Stu At 35, And Counting…
What hath Shaka wrought? On January 29, 2011, VCU defeated UNCW 79-70 in front of a sold out Siegel Center. It was homecoming, and spirits were high. The win, the ninth straight for the Rams, brought VCUs record to 10-1 in the CAA and 18-5 overall.
Smart opened his postgame presser by saying
"First and foremost, I have to say that this crowd was electric from the
start and I really think that played a key factor in tonight's win."
He had no idea.
The Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center,
or The Stu, has become the most feared building in two conferences. The CAA
knew it then, and the A10 knows it now. The rest of the country has seen it
shake and rock from a distance, a product of the best adjectives a television
announcer can muster. Coaches know it. A call from a member of the basketball
staff about scheduling is treated like a Family Guy episode.
The Stu is one part dungeon, one part Mardi Gras, and one
part basketball instruction. It is all havoc, soundtrack courtesy of The
Peppas, and it has served up 35 straight sellouts going into the season opener
against Illinois State.
I admit I have no recollection of that UNCW game, but there
are other memories of those 35 games. I remember the frustration of that late
February JMU game, the one where we seemed to jack three after and three and
begat Smart nearly burning his arm hair along with a calendar. That turned out
(Side note: it's worth mentioning, with deep consideration to irony, that VCU lost its next three home games after UNCW. All were sellouts, and it set the stage for the NCAA tournament run. Go figure.)
There was the Georgia State game, where we played terribly
but had a three to win bound off the rim at the buzzer. That damn Jihad Ali made play after play. I remember Darius Theus's heroics
to gut out a win over William & Mary. Drubbing ODU two days later.
There may be no greater memory of those 35 games than Brad
Burgess's senior night. George Mason had the audacity to come out for warmups
at the end of Burgess's senior ceremony, and then Burgess punked those punks
for 31 points in a blowout win.
Last season was an avalanche of moments. Who knew Florida Gulf Coast would
recover from a havoc blitzkreig to make the Sweet 16? We will never speak of the Wichita
State game again. Jesse Pellot Rosa made a halfcourt shot that won everyone a
pizza, just before Anthony Grant sat on the visiting bench and spent the second half
considering the gas mileage of the bus that would take Alabama to the airport.
I feel for CJ McCollum, and my goodness the Stu was striped for Dayton.
How about the 14 seconds of perfection against St. Joseph's,
and, well, Butler needs no words. If you need detail, give Rosie Jones a call. That havoc banner that found its way to a hotel in Michigan.
The record shows 29-6 in those 35 games, including 28-3 over
the past two seasons. What do you remember? What will this year bring us all?
This entire piece came to me yesterday. I had not seen a guy
I lived with for two years when I was on campus in probably 20 years. After
catching up, we got into the meat of the conversation, VCU basketball. He said
he had not been to a game in about three years. "We used to walk up and
get a good ticket," he said, "and now I can't get one to save my
It's worth noting that we've seen change over those 35 games. New players, new coaches, and better basketball. The building added a club level, and the great work of Norwood Teague's gang has been furthered by Ed McLaughlin and his band of merry men. It seems that The Stu is like Treveon Graham after pump-faking a three. It's freight-training down the lane and there's no stopping it.
I love that building, and I love what happens when that team
jogs onto the floor, that band cranks it up, and those building inspectors get
nervous. It's me and 8,000 of my very best friends, and we know what's about to
Soak it up, every minute of it. And don't you dare take it
for granted. We are very fortunate to have what we have. The world is one of impermanence; everything changes. Let's make sure it continues to change for the better. Let's make sure you don't ever want to go to war with the Rams. Let's make sure when they start stuff, they will pay.