Then and now: UH Sweet 16 Phi Slama Jama lookback

By Sofia Ojeda - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - It was the time the city of Houston will never forget. It was the days of college greats, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler and Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon.

"Three years of just great college basketball and then the name Phi Slama Jama," said Rick McFarland, who was a Channel 2 sports producer in 1982, 1983 and 1984.

"For a lot of us, it was 10, 15, 20 years later when everyone continues to talk about that time," said Gary Orsak, who played during 1982,1983 and 1984 for the University of Houston men's basketball team.

The University of Houston men's basketball team was blazing the trail of greatness. It started in 1982 when March Madness became a huge national "watch-a-thon." 

And the University of Houston became the team to watch.

"This great team that could run the floor, phenomenal athletes," McFarland said.

"Yeah, we were known for our dunks. The team with the most dunks wins, but it was the defense and the transition where we scored most of our points," Orsak said.

McFarland said, "'82, '83 and '84 teams were all were made up more than half of local kids. Drexler was local, Williams was local, Micheaux was local."

"It was the '83 season that we came in No. 1 seed and the expectation was that we were going to win the whole thing," Orsak said.

The Coogs were No. 1 in 1983. They went into the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 and were expected to win it all.

But they lost a heartbreaker to North Carolina State University.

"I saw the shot go up and I heard the roar of the crowd and I thought Houston had won. I was in shock as we were interviewing people. I was trying to get used to fact that we didn't win and Houston had missed its chance at a championship," McFarland said.

"All's I wish is that the outcome would have been different. We've always been one of the best teams that have never won it," Orsak said.

In 1984, they made it to the Final Four one last time and lost one more time.

But today's UH men's basketball team can change history.

They can do it all over again.

They are known as the "best-kept secret."

But they're not so secret anymore.

"When they're on, when they're playing their game, wow, it's just a beautiful thing to watch. They can shoot and they can play defense. It's hard to beat a team like that," McFarland said.

"I hope they are there every year. I hope when people talk about the teams that should be there -- the North Carolinas -- the Dukes -- that the University of Houston is in the same sentence. It's a tremendous city, tremendous alumni. Guys, it's your turn," Orsak said.

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.