Let’s face it. We’re spoiled here in Connecticut when it comes to basketball. In the last 30 years, we’ve had the opportunity to attend 15 national championship parades in downtown Hartford after victories by the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Geno Auriemma and his UConn women’s basketball teams have won a NCAA-record 11 national championships since 1995. The UConn men’s team has won five – the most by any men’s program in the country since 1999.
The fans of Connecticut and Huskies had a chance to renew a special April tradition on Saturday with a victory parade for the UConn men, who brought home their fifth NCAA championship on Monday night with a 74-59 win over San Diego State at the Final Four in Houston.
Thousands came to Hartford to cheer on their Huskies and celebrate. It was an opportunity for fans young and old to share the love they have for their team if only for a few seconds as the double-decker bus crawled past them.
Several media outlets reported the parade attracted an estimated 45,000 fans.
“It was stunning,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “You never really know how it will go and you don’t know what it will be like. But you get on that (bus) and you’re blown away. It was unbelievable.”
“It was a little overwhelming but it was nice,” said Donovan Clingan, the freshman center from Bristol Central. “It felt good to get that kind of support. We have the best fans in the country and we all appreciate them. It is a great feeling and I am just excited we won. It has been a week I will never forget, a dream come true.”
It was UConn’s first national championship for the men’s team since 2014.
At the conclusion of the parade, the team held a brief rally in front of the XL Center with the street packed with thousands of UConn fans.
“It was a magical season,” Hurley told the crowd. “This group, all year, they strived for five and to get that fifth national championship. Now we really just want to get our minds (ready) and make sure we get back in the mix to make number six.”
That drew a big roar for the crowd and more smiles. It was a day for smiling in Connecticut.