Jack McCallum on Chris Webber, Bobby Hurley and the college kids that shocked the Dream Team

The Dream Team rolled over its competition en route to the gold medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics.  They cruised to an unblemished 6-0 record in the Olympic qualifying tournament, and 8-0 in Barcelona, where they averaged a record 117.3 points per game.  They beat all their opponents by at least 43.8 points per contest.

But they did lose once.  To, of all teams, a group of starstruck college kids.

It was a meaningless game, but the scrimmage played on the campus of UC San Diego was the first time the Dream Team was pitted against an actual opponent.  Jack McCallum, contributor at Sports Illustrated and author of the new book “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” recalls that the eight college players chosen (which included two former Sacramento Kings) were selected based on their abilities to simulate the European game.

“We want types,” McCallum said in a conference call with the the TrueHoop Network yesterday of what USA Basketball looked for when choosing players for 1992 Select Team. “We want a quick point guard who’s going to penetrate and kick out – okay, let’s get Bobby Hurley.  We want a big guy underneath who’s going to do nothing but bang because the Soviets are going to have them – that’s Eric Montross.

“Okay, we want a little bit more of a versatile big guy,” he continued. “because there are some European teams that’ll put their big guys on the perimeter and you know what the heck, Toni Kukoc is 6’10 – okay we’ve got Chris Webber.  And we want some jump shooters – we want Allan Houston because the point guards are going to kick out (to the perimeter).”

The former Kings point guard, selected seventh overall a year later in the 1993 draft, proved to be the Dream Team’s worst nightmare in that scrimmage, according to an excerpt from McCallum’s new book.

Hurley was the key.  He was an unusual player, a pallid six-footer with no discernible athleticism.  But he had been schooled by two of the world’s best coaches – his father, Bob Hurley Sr., at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Krzyzewski at Duke – so his basic chops were in order.  And he wasn’t a robot designed according to some instructional manual.  There was a lot of street in Hurley.  What he had was the best point-guard quality, albeit an ineffable one: he could get where he wanted to go.

And where he wanted to go was by Magic Johnson, who guarded him much of the time.  The collegians won the game 88-80, Hurley its star: When the media were allowed in, I distinctly remember that the Dream Teamers looked a bit down in the mouth.  When word filtered out that they had been beaten by the college kids, there was a certain and predictable it-was-only-practice tone to their comments.  But it went deeper than that.

2012 National Team Coach Mike Krzyzeweski, who was an assistant on the Dream Team, has since said that head coach Chuck Daly tanked the game on purpose.  Michael Jordan played limited minutes in the defeat and Kryzewski cited other odd substitution patterns and decisions by Daly in the Dream Team documentary that aired on NBA TV last month.

“Chuck just wanted for one day to plant the idea that we could conceivably lose,” Krzyzeweski says in the book.

McCallum’s “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” is available in bookstores today.


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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.