STORRS - When members of UConn’s 1989-90 men’s basketball team recall their favorite memories of what became known as the “Dream Season,” they don’t always go straight to Tate George’s dramatic shot to beat Clemson or their dramatic wins over Syracuse or Georgetown.
It’s typically about a ridiculously late or lengthy practice or a particularly acerbic criticism from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.
“It was my incredible pleasure and privilege to yell at every one of them,” Calhoun said Sunday as the Huskies celebrated the 30th anniversary of Gampel Pavilion’s opening and the landmark UConn team that christened it.
Many of the nine players from that team who were honored during UConn’s 72-71 overtime victory Sunday said they half expected Calhoun to scream at them at various points in the day.
“I’ve gotten over that only in recent years,” center Dan Cyrulik joked. “The first reunion games, I think there was a little bit of that. When I was playing in the charity game I’d look over like ‘Oh, and I getting pulled out now?’ ”
The 1989-90 Huskies finished 31-6, won UConn’s first regular season Big East title and the program’s first Big East tournament championship.
They also played the first-ever basketball game in Gampel, beating No. 15 St. John’s 72-58 on Jan. 27, 1990.
Chris Smith, Rod Sellers, Scott Burrell, John Gwynn, Murray Williams, Cyrulik, Lyman DePriest, Oliver Macklin, and Marc Suhr all were at Gampel Sunday for the reunion. Calhoun and longtime assistant Howie Dickenman also were on hand.
Nadav Henefeld, Tate George, brothers Steve and Tim Pikiell, and Toraino Walker, were the only ones unable to attend.
Sellers reminded a few of his ex-teammates that he scored the first points in the building’s history.
“This is a trivia question I give my kids all the time,” Sellers said. “I got that first free throw.”
Calhoun, though he joked about his role, acknowledged the accomplishments of the group.
“Thirty years ago, these are the guys that got the whole thing started,” Calhoun said. “Because they believed in each other, they believed in our coaching staff, but they really believed in UConn.”
And Calhoun also had a prediction for the program that Dan Hurley now guides.
“Keep the faith. Because we’ll be back again,” Calhoun said.
Hurley admitted the current group was just a bit intimidated by having the equivalent of UConn royalty on hand for Sunday’s game.
“I wouldn’t say there was pressure on us but we needed to step up today with an amazing crowd and those amazing Huskies that got this thing started here,” Hurley said.
Actually, Hurley admitted on Saturday that he might look to the now 49- and 50-year-old veterans for some roster help.
“I saw Rod Sellers walking around. He looked good, man,” Hurley said before the game. “If Josh (Carlton) struggles early and if Isaiah (Whaley) gets in foul trouble, I kind of know where he’s sitting. And that’s a bad man right there.”