For the 1983 NIT Final Four, more than 1,500 fans from the Valley boarded 11 charter planes to make sure the Red Wave was there for our Bulldogs in the Big Apple.🍎— Fresno State Men’s Basketball (@FresnoStateMBB) March 30, 2020
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The year was 1983. Bulldog fans were in Midtown Manhattan after their basketball team beat UTEP, Michigan State and Oregon State setting up a final four match-up in the National Invitation Tournament against Wake Forest.
After an 86-62 win over the Demon Deacons, the Dogs had a date with destiny and DePaul. Here's a look at ABC30's original report from 1983.
"Certainly we'll go into the game and want to win," head coach Boyd Grant said to ABC30. "I don't even worry about that."
Ron Anderson went on to play in the NBA for ten years for the Cavs, Pacers, Sixers and Nets but before that final game told us, "this is my first time really playing a big university so it's pretty exciting to play for my hometown because it will be on television in Chicago."
Anderson went to Bowen High, less than 20 miles south of DePaul. "I used to see him play in our gym all the time," Ray Meyer, DePaul's head coach who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. "I know those players. I tried to recruit a couple. We were out-recruited. I hope we're not out-played."
Newspapers didn't think the Blue Demons would be. In the lead-up, a headline called the Dogs "Fresno-Who?" Tyrone Bradley was handed one of those papers and ripped it up saying, "They crazy. We gonna win it believe me. I can't wait to get back to Fresno. We're going to celebrate after we win."
On March 30, 1983, the Dogs started slow. As ABC30's John Wallace said at the time, "They not only had trouble putting the beach ball in the basket, from the way things were looking they may have trouble throwing a beach ball in the ocean."
Eventually, they settled down and they started to show the team basketball that got them to New York. Future NBA player Bernard Thompson finished with a team-high 24 points and Anderson was named NIT Most Valuable Player. The final horn sounded sending Grant onto his players' shoulders. Tiny, as his nickname, was named NIT coach of the year.
The 69-60 win set off a mad celebration inside the world's most famous arena with players cutting down the nets and celebrating inside Madison Square Garden.But as wild as the scene was in New York it was simply setting the stage for what was to come in Fresno.
Before Skyview 30, there was Chopper 30, and it captured the celebration as the players paraded back to campus. "I think Fresno is the only place left where a reception like this can take place," Grant said to a crowd upon his team's return.
It may be the last place, but as the first major championship for this community, it inspired it in a way never before seen.