Ex-Piston Terry Duerod, a Detroit Titans icon and city firefighter, dead at 64

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

While reflecting on the life of Detroit basketball great Terry Duerod, Dick Vitale summed up his achievements succinctly. 

“He was a winner in the game of life,” said Vitale, who coached Duerod at the University of Detroit from 1975-77. 

Everything Duerod attempted, he excelled in. He had a standout college basketball career that saw him become one of the best shooters and scorers in U-D history, helping to lead the Titans to an NCAA tournament berth in 1977. (The school became Detroit Mercy after a merger with Mercy College in 1990.) He won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1981. He was a firefighter for 28 years. He had a passion for cooking and leaves behind a legacy as one of the best basketball players the city of Detroit has ever produced. 

Terry “Sweet Doo” Duerod died Friday at 64, following a months-long battle with leukemia. His death came as a surprise to many of his friends and former teammates, as he largely kept his battle with cancer a secret. 

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“He had great character, he cared about people, gave a damn about others,” said Vitale, who also coached Duerod at the beginning of his rookie season with the Pistons in 1979. “He was a very unselfish kid and just special. And he was Mr. Excitement. Played a vital part in my career and my life, as did the other players.” 

Duerod was born in Royal Oak in 1956. After leading Highland Park High to a Class A state title in 1975, he ended up on Vitale’s radar at U-D. He established himself as one of the best players in school history during his four years with the program, averaging 23.3 points per game as a senior and earning All-American honors. He is still currently sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list, with 1,690 points.

Duerod would have benefitted greatly from the 3-point line, Vitale estimated. 

“If there was a 3-point line when he played, forget about it,” he said. “He would’ve had stats off the chart. He was a great shooter. His range was from the locker room.”

Duerod became close friends with Earl Cureton, a Detroit Finney product who played for the Titans from 1978-80 before playing 12 seasons in the NBA across 17 years.

Duerod and Cureton initially met after their senior year of high school, playing in games at St. Cecilia.  

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“Duerod was genuine,” said Cureton, who knew of his cancer diagnosis. “He was just a guy that never changed from the day I met him until today when he passed. He was always that same guy. We’d been friends throughout the years. I was best man at his wedding; he had been married for 38 years. He was a greater husband to his wife.”

“We talked every day for the last five months while he was fighting this thing,” Cureton added. “Come in and make sure we’d had conversations on the phone, which I’m really happy that we were able to do that. We’d talk for an hour, two hours back and forth. We talked about the playoffs, talked about players and I tried to do everything I could to comfort him while he was going through some tough times and keep his mind off of what was going on. That’s the best way I could describe him. Great friend, great teammate and my mentor.” 

During Duerod’s college career, U-D went 91-22 overall with three trips to the postseason (NCAA tourney in 1977 and 1979, NIT in 1978). Duerod was an integral part of the 1977 squad which delivered the school’s first NCAA tournament victory. The Titans defeated Middle Tennessee State, 93-76, before losing to Michigan in the Sweet 16. 

“That team was as special as it gets,” Vitale said. “Michigan’s phone budget was bigger than our whole budget, yet we were able to play with all of the big guys. We had a bunch of tenacious, tough city kids who just came to play, played with great pride and passion and just all those memories are hitting me today big time.” 

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Duerod was inducted into the Titan Hall of Fame in 1993, and his No. 42 jersey was retired during the 2016-17 season.

The Pistons, under Vitale’s oversight, drafted Duerod in the third round in 1979, and he spent the 1979-80 season with his hometown team. The Dallas Mavericks selected him in the 1980 expansion draft, and Duerod played 143 games in the NBA, also spending time with the Celtics and Golden State Warriors. 

His career as a firefighter began in 1989 and continued until his retirement in 2016. 

Duerod is survived by his wife, Rosemary.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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