By Jon Roe
The game of basketball has changed a lot in the four decades it’s been played at the University of Calgary. For former Dinos men’s basketball head coach John Dewar, the biggest difference is the size and speed of the players.
“At that time, the best team we had was in 1966 and we had players that were playing above the hoop a little bit,” he said. “But up until that time a lot of the players played more below the hoop.”
Dewar was in town for the roast of longtime coach Gary Howard on Oct. 28. He was the second coach in the Dinosaurs history, running the team from 1962-66, when there were only four other teams in the conference: the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, the University of Manitoba Bisons, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“When we first started I always thought that Calgary would have very good basketball because there was a tradition in southern Alberta and in Calgary,” he said.
The team won its first conference title under Dewar in 1966. National championships were just starting, and Calgary put in a bid to host them in the newly built gymnasium, now known as the Red Gym, the fourth building on campus.
They beat the Carleton University Ravens in the national semi-finals and went on to play the University of Windsor Lancers for the title.
“I think almost every student at the university was at the game,” recalled Dewar. “. . . It was really almost a family thing for Calgary. The fact that we did well, that we won the conference, it was kind of the first time the university had shone, in a sports way, on the national scene.”
The team lost 95-83 in a closely contested game. Dewar’s squad is the only Dinos men’s basketball team to make it to the national final.
His favourite part of the Dinos experience was the friends and connections he made. Dewar’s wife, Pat Power, coached the women’s basketball team and their second son was born in Calgary.
“[My time] in Calgary has always been a very meaningful part of my life.”