Alumni weekend bringing Chauncey Billups, Ricardo Patton back to CU Events Center

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Former Colorado star Chauncey Billups led the Buffs to a memorable first-round NCAA tourney win against Indiana at the end of the 1996-97 season.

  • Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

    Former Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton is No. 2 on the all-time wins list in program history.

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Lost in the euphoria of a rare Pac-12 Conference road sweep and the electricity of an emotional postgame scene after the Colorado basketball team knocked off USC last week in Los Angeles was how point guard McKinley Wright quietly surpassed Buffaloes legend Chauncey Billups on CU’s all-time assists list.

Wright will have an opportunity to boast about it to Billups this weekend.

The annual alumni weekend that has grown into a tradition under head coach Tad Boyle takes place this weekend, and the tentative guest list includes a return to the CU Events Center by Billups as well as former head coach Ricardo Patton, whose No. 2 all-time win total at CU will be squarely within Boyle’s sights during the stretch run of the season.

“I’ll rub it in a little bit, but it will be great to see him,” said Wright, who claimed ignorance at passing Billups among CU’s career assists leaders. “He’s somebody I’ve looked up to since third grade, when I first made my posters of him and Kobe (Bryant). Big role model for me. Somebody I hope to be like in the future. Just trying to keep chasing.”

With three assists against USC, Wright increased his career total to 284 — good for 14th-place all-time and one ahead of Billups. If Wright mentions this fact to the Billups this weekend, Wright also can add that he did it one less game (54) than Billups (55).

The theme of each alumni weekend has centered around a particular coaching era of CU basketball history, with last year marking the return of Patton’s predecessor, Joe Harrington, and a handful of former Buffs from the early 1990s.

In this case, Patton still is an active coach as an assistant at the University of Denver, serving under Billups’ younger brother and former CU assistant Rodney Billups. DU is off this weekend, and since Boyle said he typically asks the coach honoree to pick the weekend that works best for his schedule, this upcoming weekend fit perfectly for Patton.

“Ricardo was here longer than any of them that we’ve honored to date,” Boyle said. “He was here for 11 years as a head coach and a few years as an assistant before that. So he’s got a lot of time here on this campus. And again, this is about honoring the past and honoring the players who played for Ricardo and everybody in that era.”

While Wright can brag to Billups about passing him on CU’s career assists list, Boyle might be able to do the same to Patton before the end of the season. Going into Wednesday night’s late home date against Arizona State, Boyle owned 180 wins at CU, just four behind Patton’s 184. Sox Walseth is the program’s all-time leader with 261 wins.

Prior to Boyle’s arrival and an opening run that included an appearance in the NIT Final Four and then four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons, Patton led the Buffs’ best postseason runs since reaching the 1969 NCAA Tournament. Led by 24 points from Chauncey Billups, the Buffs recorded a memorable first-round NCAA tourney win against Indiana at the end of the 1996-97 season. CU also reached the NCAA Tournament under Patton in 2003, losing in the first round to Michigan State.

A handful of familiar names from both of Patton’s tournament teams are on the tentative guest list for this weekend’s reunion, including Ronnie DeGray, Fred Edmonds, Charlie Melvin, and Blair Wilson. All the reunion honorees are scheduled to be at Sunday’s game against Arizona (6 p.m., ESPNU).

“These weekends have been very well-received by the former players and the former coaches,” Boyle said. “I let the coach that we’re honoring pick the weekend based on their schedule. This worked out good because Denver is good. He’s got a lot of time invested in the place. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears, so to speak. It will be great to have coach Patton back and honor him and all those who played for him.”

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07

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