SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In 1998, Antonio Reynolds Dean was a junior on arguably the best team in Rhode Island history. A starting forward, he was a key cog in the Rhody team that advanced to the Elite 8.
Now in his second season as an assistant coach on Dan Hurley's staff, Reynolds Dean is again a part of history for the program. He is now the only person to be part of Rhode Island's official roster for both Atlantic 10 titles in program history. He was a senior on the 1999 squad that won the league title with Lamar Odom's long-range buzzer beater against Temple. Last Sunday, he watched from the bench as Rhody beat VCU for the 2017 A-10 tournament title.
"I haven't really thought about that," Reynolds Dean said, when asked about being the only person to win a title as a player and coach for the Rams. "Right now I am focused on being in the moment with this team. I've had my time. This is the players' time. It's about them right now. I am here for these young men so they can get the most out of this experience."
Still, Reynolds Dean sees something special in this year's squad. Aside from the A-10 title, he does not necessarily feel the 2016-17 Rams compare to the 1998-99 team that won the tournament. Instead, this squad – in his mind – compares to the 1997-98 team that reached the Elite 8.
"This team is a lot better than the one we had in '99," he said. "This team is a lot deeper and the way our guys are playing right now feels familiar. The way E.C. Matthews is playing right now reminds me a lot of Cuttino Mobley. And Hassan Martin is playing at such a high, high level."
In addition to the two leaders of this year's team, the current version of the Rams compared to the 1998 squad in other ways.
"We have guys coming off the bench right now who could start for most teams, just like we did with Preston Murphy in 1998," Reynolds Dean added. "Jared Terrell is shooting the ball at such a high level. Kuran Iverson is basically doing the same exact things that Luther Clay did for the '98 team. When you look at this team and the 1998 team, it's a legitimate comparison."