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For the past three decades, Greg Dashnaw has served as the head athletic trainer at Siena College, which is located just outside of Albany, N.Y. In the late 1980s, Dashnaw was awarded rings for his contributions to two of the greatest men’s basketball teams in Saints history. In 1991, the rings were stolen, but now they've been returned – separately.
Greg Dashnaw joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game to share the unlikely story.
BL: In 1988, the Siena men’s team qualified for the National Invitation Tournament — better known as the NIT. You received a ring that season. In 1989, the team reached the NCAA tourney for the first time in school history and even won a game before being eliminated. You got a ring that year, as well. Tell us how the rings were stolen.
I remember being heartbroken because they were gone, and I just figured I'd never see them again.Greg Dashnaw, Siena College trainer
I was away one weekend traveling, and I came home and they were missing from my apartment and the dresser. I don't know if I left the door unlocked. I don't remember. It was so long ago now, at this point. But I remember being heartbroken because they were gone, and I just figured I'd never see them again.
BL: So, heartbroken despite the fact that these were not championship rings — just special to you?
[sidebar title="Sewing A Championship Banner" width="630" align="right"]When college and professional sports teams win titles, who do they call to decorate their rafters? Only A Game's Karen Given visited the industry leader: New England Flag and Banner.[/sidebar]GD: Actually, in a sense they were championship rings. Each time we had won our conference and advanced to a postseason tournament. And the NIT one was special because it was the first time we'd been to a postseason tournament probably since the 1950s. And the kids on that team were very special. It was a great group of kids. And it was really what put the program on the map. There's a lot of memories there.
BL: The NIT ring was the first one to find its way back to you. Tell me a little bit about how it was returned and tell me about your reaction when you saw it.
GD: I got a call from our office of human resources, and they said, "Greg, somebody anonymously turned in a ring up here in the office and we don't know who it belongs to. Could you help us out? It's an NIT ring." And they described it. My last name on the ring — when I had gotten it, a letter had been left out of my name, so they didn't realize that it was my name. Once they were describing it and they read the letters of the name off, I said, "That's my ring. I've been missing that for 23 years." They were just amazed and I was stunned when I saw it. I never thought I'd see it again. And I was just flooded with memories of that team at that time.
BL: And then — here's the remarkable thing — a few days after that NIT ring was returned, you got the 1989 NCAA tournament ring back, as well. How did that happen?
"I was shaking when he handed it to me. I just couldn't get over it. Those things just don't happen."Greg Dashnaw, Siena College trainer
GD: Well, I was so excited about getting my NIT ring back that I showed our sports information director, and he called one of the local sports reporters, Mark Singelais, from the Albany Times-Union. He came over and did a story on it. And the next day, I got a phone call from a local police department, and a sergeant said to me, "Are you Greg Dashnaw?" And I said, "Yes, I am." And he goes, "Well I'm coming up to see you." And I was like, "Uh-oh, what did I do wrong?"
So he came up and he said, "Here, I have something for you that was turned in this morning." And he pulled a sealed bag out, and in it was my NCAA ring. Apparently somebody had read the news story and anonymously turned in that ring, and he brought it right up to me. And I was shaking when he handed it to me. I just couldn't get over it. Those things just don't happen. It just doesn't happen. And I'm just so thankful to have them back.
BL: Do you have any idea who took the rings or why they decided to give them back?
GD: No, I don't. All I was told was they were anonymously returned. So, at this juncture, after all this time, I don't really care. I'm just thankful to have them back, and that's all that matters to me right now.
BL: Siena has been to the NCAA tournament five more times since that first appearance back in 1989. Are you just swimming in rings now that you've got those two back?
GD: [Laughing] I don't know if I'd call it swimming, but I've been very fortunate to have a few more rings added to that. But that [1988 NIT] group was very special, probably because it was my first trip to a postseason tournament. And then with the NCAA, that was our first time and it was magical. That's all I can describe it. It was just a magical time. I get goosebumps still. It was that kind of experience. It was a great time.
This segment aired on November 1, 2014.
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