics began in Highland Park, Michigan, during the mid-1960s. He was an athletic child, strong for his age, and plenty tall as well. He played a little bit of everything – baseball, basketball, football – but mostly with other kids in his neighborhood, and in the parks and on the playgrounds near his home. When he did get around to playing organized sports, Duerod proved to be a quick study on the hardwood – he was a key player on every team from sixth grade through twelfth, and over a six year span those teams would lose only a handful of games. As a senior at Highland Park, Duerod and his teammates were considered frontrunners for a state championship. A tragic car accident involving two his closest friends – and two of Highland Park's biggest cage stars – derailed those title dreams, yet Duerod played well enough to catch the eye of Dick Vitale, the frenetic coach at the University of Detroit. Already a salesman extraordinaire, Vitale preached the history of Detroit basketball, invoking the names of Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood, and the promise of an up-tempo system in which to showcase Duerod's deceptive speed and shooting accuracy.
It wasn't a tough sell: Duerod preferred to play his collegiate basketball close to home, where friends and family could come out and cheer him on. And with Highland Park just a stone's throw to the north (Henry Ford opened a Model T Factory there in 1909, giving birth to the automotive industry), there was always plenty of support in the stands. Duerod worked hard to hone his skills, while waiting patiently for his time to shine. He was there for Detroit's 21-game win streak in 1977, which included a wild victory over Al McGuire and eventual-champion Marquette. He was there for three post-season tournaments, and a truckload of memories. He led Detroit in scoring as a senior, averaging 23.3 points-per-game.