55 Years of Thrill: In Memoriam: Alexander Memorial Coliseum

On Sunday, March 6, the Tech men’s basketball team played its final game in Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The coliseum has been a home for the Jackets for 55 years, but they will play their home games in the yet to be built Hank McCamish Pavilion starting in 2012.

The Jackets opened Alexander Memorial Coliseum in 1956 with an original capacity of 6996, but the coliseum went under three major renovations in its time, including one funded by a donation from McDonald’s. The donation was made in 1996 to coincide with the Olympics in Atlanta, and it added over 2000 seats.

The Alexander Memorial Coliseum has hosted boxing matches in the 1996 Olympics and Hawks games when the Omni was being torn down in the late 90s. Recently, the coliseum hosted the 2008 SEC basketball tournament when a tornado ripped through Atlanta.

More importantly, the Jackets have had great success at home over the past 55 seasons, and the coliseum has seen its fair share of exciting moments. The excitement inside the coliseum spawned the nickname “The Thrillerdome” in 1984 when commentator Brad Nessler was announcing a game.

One exciting Tech game that comes to mind was the Jackets thrilling defeat of the UNC Tar Heels in 1989. The Jackets were down by one when they had the ball with only 11 seconds left. They inbounded the ball, but in regular Tech fashion, Tom Hammond stepped on the line and turned the ball over. All the Tar Heels had to do was inbound the ball and the game was over, but Dennis Scott would not let them. He stole the pass and hit a three-pointer, and Tech won the game. Head Coach Bobby Cremins jumping around the court in jubilation will stick with Tech fans forever.

Another great moment for Alexander Memorial Coliseum was also in the Cremins era when Tech upset No. 1 Duke 80-79 in 1993. Tech opened up on a 12-0 run only to see the Blue Devils claw back into the game. Freshman guard Drew Barry came off the bench to score 11 points, as he was far too much to handle for Duke.

There were many memorable moments for the women’s team this year as well as the seniors broke the school record for most wins. Tech hosted the Connecticut Huskies in the midst of their record-breaking win streak. The Jackets were not able to end the streak, but the fans set a record for the highest attendance ever at a Tech women’s basketball game. Perhaps more memorable than any single moment are the great players that put on the Tech home jersey over the years. Alexander Memorial Coliseum has seen 19 All-Americans and countless others who have had successful collegiate careers.

Mark Price and John Salley came to Tech in the 80s, and the duo were a force to be reckoned with. Price’s pinpoint shooting accuracy and great passing made guarding him a headache for most teams, and Salley’s size and strength left opponents lost during games. Price finished his Tech career with a 44 percent three-point percentage and Salley left Tech as the school’s all-time leader in blocks.

The 90s saw perhaps the most successful time to be a Jacket fan as Cremins and “Lethal Weapon Three” dominated the era. Kenny Anderson, Brain Oliver and Scott led Tech to the Final Four in 1990 and led arguably the best team that Tech has ever seen. Cremins had the luxury of coaching the trio and left Tech as the school’s all-time leader in wins. The court in Alexander Memorial Coliseum was later named after Cremins.

Tech has not had much success since Cremins left the program, but no one could forget the memorable NCAA run in 2004 that led the Jackets to the title game.

It is a shame that the Jackets will discard Alexander Memorial Coliseum at a time that the program is not on top, but fans will never forget the good times that the Jackets had in the arena. The McCamish Pavilion provides an opportunity for Tech to add another chapter to its history and form more great memories at home.


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