What about the rest of the Whalers?
New London - They will retire Kris Dunn's jersey Thursday night at New London High, an impending event that has produced some consternation among the region's sports observers, surely not the desired effect of such evenings normally awash in homage and nostalgia.
It is the opinion of basketball coach Craig Parker, a man with deep reverence for the city's sports history, that Dunn is the most celebrated player in the program's estimable history. Hence, the ceremony.
It is the opinion of many others in and out of the city that Dunn is but one of several former Whalers who deserve consideration.
It is my opinion that Tyson Wheeler, the 1995 graduate who would later play in the NBA, is right there with Dunn in the program's pantheon.
Straight up: Parker's heart is in the right place. But there is some shortsightedness in his unilateral decision to ordain Dunn before others who contributed to all those big, green banners in Conway Gym. This demands deeper thought, especially in a program that has always been about the aforementioned banners and not individualization.
Parker was asked about it after the Whalers' most recent game:
"No one over the last 20 years has ever said anything about Tyson Wheeler getting his number retired. All of a sudden, we're trying to do something nice for a young man and all these people are coming to the plate saying 'what about Tyson?'
"Listen. No one's talked about Tyson for 20 years. We're doing something nice for Kris Dunn. Kris Dunn is the biggest name that has ever come out of New London High School. That is not debatable. That is not a knock on Tyson. I love Tyson. I've known him since he was in the crib. It's not an indictment of him.
"I don't like what's going on. People want to give the impression that I am disrespecting Tyson Wheeler. No one's doing that. Kris Dunn is something I talked about with an athletic director two years ago. We're going to retire this kid's number. He deserves that.
"Now all of a sudden, it's what about Tyson? Tyson can and will have his day. Why is his number not retired? I have no idea. No one has ever approached me about it. Now there's a whole negative angle and I don't like it at all."
I appreciate Parker's passion. But Wheeler is no less deserving of the same honor simply because no one suggested it. No one has suggested it because it's not really a New London thing. New London is about team. Banners. "We." Not "I."
And while Dunn is the biggest name to come out of New London High School, Wheeler has the biggest accomplishments. That counts. It's the NBA. A long career in Europe. Plus, this is Tyson Wheeler. Tyson. The most beloved kid in the history of that school.
Can you honestly create a distinction between Dunn and Wheeler to suggest one deserves a retired jersey over the other?
It would have been more prudent for school officials to give this deeper examination. Several of New London's former players, coaches and officials have bristled at what they perceive as slights to Wheeler, Art Quimby, Allan Chaney, John Delagrange, Bob Simoni, Don Burns, Jim O'Connor, Kareem Brown, Troy McKelvin, Bob Reagan and some others unintentionally omitted.
Would all those players make the cut? Probably not. But they deserve some respect.
This decision, based on more opinion than fact, undermines what has made New London the premier program in this region and one of the best in Connecticut: a long line of great players who span generations.
Perhaps had there been a mechanism in place to honor some of the other aforementioned players - Dunn this year, Tyson next and down the line - there would be less exasperation. My suggestion: Rather than relying on a unilateral opinion, arrange a committee of de facto sports historians - Parker, Jim O'Neill, Mike McLaughlin, Rich Conover and others - who would compile a more complete list of players.
Make it a night. Dinner at Tony D's, a nice ceremony, a chance to see old friends and talk old times. Make it a New London thing: Inclusive. Not exclusive.
I hope people go Thursday to honor Dunn. He delivered big wins and bigger memories here. He did it the right way. He certainly deserves this. But so do others. Especially Tyson Wheeler.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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