Emily Curley was 12 and Michael Hogan was 14 when George Mason University’s 2006 men’s basketball team enjoyed what has been called one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the college tournament known as March Madness.
Mason’s 11th-seeded team overcame higher-seeded powerhouses Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and tournament favorite the University of Connecticut (in overtime) to reach its first Final Four.
Little did Curley and Hogan, both master’s students of history, know that 10 years later they would be helping curate a new exhibit commemorating that fabled run. Dozens of artifacts in six exhibit cases collected from the period will be on display on the second floor of Fenwick Library at Mason’s Fairfax Campus from Wednesday, March 2, until the end of the month.
After working on the Fenwick exhibit, Curley said, “I’m getting a bit of the feeling of what the Final Four run was like at the time.”
Looking at the available materials and choosing the ones that tell the improbable story have also made Curley appreciate Mason basketball.
“It’s been exciting to work on this, and it’s exciting me about basketball in general,” she said, adding that this year’s thrilling homecoming game (60-59 over Davidson) was the best game she’s ever seen.
Hogan said the Final Four run “is one of the first ones I really remember.” He watched the tournament with his father in south central Pennsylvania and said seeing the artifacts in the exhibit—printed materials, apparel, pins, ticket stubs, a coach Jim Larranaga jack-in-the-box and more—has made the memories even more vivid.
Of the six themed cases in the exhibit, Hogan worked on the one that illustrated the life and career of Mason’s then-mascot, Gunston, a fuzzy green and gold biped of unidentifiable species.
“I think Gunston’s head is my favorite thing in the exhibit,” he said.
Curley said her favorite artifact is a life-sized cardboard cutout of Larranaga.
“I’ve been moving it around the office and startling people with it,” she said.