As Robert Morris travels to Detroit to take on Detroit-Mercy this Friday and Saturday, a very familiar face for both programs will be up in the booth calling the matchups.
Earl Cureton, a member of both Robert Morris’ and Detroit-Mercy’s Hall of Fames, will be analyzing the game for fans to hear. Nicknamed “The Twirl,” Cureton played at Robert Morris for two seasons from 1975-77. He then went on to transfer to Detroit, his hometown school, to finish out his college career.
When RMU switched from the NEC to the Horizon League before this season, Cureton says, he immediately thought of the possibility of calling the matchup.
“That came to my mind right away,” Cureton told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I keep an eye on Robert Morris over the years. I know they had the opener last year against Pittsburgh, I was trying to get down there to see that game in that new arena. So I was excited about them coming to the Horizon. I thought that was a great move for them to come into that league and I would have a chance to broadcast their games and see the team.”
When Cureton originally came to Robert Morris to play, the school was a junior college. However, after his freshman season, the program made the jump all the way up to the division one level, where it still competes today.
“They talked about that before I got there, but I did not know it was going to happen that soon,” Cureton said about RMU’s jump to division one. “The most exciting part was making that jump, going into division one. We played a tough schedule, and we played almost all of our games on the road that year. We played some pretty great teams that year, with the likes of Larry Bird and Indiana State, Sly Williams and Rhode Island, and players like that. And the league: Cleveland State, Wright State, and more, so we played a tough schedule.”
While the program made the transition to Division I, the team knew that the talent it would be facing would increase greatly. However, that did not stop the players from enjoying their time at RMU.
“I was excited about the competition we were playing against,” he added. “I came into Robert Morris about 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 my first year, and I actually grew four inches in my first year there at the school. I had the opportunity to go up against some good teams, you know, there were some future pros on those teams so I was excited for each matchup we had. Robert Morris was a great junior college and we played in a very small gym there, so we had to go to Beaver County to play a lot of our games. We still had good fan support and I had great teammates. We stuck together. It was difficult to lose games, but we all stayed together and we played hard all year long.”
Cureton went on to play a very successful, 14-year NBA career after being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft. A two-time NBA champion, he said his favorite experience of his entire career was going up against one of the all-time greats, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, in the 1982-83 NBA Finals. At that time, Cureton was playing in his third season for the 76ers alongside legends Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Moses Malone.
“My favorite moment was in the NBA Finals against the Lakers,” he said. “I got in, and was able to throw a hook shot over Kareem, you know, in the Finals! I wasn’t playing a lot of minutes, but to get in and play against Kareem for a short period of time was great.”
After retiring from the NBA in 1997, Cureton has continued to gain even more valuable experience in the game, coaching in the NBA, USBL, CBA, ABA, and the WNBA. He has called Detroit Pistons games on the radio and is currently involved in broadcasting and hosting a podcast called the 3 League OGs Podcast.
“It keeps me close to the game,” Cureton said about why he enjoys broadcasting so much. “Basketball has pretty much been my life. I had a chance to do a little bit of coaching, a little bit of scouting and a lot of broadcasting, doing games for almost 20 years. I enjoy it. I enjoy researching the players, watching how the game has evolved, and watching how players leave college and become professionals and go overseas following their careers. The relationships, learning, and knowing about players are keeping me on top of things. When you get to my age, that’s the closest you can get to the game.”
Friday and Saturday’s games will tip off at 6 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively. Both games will take place in Detroit and will be televised on ESPN3. While Cureton is a Detroit native and has been there for the majority of his career, he still is not going to favor the Titans in this weekend’s games.
“I am on Detroit’s side of the fence, but for this game I am going to call it straight down the middle,” he said, laughing. “I’ve still got love for the Colonials, no question. That’s where I got my start, and I’ve still got love for them.”