Mahorn keeps celebs laughing at charity basketball game

A Grand(erson) Event

Ask anyone from the Detroit Shock about Rick Mahorn’s strengths as an assistant coach, and you’d likely hear about his ability to bring levity to lackluster situations. He is known to liven up a tedious practice or bus ride with well-timed quips. That sense of humor has made him as well liked in the celebrity circle as it has in metro Detroit, where the former Bad Boy remains beloved 20 years after helping the Pistons win their first NBA title.

Mahorn put his gregarious personality on display last Saturday in a different capacity - as a celebrity coach in the charity basketball game hosted by Detroit Tigers centerfielder Curtis Granderson. The event at Lake Orion High School benefited his “Grand Kids” Foundation, which raises money for inner-city schools around Michigan.

Mahorn and Shock forward Cheryl Ford coached the White team, opposite the Blue team, coached by former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr. Granderson played the role of a referee determined to have a close game. He called it accordingly - and hilarity ensued.

A Kid Rock Birthday

The event started with a birthday surprise for Kid Rock. Fellow celebrities surrounded the 2009 Grammy nominee as a birthday cake was rolled out to center court and everyone in the gym sang “Happy Birthday.”

Then Kid Rock had a surprise for all of them - the Kid could play, hitting two early jump shots. “Kill’em, Kid!” Mahorn yelled in support of his secret weapon. As the first quarter wore on and the athletes began to separate themselves from the other celebrities, Kid held his own, going coast-to-coast for a layup. “Kid’s the only one in shape,” an impressed Mahorn mentioned to Ford.

It did not take long for controversy to find the Shock participants, as Mahorn and Ford sent multiple substitutions onto the floor at once - while the game was still going on.

“Technical foul,” said Granderson, walking toward the White team bench before former Lions wide receiver Herman Moore tried to run interference for his coach. Granderson had none of it. “You want one, too?”

“I want the commissioner!” Mahorn barked in mock disgust before breaking into thunderous laughter.

With Mahorn’s team ahead after the first quarter, Granderson found quick ways to even up the score. He started by switching the possession to open the second quarter.

“Why is it always blue ball?” Mahorn wondered aloud.

“One, two, three shots,” Granderson replied, flashing a “T” at Mahorn, Ford and former Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger for “protesting” his decision.

With officiating like that, the Blue team was able to take a halftime lead. During the break, while celebrities signed more autographs for fans and Granderson raffled off prizes such as a courtside seats to a Pistons-Celtics game, the normally straight-laced Coach Carr commented on his opponent’s strategy.

“As you would expect from Coach Mahorn, they’re playing illegal defense,” cracked Carr, who turned around and found Mahorn himself standing there, ready for a handshake and a brief word.

The dunk-off

Lomas Brown, a seven-time All-Pro offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions, was the butt of jokes all afternoon. Mahorn teased him about his short shorts during introductions and several others commented that he needed an oxygen tank when coming off the floor.

Forty-five years old and more than 300 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Brown had worked up a pretty good sweat by the fourth quarter. He had yet to earn Mahorn’s mercy.

“Lomas, you alright?” Mahorn asked.

“Sub!” huffed an exhausted Brown, stomping toward the sideline. “Sub!”

“No, no, no,” Mahorn said, waving him down the court.

Ford soon expressed sympathy for Brown as he continued to lag behind the action. “Just stay there!” she yelled to him at the other end of the court. “Play defense!”

Ford, true to her playing style, had been the team’s defensive tactician. (“Get the pretty girl!” was one of Ford’s first-half commands, referring to Farmington Hills native Kirsten Haglund - the reigning Miss America. Everyone knew whom Ford was referring to - she was the only female player on the Blue team.)

In the fourth quarter Mahorn was concentrating on offense, trying to orchestrate a basket for designer Joe Faris of “Project Runway” fame. “Joey hasn’t scored yet!” he said, walking on the court to direct the action. But when Faris started guarding his teammates, the task proved too much to accomplish.

By an unofficial count, the leading scorers in the game were former Michigan star and current Cleveland Browns wideout Braylon Edwards and Jamal “Springs” Nelson of the And1 Mixtape Tour.

The crowd roared in anticipation of Springs's breakaway dunks, which never disappointed. Even the celebrities were wowed - and smart enough to get out of his way. “We have an agreement,” Edwards told Mahorn during the second quarter. “My pride won’t get in the way. That’s how you get on YouTube.”

So when Kid Rock (likely the game’s third-leading scorer) made two free throws with no time on the clock - giving Mahorn’s team a “controversial” 61-60 victory - Granderson elected to let the fans decide the game in the most fitting fashion: a dunk-off between Springs and Edwards.

Though Edwards performed admirably, Springs won the fans’ approval. By then Mahorn already had exited, rushing off just down the road to The Palace of Auburn Hills, where he had to prepare for the radio broadcast of the Pistons-Hornets game.

“It’s amazing. They have a million other things they could have been doing,” Granderson said of his celebrity participants, which included Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard and ESPN's "First Take" host Dana Jacobson. “It’s great that they all ended up coming out. I’ve thanked them a million times. I can’t thank them enough.”