By: Will Burchfield
He was named for his trades but maybe best known for his competitiveness.
As far as front-office types went, few people wanted to win as badly as Jack McCloskey, the longtime Pistons GM who passed away on Thursday.
Take it from Rick Mahorn. When the hulking power forward was sidelined in 1987 with a back injury, he remembers McCloskey, 62 years old at the time, enticing him to return with a physical game of one-on-one.
“I was shooting around up at the Silverdome and Jack came out and said, ‘How you feel?’ I said, ‘I’m feeling pretty good, Jack.’ He says, ‘You feel like you’re ready to go?’ I said, ‘You know what, Jack, I don’t know, I’ma try, see what’s going on,” Mahorn said on Friday in a conversation with 97.1 The Ticket.
That’s when McCloskey challenged Mahorn’s mettle.
“He wanted to play me one on one. I’m sitting here like, ‘I’ma eat his ass up!’ Next thing you know, he was hitting me and then I just went to war. So he said, “Oh, you must be ready now, huh?’ I said, ‘Yes I am, Jack, I’m about to get a piece of you and then I’ma go get a piece of this NBA,'” Mahorn laughed.
‘Trader Jack’ landed Mahorn in the 1985 offseason in a three-player swap with the Washington Bullets. Mahorn possessed the toughness and tenacity that McCloskey was looking for in building the Bad Boys Pistons.
“They needed that physical style of play to a degree, someone that could protect Laimbeer and most of the teammates,” said Mahorn. ( Bill Laimbeer, of course, hardly needed protecting.) “It was meant to be.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t McCloskey – or anyone from the Pistons front office – who alerted Mahorn of the trade.
“Isiah Thomas called me. I had a private line in my mother’s house and all of a sudden I get this call and I’m like, ‘Oh, boy.’ I even knew the name. I was like, ‘Hey Zeke, what do you want?’ And he said he was so glad that he didn’t have to run into any more of my picks,” Mahorn recalled. “But it was kind of mixed emotions, because I thought I would always be one of the Beef Brothers.”
The Beef Brothers consisted of the Bullets’ bruising duo of Mahorn and Jeff Ruland.
“But I ended up becoming a Bad Boy,” said Mahorn, “and we won the championship.”
Make that two.