Tech opens its new arena, and the present meets the past

The new place on its first night. It was a good night. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

The new place on its first night. It was a good night. (AP photo by Rich Addicks)

It hasn’t been easy to see, what with Georgia Tech going 13-18 and 11-20 the past two seasons, but there’s history here. And where there’s history, there’s hope.

On Friday the Jackets christened their rebuilt arena. The McCamish Center was nice and bright and, at least for this one night, nearly full. The new place cost $45 million — in baseball terms, $45 million might buy two years of Josh Hamilton’s services — and if it comes to house a serious basketball team the redo will have been worth the cost. If not …

The sad part of 13-18 followed by 11-20 was the memory of what Tech basketball once was. From 1981, when Bobby Cremins arrived from Appalachian State and began charming big-name recruits despite his penchant for wearing a green suit during home visits, until the unraveling near the end of the Paul Hewitt era, this program mattered. It mattered in the high-falutin’ ACC (three conference tournament titles), and it mattered nationally (two Final Fours). But the momentum was lost under Hewitt, and it has fallen to Brian Gregory to reclaim it.

To be fair, Gregory has something working for him Hewitt didn’t: The new man has the McCamish Pavilion. But new digs will get a program only so far. Sometime soon, Georgia Tech has to start winning again.

Gregory’s second band of Jackets did their bit, beating Tulane 79-61 on Opening Night. Tech had 36 points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half, a number matching its total for the final game of 2011-2012. (Perhaps understandably, the main McCamish scoreboard remained dubious, short-changing the home side by two points and displaying only a big “34.”)

Forty percent of Tech’s starting five – forwards Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt — are freshmen, and so is the sub shooter Chris Bolden, who scored 12 points in 23 minutes. The holdovers appeared to have absorbed Gregory’s teachings in a way seldom seen last season, and the initial impression was of a bigger, deeper team that should finish above .500.

And that would be a big deal. The new building gives Tech a momentum it hasn’t known since the architects of the run to the 2004 NCAA championship game departed, but momentum is an ephemeral thing. Another down season would leave the impression that this program, no matter who’s coaching or who’s playing in what arena, has become a continuing mediocrity.

“You saw things tonight that are very important in building back what was a very proud program,” Gregory said, and you did. And for inspiration, Jackets of today had only to look at the Jackets of yesteryear gathered under this roof Friday.

More than 100 old Jackets took the new floor at halftime, and there were so many of them that they nearly ringed the court. “Tonight is a celebration of the past,” Cremins told the crowd, “but more importantly the beginning of a new era.”

Earlier, the old Jackets had been feted at a reception, and you could stock a pretty good team in the NBA Senior League — not that the NBA has such a thing, but let’s pretend — with the talent on hand. Said Gregory: “You see Kenny Anderson, John Salley, Tommy Hammonds, Duane Ferrell, Roger Kaiser … you know you’re in a special place.”

Standing next to Anderson in the back of the room was Bruce Dalrymple, Cremins’ breakthrough recruit. Someone said, “I remember that steal you made in the (1985) ACC final against …

“Kenny Smith,” Dalrymple said, and the deft flick-from-behind against the great North Carolina guard was the signature moment of a signature game.

Indeed, memories were once Georgia Tech’s stock in trade: From the Mark Price jumper at N.C. State to James Forrest’s Miracle in Milwaukee; from Scott’s astonishing steal-and-trey in front of Dean Smith to Anderson’s jumper at/after the buzzer against Michigan State in the Superdome;
from Will Bynum’s whirling banker against Nevada in the Sweet Sixteen to the same Bynum’s winning layup in the Final Four against Oklahoma State … back in the day, the wonders rarely ceased.

It’s far too early to know if Gregory and these Jackets can lift Georgia Tech to similar heights. But any coach will tell you it’s easier to rekindle a fire than to try to make a winner of a program that has never done a thing. “We talk about putting on that jersey,” Gregory said, “and treating it with the respect it deserves.”

Georgia Tech basketball used to mean something. On a night when the new Jackets took their first step into the future, we were reminded just how special college basketball can be. “Kind of a storybook day,” Gregory called it, and it was — Book 2, Chapter 1, Page 1.

By Mark Bradley

68 comments Add your comment

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

fazemike

November 9th, 2012
10:04 pm

First!!! GO DAWGS!!!

Mark Bradley

November 9th, 2012
10:05 pm

Kudos, fazemike.

SuperJacket

November 9th, 2012
10:07 pm

What a night! It makes you proud to be a Yellow Jacket.

Gordon

November 9th, 2012
10:18 pm

Mark,

We have a long way to go, but it is a million miles from this: http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2011/02/24/another-chapter-in-the-bleak-tableau-that-is-tech-hoops/

Just please don’t jinx us and say we have the next Krzykewski on our hands. :)

Atlantan

November 9th, 2012
10:22 pm

For a second year head coach and a team filled with freshmen they looked promising. I know
it was Tulane, but that was the best GT basketball
I’ve seen since 2004 – hustle, good shooting, crisp
passing, effort to get rebounds and we could
throw an inbounds pass (oh those last Hewitt years). Off to a great start!

Ed Stone

November 9th, 2012
10:25 pm

Running Cremmins out of town was the beginning of the end for Tech. It takes a big man for him to show up to open the new place up.

CC

November 9th, 2012
10:35 pm

Tonight presented a metamorphosis of both arena and team. At least the facilities was a no-doubter. And the team, for the first game of the season, was beyond anything we’ve seen the last few years.

Productive and aggressive freshmen?? What a refreshing change.

Go Team!!
Go Coach!!
Go Tech!!

DJ

November 9th, 2012
10:35 pm

McCamish Pavillion…hmmm…just doesn’t have the same ring as Alexander Memorial Colesium.

ToeMeetsLeather

November 9th, 2012
10:36 pm

The foundation has been laid for the new era. CBG has accomplished alot in one year, let’s just hope he can keep the momentum going. Also great to see the students back in the house and helping to rock the TDome.

The freshmen looked pretty stout and the Poole brothers are also on the way. Good days are ahead for GTech b-ball.

CC

November 9th, 2012
10:37 pm

Hey DJ — It ain’t supposed to!!!

Sheesh.

Biff Pocoroba

November 9th, 2012
10:41 pm

At least our new uniforms look a lot better than whatever Maryland is wearing tonight.

ToeMeetsLeather

November 9th, 2012
10:42 pm

Ed, Cremins quit and went to South Carolina for a few days, changed his mind and TECH allowed him to come back. Then he resigned on his own a few years later. TECH did not run the man “out of town” at any point.

Veteran Fan

November 9th, 2012
10:48 pm

This coach demands Defense and Rebounding! The freshmen are the real deal and as the season progresses this team will compete with anyone! Tulane was a very quick, talented, and tall team and Tech wore them down and dominated the entire game! Barring injuries, if they play defense like tonight, they are a top 15 club with a good chance to challenge for the ACC tourney title! Looking forward to the uga game this year and kicking their butts again! Mark be afraid, be very afraid of this hungry and tough Yellow Jacket squad!

Saint Herschels

November 9th, 2012
11:02 pm

30–24…. 42–34…. 31–17 HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

lance manion

November 9th, 2012
11:11 pm

Hey Saint, our worst team in years kicked your sorry dawg butts last year and we are about to do it again. See ya at McCamish in a couple of weeks.

Hubie Green

November 9th, 2012
11:20 pm

I was very impressed with the new building; it was nice seeing some plays actually run. The freshmen can play.

john

November 9th, 2012
11:29 pm

Why…oh why…can’t Mark keep the stupid UGAg fans out???

Paul in NH

November 9th, 2012
11:36 pm

Nice column, Mark. It brings back some memories. My favorite was the Superdome in 1990 – closely followed by Dennis making a 3 pointer against DePaul and running off the court. You missed one big one – Scott “Elvis” Petway hitting the jumper from the corner against Wake to seal Bobby’s first big ACC win.

BPGT

November 10th, 2012
12:05 am

This is one of the most unique arenas in the nation. No, there aren’t 15,000 seats but there doesn’t need to be. Smaller arenas create the best atmospheres and now the seats are closer to the court. The lighting is incredible and intimidating with the court bright and the stands dark. Like you’re playing in a dungeon. Not gonna be an easy place for teams to come in and win. Go Jackets!

BuzzGT

November 10th, 2012
12:16 am

I was really impressed with the team as a whole and how they played together. I haven’t seen team work like that out of a Tech team in years. The freshman looked like ball players and not just good athletes. We might not win them all, but this group is going to be a lot more fun to watch!

wes

November 10th, 2012
1:50 am

I LOVE GEORGIA TECH!!!!!!!

Walmart Retards

November 10th, 2012
2:59 am

79 points! Some semblance of offense and feisty defense. I am excited. This team could go .500 in the ACC… which would be a true accomplishment for CBG in his 2nd year.

Buzz2011

November 10th, 2012
3:50 am

Thanks Mark.. You are one of our biggest supporters at Georgia Tech and we appreciate you. Good to hear from you Mark, we need your support.. Thank you Mark..

Thebeesnees

November 10th, 2012
5:45 am

Really enjoyed watching the game last night. We are on the upswing, we just beat a team who beat us pretty heavily. And unlike anytime last year we put up more than 50 points. Good luck fellas!

Stinger 2

November 10th, 2012
6:06 am

I have followed GT basketball since AMC was opened in mid-fifties. Cannot remember if I was at opening game but I went to as many as I could. Tech in the SEC was fun to watch and Wack Hyder did a good job in getting some good players. He had two guards, Terry Randall and Buddy Blemker who always gave a good show. Al Ciraldo would holler out ” there goes Buddy Blemker shooting from the hip” every time he threw up a long one. Glad to see the McCamish family leading the way for the redo of AMC. The only sad note is the state of both the football and basketball programs. I can`t attend games anymore, but I hope this new arena and better teams will spur renewed interest in basketball. Got to remember that GT was competing with the Hawks who drew a big crowd last night. The Falcons and the Hawks have hurt GT attendance. However, some of the blame falls on the lack of winning or at least competitive teams.

Stinger 2

November 10th, 2012
6:17 am

Stinger 2

November 10th, 2012
6:23 am

I started attending GT basketball games in the mid-fifties when AMC opened. Can`t remember for sure if I was at opening game but was there as often as possible. GT basketball in SEC was fun to watch. Wack Hyder did a good job. He had a way to beat the great Adolph Rupp and Kentucky that other SEC coaches could not match.
Enough nostalgia…I wish GT well as it attempts to revive the program. The rebuilt arena should help bring better players and more fans in the future.

Mike Sorrells

November 10th, 2012
6:36 am

Ed, in addition to what ToeMeetsLeather mentioned, Cremins is now back on the GT Staff in a new volunteer position helping to recruit players and acting as a liason to past players. And since 2003, GT has played (and still plays) on Cremins Court. Cremins has mentioned on a number of occasions that he will always have GT in his blood.

Elderly

November 10th, 2012
6:52 am

How about the energy, aggression, and confidence of those Jackets? All the tentativeness that marked the Hewitt years is history. It was a joy to see. And boy can they run! What I liked best was the way, after they made a bad play, they seemed to forget it immediately and get right back to business. No wake from mistakes is a big deal, and not so easy to teach. Kudos to Gregory.

Old Gold

November 10th, 2012
7:04 am

ToeMeetsLeather, you’ only half right, sad to say. Coach Cremins did resign and return, as you said, but Braine later forced him to resign or be fired. As a Tech alum, the bungling way that it was handled embarrassed me, but last night’s appearance once again proved what a big man CBC was, and is.

Didn’t see Braine in attendance, btw.

Jacket Detective

November 10th, 2012
7:52 am

@ToeMeetsLeather, @Mike Sorrells.
Tech is not any better than other college when it comes to accepting a bad year or years.
Many fans are solely “what have u done for me lately?” and will run off any coach during a bad spell.
Tech alums tried to run off Bobby Dodd before he even got started.
Although he had actually been the head coach for three years after Coach Aleck’s heart attack in 1942, after his “first” season, which was 4-6 and included a 33-0 drubbing from Uga, 15 to 20 alums peppered team captain Paul Duke with questions like “was he ever late for practice?”. (pages 106. 107 of “Dodd’s Luck”. One fan sent to his home address 6 programs from the losing games that year.
That sounds like a group trying to run off the best thing that ever happened to Tech football before he got started. Evidently Dodd remembered all the slights from that year quite well.
And there were clearly those angry with Cremins because they felt, like Uga fans do towards Richt now, that some teams had underperformed.
I repeat:Tech fans run off faltering coaches off just like anywhere else.
I have an ugly memory of it during Cremins’ last years I’d rather not mention but will if pressed.

GTBOb

November 10th, 2012
8:00 am

Sad to see Tech basketball so bad and Georgia just keeps getting better.

Ellijay

November 10th, 2012
8:06 am

Yes, give Gtu the Natl Championship after beating Tulane. The rest of season no longer needs to be played. Gtu is clearly the hottest team in the country.

Walmart Retards

November 10th, 2012
8:14 am

Ellijay – how about an apple?

Jacket Dad

November 10th, 2012
8:36 am

Wow, how refreshing to read and see a positive sports accomplishment! I’m excited about the changes here for GT basketball. The new arena looks fantastic and the team sounds like they actually played as a team…..I Know, I Know!!!!!

Keep it up Jackets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

uga troll

November 10th, 2012
8:38 am

Lol… go away uga troll posing as a techie. UGA has a basketball program?

hit a single

November 10th, 2012
8:39 am

Did I miss something? Are the Olympics coming back to Atlanta. The reason I ask is how in the world did Georgia Tech get a new arean?

hit a single

November 10th, 2012
8:40 am

I meant arena!

hit a single

November 10th, 2012
8:42 am

If Cremins is back, then here comes the New York kids. One year and gone. I am not even sure if they go to class that one year.

Tom

November 10th, 2012
8:46 am

“Why…oh why…can’t Mark keep the stupid UGAg fans out???”

Because trying to block them has “ADA lawsuit” written all over it.

Jorge O'leary

November 10th, 2012
9:05 am

You know why birds fly upside down over athens? Their’s nothing worth pooping on!

Jim 70

November 10th, 2012
9:12 am

Loved the turnover number, keep that low and the wins will continue.

Would like to see the 3 point pct improve.

Go tech, beat unc!

GT'94

November 10th, 2012
10:18 am

Never was much of a B-ball fan. Who is McCamish?

Mistaben

November 10th, 2012
10:20 am

The THRILL IS BACK:

1/30/56 – Jackets beat Adolph Rupp & KY in first appearance at AMC: GA TECH 84; KY 62. http://www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/Statistics/CoachesOpposing/WhackHyder.html; i was 9; my dad knew Rupp (personally) and wanted us both to witness history. The previous year, Tech had ended KY record home game winning streak (which was a big deal). Great Fans. Exciting game. Will never forget. Should have named it the “Thriller Dome” that night. Last night? Deja Vu?

jacket backer

November 10th, 2012
10:22 am

Fun night at McCamish! Team looks much improved from last year. Arena is awesome!! Pulling for CBG!

Go Jackets!!

Billyho55

November 10th, 2012
10:23 am

THESE FRESHMAN WILL MAKE A TREMENDOUS IMPACT! CALL ME CRAZY…GT WILL BE IN NCAA TOURNAMENT THIS YEAR…JUST WATCH!

jacket backer

November 10th, 2012
10:26 am

Fun night at McCamish! Team looked much improved compared to last year’s team. Pulling hard for CBG. If he continues to recruit well he’ll be just fine.

Go Jackets!!

Billyho55

November 10th, 2012
10:38 am

GT’94,
I believe this is the answer to your question… http://www.mccamish.com/bios/hmccamish.htm

Angus

November 10th, 2012
11:40 am

I was fortunate as a kid to have close ties with the hoops team in the early ’80’s – been a sidewalk Tech fan ever since.

The arena looked great on TV last night.

Here’s to a bright future for Tech hoops!