The Twirl Comes to Town
“It’s a good fit for our ball club, especially with Cheryl Reeve and myself,” Mahorn said before Friday’s game against the Fever, his debut as Shock head coach. “It helps us out a lot.”
This will be Cureton’s second WNBA coaching stint. He joined the Charlotte Sting during the 2005 season, where he worked alongside current Shock assistant Cheryl Reeve. He stayed on the Sting staff through the 2006 season, after which the franchise disbanded. Prior to the WNBA he coached in the American Basketball Association, winning Coach of the Year honors in 2003-04.
“It feels good,” said Cureton of being back in the WNBA coaching ranks. “It’s a great opportunity for me to [join] with an experienced team like this. With Rick and Cheryl there’s lot for me to learn here. Right now, I’m just trying to fit in.”
Cureton’s ties to Mahorn and Reeve make him the best possible addition with the season underway, someone who can continue the smooth transition in the wake of Bill Laimbeer’s resignation as head coach and general manager Monday. “I just wanted to make sure it was the right person, and I thought Earl Cureton was the right person,” Mahorn said.
Mahorn was lauded for his lighthearted nature with the players as an assistant, but it was a relationship perhaps a little too chummy for a head coach. It’s a role the affable Cureton should be able to fill just fine. “I see the players confiding in him,” Mahorn said. “I see a lot of similarities to what I was to the girls [under Laimbeer] that he can take advantage of to enhance his situation as an assistant coach.”
A 6-foot-9 power forward/center, Cureton played for seven teams over 12 NBA seasons, with career averages of 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. Nicknamed “The Twirl,” he played in more games for the Pistons than anyone else, spending three seasons with his hometown team from 1983-86.
Mahorn and Cureton were teammates in Detroit for the 1985-86 season, which turned out to be Cureton’s best. He posted career highs in total points and rebounds, averaging 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. But the friendship was first forged as opponents, when Mahorn was with the Washington Bullets and Cureton with the Philadelphia 76ers. They may be sitting at the front of the Shock bench now - but they were at the opposite end 30 years ago.
“We were both rookies sitting at the end of the bench. Neither one of us played a whole lot,” Cureton said. “We met back then because we both got garbage time playing together.”
“We said, ‘If you score, I score’ because usually we were in a blowout situation,” Mahorn added.
Cureton starred at the University of Detroit and was drafted by Philadelphia in 1979. He won his first NBA championship with the 76ers in 1982-83, and a second ring 11 years later with the 1993-94 Houston Rockets. He is now a Pistons color analyst for Fox Sports Detroit, which gives him plenty of chances to interact during the winter with Mahorn, the Pistons radio color analyst.
“Rick’s always been great. He’s always brought a winning attitude, always been a positive guy, and I look forward to working with him,” Cureton said. “He’s a good friend, and I’m going to do everything I can do to help him win a championship.”