EDITOR’S NOTE: Col. Tony Lackey ’61 has been around Citadel Athletics since the mid-1950s and provides a weekly blog on some of the sports highlights that he recalls.
By Col. Tony Lackey ‘61
As told to Andy Solomon
Prior to McAlister Field House, The Citadel played their basketball games on the same site but the facility was then called “The Armory.” When the facility was totally renovated in 1989, the name changed from The Armory to McAlister Field House to honor Col. David S. McAlister.
One of the highlights of The Armory (which was opened in 1939) was the Blitz Kids Era that was coached by the great Norm Sloan, the same Norm Sloan that guided N.C. State to the 1974 national championship. That great team featured David Thompson, Monte Towe and Tommy Burleson.
We had an outstanding atmosphere back then. We easily drew more than 4,000 fans to each game, including 1,500 or more Cadets. General and Mrs. Clark sat in the middle, the Pep Band sat up high, the football players on the baseline, and seats were hard to come by. JoAnn Sloan, the coach’s wife, always sang the National Anthem.
Of course, we had great teams.
Art Musselman, Ray Graves, Dick Jones, Gary Daniels and Dick Wherry were our starting five and they were simply terrific and exciting to watch. Great players and better people.
But the game I’ll always remember came on a Friday night (Dec. 4, 1959) – my junior year – when West Virginia, which was led by their All-America star Jerry West, came to The Armory. I remember vividly that it was a Friday night because during Dress Parade that afternoon, the line to get tickets for that night’s West Virginia game went as far as Padgett-Thomas Barracks.
I also remember going to the Fork Restaurant (where the Hardee’s and Wendy’s are currently located) and seeing Cadets trying to scalp their date tickets.
While West had a solid outing against us (West Virginia won, 98-76), he was taken out of the game early in the second half having scored about 25 points. I remember that the Corps of Cadets cheered him until he acknowledged them.
Those were some terrific times following the Blitz Kids, which were first called the Whiz Kids, but we had to change their nickname because there was a television show called “GE College Bowl” and they had that name.
I’ll talk more about the Blitz Kids in future blogs, and will later recall the 1959 Southern Conference Championship game in Richmond against West and his West Virginia Mountaineers. That remains as the lone time the Bulldogs have ever reached the championship game.