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March 1, 2014
U-M honors 25th anniversary of 1989 NCAA title team
Mike Griffin, a forward on Michigan's 1989 NCAA National Championship squad, lived in Tokyo for 10 years. And even on the other side of the world, the Wolverines' accomplishments that season had left a special mark on basketball fans.
"I would be in a restaurant, and someone would walk in with a photo of Rummeal [Robinson] making his free throws, and ask if I would sign it," Griffin said at Saturday's 66-56 win over Minnesota. "It's amazing, the impact that one moment has on the rest of your life. We talk about it, when we're together. Almost every day, you're reminded in some way about that accomplishment."
"You'd be surprised how often it does come up," added Mark Hughes. "People remember where they were when we won the title, and they talk about it to me. Around this time of year, it always comes up more often. Whenever you mention Michigan basketball, it comes up."
The 1989 team was back in Ann Arbor for the weekend, as part of the team's 25th anniversary celebration. The players met together, spoke with the current team Friday evening and were honored during the first half with a special ceremony.
But, more importantly, they got a chance to see each other again, and reminisce.
"It is always a pleasure whenever we can get together," Demetrius Calip said. "Last night, about 12 o'clock, I was at the hotel. I had finished everything and was playing on Facebook a little bit. Tired, ready to lay my head down. I get a phone call, and my wife wants to know who's calling me this late.
"I already knew. It was Mike Griffin, and he says, 'Get to the bar, now!' We were up until four o'clock in the morning, just recounting old stories. That is what it's like with this group. We get together, talk about old times and have a ball. It is always great to reunite."
The players sat around and told stories about their run to the championship. Griffin's fondest memory was the Wolverines' win over North Carolina in the Sweet 16, after the Tarheels bounced Michigan out of the NCAA Tournament in 1987 and 1988. For Hughes, it was the Wolverines' 83-81 win over Illinois in the Final Four, after the Fighting Illini posted two double-digit wins over Michigan in the regular season.
For star Glen Rice, his favorite memory was more simple.
"What stands out the most is how we came together as a team and as brothers, and we went out and achieved our goal, which was to shock the world and become NCAA Champions," he said. "That will always standout, And that is why it's so great every time we have an opportunity to get together, like we are today.
"I would much rather them remember the team. It's easy to remember me, because everyone thinks of the accomplishments that I had, but the main thing I try to do is make sure people don't forget about the teammates and coaches that got us there."
Calip's fondest memory started in his dorm room before the Tournament even kicked off.
"Before we left to go to the first game, I wrote on a piece of paper, 'NCAA CHAMPIONS' and I hung it on my wall," he said. "We beat Xavier and South Alabama, and it was there. Four games later, we were national champions. When I saw that there, I couldn't believe that we actually accomplished it."
The former Wolverines not only got to come together to celebrate their past accomplishments, but they got to witness the team's current ones. By beating the Golden Gophers, Michigan clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship.
"It is fun, watching these guys," Rice said. "I can understand exactly what these guys are going through, as far as trying to make sure everything is in order to put yourself in a position to win a championship. I understand that, at times, they get nervous. I understand the mistakes they make.
"Right now, it's coming up on a time that they have to realize that pulling together is the most important thing. That is how we were. We had some unfortunate circumstances happen at the time. We lost our head coach. But we realized that we could do it if we stayed a team and played together."
"It has been awesome," added Calip. "Once you're a Michigan Man, you're forever a Michigan Man. Through the hard times, the bad times, we're still there. To see these last few years, where Michigan has come back, through Darius Morris and Trey Burke, the resurgence has been awesome. I told the kids last night, 'We're one with you. You'll be the same way in 25 years.' We're always locked in."
"Coach Beilein and his staff have done a wonderful job," added Hughes. "They have a great group of guys in here. And they play the right way. The ball moves. They have great camaraderie, which reminds me of the '89 team, because we had a great group of guys who were committed to their roles. You can see that in this team, too."