There were, it must be said, many dry eyes in the house.
Harvard varsity basketball said goodbye to the Indoor Athletic Building last night with a 60-40 victory over Dartmouth, sending a not-so-fond farewell to the University's most ancient and squalid inter-collegiate sports facility.
Though absence is said to make the heart grow fonder, scarcely a single nostalgic word was to be heard among the assorted Crimson hoop luminaries who attended last night's internment.
The talk centered mostly on the ceiling (the leaks therein caused a rearrangement of basketball practice this week), the color (a green that is most charitably described as "institutional"), but mostly the stairs--ah yes, the stairs.
Most basketball arenas save the exercise for the playing surface, but the architects who contrived the IAB about 50 years ago bucked the trend. No, the IAB exercise comes in the getting up there, in the journey skyward. Four flights, past the browning (beyond yellowing) photographs of the 20-3 1945 basketball team and the 1934 fencers. Only after that ordeal can one gain access to the sanctum of Harvard hoop.
"The stairs, I loved them," former Celtic and Harvard coach Tom "Satch" Sanders said before the game. "Hey, I had the key to the elevator."
Somehow last night's contest seemed appropriate for the farewell. Dart-mouth, missing the leading scorer in the Ivy League, Larry Lawrence, entered the building and tried to stall. With its core of nobodies, the team sank into an understandable, if ineffective, stall--like North Carolina's four corners with a man in the penalty. And the people were bored. And the players were bored. When Dartmouth scored its first point, almost seven minutes into the game, the crowd cheered lustily. The game was painted IAB green.
The predictable announcements came from the public address man: "We'd like to remind you that the official clock is the one on the scoreboard facing the benches and the scorer's table." The other timepiece had gone on sabbatical.
But like the Crimson team this year, the game revived and turned into a comfy Harvard blow-out, the victory of a team that is used to winning. When the team moves into a renovated Briggs Cage next year, it will have lost not only the loser's gym but the loser's image. Thanks in large measure to senior co-captains Tom Mannix and Mark Harris, who played their last home games last night, Harvard is now respected in all quarters and feared in some--like Hanover.
That is something new. The hoop status quo (and the IAB) might have been best described by famed ECAC ref Austin McArthur. He once missed a game at the IAB because he spent the evening in his car, looking for a basketball court. Of course, he drove right by the IAB. And if he was looking for a basketball team, he might have kept on driving as well.
Coach Frank McLaughlin last night could afford to sit back, rotate some players and let the clock finish off the game and the losing era. Junior forward Tom Clarke had the honor of hitting a lay-up at the buzzer, guaranteeing him a smidgen of immortality. After the sparse crowd filed out, and while a baby McLaughlin and a baby Fleming played on the deserted bleachers, one of the old wooden backboards, as if of its own volition, sank slowly into the ready position. Intramurals own the IAB now.