PROVO — It was an honor that Roland Minson and Mel Hutchins hadn't dreamed of — let alone thought of — but it happened Saturday night at the Marriott Center.
BYU paid the ultimate tribute to the pair of basketball legends by retiring their jerseys at halftime of the Cougars' win over Portland.
"Never," said Hutchins, when asked if he thought such a time would come. "Never. It's a long time ago. We never expected it."
"It's a big surprise," Minson said. "We played way back when they wore funny-looking shorts."
Minson and Hutchins helped lead the Cougars to the NIT championship in 1951 — 20 years before the 42-year-old Marriott Center was built.
Now, their names and numbers will forever hang in the rafters of the 20,900-seat arena.
What does it mean to the two former BYU stars?
"The thing that has been nicest for me is," Minson said, "I've been able to go back and renew all the good memories."
The criteria to retire a jersey at BYU includes receiving All-America honors, being a recipient of a major national award, being a university graduate, waiting a minimum of 15 years, and having significant accomplishments after graduation.
“It's a real privilege to retire the jerseys of Mel Hutchins and Roland Minson, two of the greatest basketball players in BYU history,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "Together they captained the 1951 Cougars to the NIT national championship, so it's a fitting tribute that we are able to retire their jerseys in the same ceremony."
Hutchins, who wore No. 14, and Minson, who wore No. 11, will join Kresimir Cosic (11) and Danny Ainge (22) as the only men’s basketball players to have their jerseys and numbers retired at BYU. Current and future players are not allowed to wear retired numbers.
Other members of the 1951 BYU team were also in attendance Saturday, as well as members of the Hutchins and Minson families.
The "Voice of the Cougars," Greg Wrubell, read a letter from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a member of BYU's Board of Trustees who couldn't attend Saturday's ceremony because he was out of town on a church assignment.
Elder Holland recalled being curled up next to his radio as a young boy, listening to the exploits of the 1951 team.
"They have given me wonderful memories," Elder Holland wrote.