Let's party like it's 2004.
A decade ago, hundreds of thousands of UConn fans descended upon Hartford, Conn., to celebrate the first school in history to win national championships in both men's and women's basketball.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Huskies fans once again flocked to the State Capitol to revel in what was another landmark year for the college basketball power. The men shocked the world, becoming the first No. 7 seed to win it all, while the women capped off a perfect 40-0 season with a 21-point win in the national title game.
Early in the day, SportsCenter tweeted out a pic of the two trophies safely buckled up and on their way to the championship parade:
The parade began behind the State Capitol in Hartford and wound through the streets of downtown before returning to the Capitol for a victory rally saluting both teams' players and coaches.
UConn men's hoops provided a first-hand perspective of what it was like to be one of the players atop one of the massive double-deckers weaving its way through the city:
This gives you an idea of the mass of humanity lining the streets in the heart of Hartford:
Our fans are the greatest fans in the country pic.twitter.com/iEnbz7ck5B— UConn Video (@UConnVideo) April 13, 2014
United State Sen. Chris Murphy and Courtney Zieller WFSB 3 Connecticut also provided a perspective as to how large the crowd was simply waiting to see the team arrive back at the Capitol:
Scene outside the Capitol as fans are waiting for their UCONN Huskies! pic.twitter.com/LyWJOB7oBZ— Courtney Zieller (@courtneyzieller) April 13, 2014
Even the security guards appeared to lose themselves in the scene:
Back in 2004, it was estimated that around 250,000 to 300,000 people attended the parade commemorating the conquering Huskies. Given the men's magical run to the title and the women's unblemished record, you had to figure that at least that many would be on hand for this year's proceedings.
The Hartford police hadn't seen an event like this in decades, per Nick Rondinone of the Hartford Courant:
We are hearing from police this is the biggest event in #Hartford in 20 years.— Nick Rondinone (@nickrondinone) April 13, 2014
Sunday wasn't about the fans, though. The day was about celebrating the players and coaches who made the success possible. For some stars, like Shabazz Napier on the men's side and Stefanie Dolson on the women's side, this was the last act in what were outstanding collegiate careers.
The Hartford Courant snapped a photo of junior guard Ryan Boatright holding the national title aloft. Boatright played a big part in the Huskies' NCAA tournament success. He scored in double-figures for all six of the team's games, averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 rebounds a game:
Although Boatright was carrying the trophy, it was Napier who received the invitation to a prom from one fan in attendance, per Brad Luck of NBC Connecticut:
Women's head coach Geno Auriemma had a great retort to said fan, per ESPN's Josh Krulewitz:
Geno w the line of the day to person holding sign. " shabazz is going to nba but I'm still in Ct so call me!" pic.twitter.com/KfVEInANmp— Josh Krulewitz (@jksports) April 13, 2014
Upon taking the podium, Napier made sure to thank the fans, per the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore:
Shabazz Napier "through all the things we've been through, you guys stayed with us and pushed us through that door" #uConn— Dom Amore (@AmoreCourant) April 13, 2014
Shabazz Napier "without you guys (the fans), we're absolutely nothing." #uConn— Dom Amore (@AmoreCourant) April 13, 2014
Men's head coach Kevin Ollie arguably stole the show, though. He was at times comedic and at others appreciative of how everything fell into place this year for his team.
UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel joked about how Ollie deserved a pay raise just two years into his coaching career. Ollie then returned the favor:
Kevin Ollie "warde Manuel says I need a raise, so the church says 'amen' ... I'm just playing ... But you're right" #uConn— Dom Amore (@AmoreCourant) April 13, 2014
In the short time the second-year coach was on the microphone, you could understand why his players would run through a brick wall for him. The UConn Blog is ready to sign up Ollie for the next decade:
Kevin Ollie just gets it. Always calls the players Student-Athletes, thanks the band (!) and jokes with the crowd. Give him a 10yr contract.— TheUConnBlog (@TheUConnBlog) April 13, 2014
Given his immediate success at the school and playing experience in the NBA, Ollie is a hot commodity among the coaching ranks. However, he confirmed that he doesn't have plans on leaving Storrs anytime soon, per Mary O'Leary of the New Haven Register:
Sunday's parade and celebration was a fitting conclusion to what was a historic season for UConn basketball. You'd understand if the Huskies' fanbase became a bit spoiled, given the success of the women's program, but they showed up to Hartford in droves and sent the two teams out right.
Both Ollie and Auriemma will have little time to smell the roses, though. A college basketball season never really stops. Once the games are over, the recruiting begins, and once that's over, the season's starting back up again.
Those national championships aren't going to defend themselves.