Wednesday, I made the offhand suggestion, during an unrelated discussion, that the basketball team stage an annual throwback game (against an opponent that would otherwise generate little interest) in Lasell Gymnasium, America’s oldest basketball gymnasium.  My comment, in turn, generated some excitement / nostalgia among readers who recalled the uniquely intimidating atmosphere for games played in Lasell.   [Note: I have since discovered that at least one women’s varsity game was played in Lasell in recent years].  One of those memories, from Vicarious ’83:

The Williams-Amherst games were especially raucus. One year we were hosting the ‘Herst and during a time-out an Amherst fan, dressed in colonial garb, came onto the court to lead The Defectors in a cheer. Suddenly, a heroic Eph jumped out of the stands, stole Lord Jeffy’s tri-corner hat, and dashed out of the gym. Lord Jeff gave chase but an alert ticket taker closed the door behind the Eph and pulled the velvet rope up at precisely the right time – sending Lord Jeff sprawling. The resulting ovation made it impossible for us to hear anything the coach was saying.Lord Jeff never made it back into the gym, and later in the game the home crowd started chanting: “Where’s Lord Jeff?, Where’s Lord Jeff?”

(I honestly can’t remember whether we won that game or not.)

This New York Times article likewise provides a sense of life in the old Lasell:

It’s so small that only 600 spectators can squeeze into the bleachers, which are so close to the court that fans sitting in the front row have to be reminded not to stretch their legs. If they did, their feet would trip players scooting up and down the sidelines. There’s room upstairs for 400 standees, but they habitually hang over the railing of an encircling track and pose another threat to players, who are always in danger of being doused by a spilled soft drink. Because of the fire laws in Williamstown, Mass., the school has to count heads carefully to make sure the crowd never totals more than 1,000.

Craziest detail:

Then there are the sideline hoops that allow the gym to be divided into two practice courts. The nonretractable rims stick out over the regulation court and have been known to deflect passes during a game, although that’s considered a minor hazard

by Lasell standards: Until they were removed in 1928, a series of pillars a few feet inside each sideline gave special meaning to the term ”standing pick.”

Love this quote from (present day) AD Harry Sheehy:

As Coach Harry Sheehy put it, ”I’m sure all those anonymous donations to the new gym are from opposing coaches.”

Anyone have more stories from the old Lasell hoops games?  Better yet, any photos?  I believe this court (not positive, but I think so) is still used for J.V. games.  How cool would an annual varsity game (maybe even complete with throwback uniforms — because who doesn’t love short basketball shorts) be were it held in this venue?  Could be staged as some sort of charity event.  Students would, I’m sure, happily bring back the “eat our dust” chant

Speaking of hoops, be sure to check out the free webcast of Williams in Little Three action, at Wesleyan tonight.  Women’s game at 6, men’s game at 8.  The men’s game, in particular, should be an exciting, up-and-down affair, as the two teams combined for nearly 200 points the first time they played this year.

Print  •  Email