The University of Connecticut basketball program runs deep in this writer's veins. Tonight they go for their fifth NCAA tournament title. All five came in the last 25 years. Jim Calhoun won championships in 1999 - 2004 and 2011. Kevin Ollie kept the train rolling in 2014 hoisting a championship of his own. Now Dan Hurley has a chance to put his name in with the immortals of Storrs. To be talked about from one end of the state to the other in un-hushed tones for all time.
The first time I walked onto the Storrs campus I was just 12 years old. I was there to see Corny Thompson. Corny was one of my first heroes. You see, we grew up in the same town. Corny went to the same high school I did ( Middletown High ) where he set almost every state record that ever stood in CT. including 3 state championships and 76 straight victories between 1976 and 1978. Okay getting off track here. But you can see UConn and I go way back. All the way back to Corny and Dom Perno
After Jim Calhoun retired most around the country wrote off UConn. Without the New England Native and Naismith Hall of Fame coach at the helm of the Huskies this ship would surely sink. Well those people were all wrong. Kevin Ollie was hand picked by Calhoun to succeed him and Coach Ollie made sure that he did succeed. Now after Ollie’s departure and just five seasons on the bench at Storrs we, yes we, have climbed to the top of that mountain a third time under a third head coach Dan Hurley.
Each of the four UConn championships means something to every nutmeg stater. After the Whalers were kidnapped to North Carolina all we had to bring us together was the Connecticut basketball programs. Don't get me started on Geno and the women. We could be here for days. But you see where I’m going here. 99 was a dream come true for us. Beating Duke and Coach K put Connecticut on the map nationally. 04’ and 11’ secured UConn as a program and 14’ proved the Huskies were here to stay. A championship victory tonight for Coach Hurley - Sanogo - Hawkins - Jackson and company would mean as much if not more to the people here in Connecticut than almost any of the others . Sans The Duke “Upset” (you never forget your first time.) You see, unlike preseason number one ranked North Carolina (who didn't make the dance) , UConn was unranked. Unthought of by the AP. once again marginalized by the A.P powers that be. They climbed the ladder to as high as number 2 at Christmas before falling all the way back to number 24 during a tough stretch against Big East Rivals. And climbing back into the top ten okay 11 in early March. But they were never # 1. They need one more victory for that.
One More to be spoken of with the greats of Connecticut History. and that list is getting long. and more distinguished every year. It's in the air , Can you feel it ?
As always you can follow/give me grief on Twitter @Tmurph207