Inspection: Navy's new hall has everything but Halsey memories

November 12, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

ANNAPOLIS UBB — ANNAPOLIS -- When Indiana coach Bob Knight was workin his last season at Army in 1972, he brought his Cadets to Halsey Field House for a basketball confrontation with Navy.

Although it was a Saturday afternoon game, lights were still needed in dim, gloomy, cavernous Halsey, and at halftime they went out. The start of the second half was delayed and even after someone found the switch, it took almost 15 minutes for the lights to return to full brightness.

Knight fumed, accusing Navy coach Dave Smalley of subterfuge.

"Knight was extremely unhappy and yelling a lot," said Smalley, now a Navy assistant athletic director. "Losing the lights for a while did kill the feeling of the game, but Army won anyway."

That same Halsey Field House, which opened in 1957, will yield now to new, $30 million Alumni Hall. The Middies will help christen it tonight (7:30) when they entertain the Ukraine national team in an exhibition.

Navy is practicing at Alumni Hall and will play most of its games there, and serve as host to the Patriot League champion

ships March 7-10. The Middies will return to Halsey only for three games in midseason when Alumni Hall is occupied with a musical.

A multipurpose facility that can accommodate 5,710 for basketball, Alumni Hall was funded by the academy alumni association ($17 million) and the federal government ($13 million). It is being used for lectures, plays, musicals, concerts and for the Army-Navy wrestling meet and some tennis matches as well as basketball.

"It's a great teaching and learning atmosphere," said Navy basketball coach Pete Herrmann. "There are no distractions.

shared Halsey with other sports, and with all of them when it rained."

Even in its infancy, Halsey was hardly an ideal place for basketball. One year the manager hung the team's new uniforms in a locker the night before a game only to have some pipes break and spew rusty water on them.

"We had to wear practice uniforms in the game," Smalley said. "Instead of Nos. 2, 3 and 4, we came out in 33, 54 and 67, which really upset the opposing coach because his scouting report was predicated on uniform numbers."

In the days when Duke was coached by Vic Bubas, the Blue Devils brought a powerhouse team to Halsey. Fans were outside the ticket window in a line that stretched 50 yards to Gate 1.

Two minutes into the game, someone kicked the electrical and telephone lines near the court, inadvertently disconnecting the Duke radio broadcaster from his station in Durham, N.C. Blithely unaware of that, the broadcaster kept talking into the dead lines until almost halftime. Neither team had called a timeout.

"The Durham station finally called Gov. Ted McKeldin's office," said Navy baseball coach Joe Duff, then also Ben Carnevale's assistant in basketball. "McKeldin's people sent a state trooper to tell Ben about the break in the lines."

In the early 1970s, Halsey got a new tartan basketball surface, but it wasn't ready for the first few games. The opener was played instead on the old court at Dahlgren Hall, and the second game, against Fairleigh Dickinson, started there as well. Then it rained.

"It was deluge," Smalley said. "It leaked through the roof and made puddles on the floor. We tried to wipe them up, but we couldn't keep up with it.

"So we all walked from Dahlgren to Halsey in the rain, even the band. Since the new surface still wasn't ready, we played on the multipurpose court, used for JV games, intramurals, volleyball and badminton. There was very little seating, maybe 2,000."

That was the only varsity men's game ever played on the multipurpose court, before or since. The Middies' third home game that season was on the new tartan court in Halsey against Princeton, which starred Geoff Petrie. Despite a sprained ankle, Petrie poured in 30 points in the Tigers' win.

"We were the home team," Smalley said, "but in our first three games we played on three different courts -- Dahlgren, the multipurpose gym at Halsey and finally the new floor in the main arena."

In more recent years, Halsey was the site of some memorable games.

David Robinson beat George Mason in the final seconds with a baseball-like heave almost from midcourt that went in. Army's Kevin Houston, the nation's scoring leader, came in for a shootout with Robinson and shot the lights out until Navy double-teamed him in the second half.

Big-time boxing had a short run in Halsey. In 1977, over the objections of athletic director Bo Coppedge ("I was overruled by Washington"), the Department of the Navy allowed promoter Don King to stage the U.S. Boxing Championships here.

King already had held two tournaments in the series at West Point and on an aircraft carrier. The matches at Halsey featured not so much great boxing, but an incident involving Howard Cosell.

One of the boxers, angry when a decision went against him, kicked at Cosell, who was announcing from ringside, and knocked the Great One's toupee askew.

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