Baller’s Almanac for January 3rd, 2012

Cassell Coliseum opened 50 years ago today. Home to the Virginia Tech Hokies, Cassell was built at a cost of 2.7 million dollars to replace the much smaller War Memorial Gymnasium. When opened it was simply called ‘The Virginia Tech Coliseum’ but was dedicated 15 years later to Stuart Cassell, former VP and the prime motivator to build the new arena. The arena opened on January 3rd, 1962, and fans watched the Hokies beat Alabama 91-67. Unfortunately the seats had not yet arrived, so the crowd stood or sat on the bare concrete. Cassell was frequently filled to capacity before interest began to erode in the 1990s. The building has been renovated many times since it opened, including a new floor in 1989, a new roof in 1997, and a new concourse in 2004.

It was 40 years ago today that the Pete Maravich Assembly Center opened. Originally dubbed the LSU Assembly Center, the arena was re-named shortly after Pistol Pete’s death in 1988. The Center has many knick-names, including the “Deaf Dome,” supposedly coined by Dick Vitale.

In 1977 Lynard Skynard was supposed to play a concert at the Assembly Center, but their plane crashed en route killing Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and three others.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the arena was quickly turned into the largest triage center and field hospital ever created in U. S. history. The 800 bed facility, which was under FEMA direction, was staffed mostly by volunteers. Helicopters with injured evacuees landed in LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium, which is adjacent to the arena, while ambulances from around the region lined up with other patients that needed treatment.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena opened on this day in 1983. The first sporting event was an Iowa State wrestling match, and the basketball team played its first game two nights later.

It was on this day in 1987 that Charles Thomas McMillen was sworn in to the US Congress as Maryland’s 4th District representative. McMillen served from 1987 to 1993. It is believed that the 6’11 Maryland basketball star is the tallest person ever to serve in Congress. As a freshman in college McMillen’s teammates took to calling him ‘the Senator’ and according to Lefty Driesell, McMillen could recall just about anyone’s name even years after casually meeting them. McMillen was a Rhodes Scholar, and played several years in the NBA.

Today’s birthdays include Cedric Simmons, 1986 (NC State).