No matter what happens, basketball will always be the lifeblood of UConn, for better or for worse. There’s a reason people call Storrs the “basketball capital of the world.” With 15 national championships, dozens of All-Americans amongst the men’s and women’s basketball programs and two of the game’s greatest coaches in Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, it’s a term that’s certainly well deserved.
The epicenter of all of this basketball success is Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. While the Huskies play some of their games at the XL Center in Hartford, Gampel is UConn basketball’s true home. It’s right in the center of campus, and when the Huskies win a championship and hang a banner, the fanfare is always at Gampel.
Since its opening in 1990, Gampel has had its fair share of memorable moments and has become one of the best on-campus arenas in the world of college basketball. While it’s lost a little bit of its shine (and ceiling fabric) over the years, it’s still a fantastic place to watch a game.
Throughout the country, there are places similar to Gampel. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Phog Allen Fieldhouse and the Thompson-Boling Arena are a few examples of some of the other great arenas in the sport.
Those arenas, aside from having a great atmosphere night in and night out, all have courts that are named after famous coaches or players in their respective histories.
Cameron has Coach K Court in honor of current head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Phog has James Naismith Court. Thompson-Boling Arena has The Summitt, named after longtime Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit.
UConn’s basketball history is more or less on par with those schools, and certainly better than some other schools that pay homage to their history by naming the court after a former coach. It’s time the Huskies get on board and honor their rich basketball history by renaming Alumni Court at Gampel to something more fitting.
My suggestion: Dee Rowe Court at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
Renaming Alumni Court is not a knock on UConn’s numerous famous alumni like actress Meg Ryan, senator Chris Murphy and Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kim Zolciak, but Rowe is certainly more deserving of this honor.
Rowe coached the Huskies from 1969-77, winning 120 games and leading UConn to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1976. He was also named assistant coach on the 1980 Olympic team, but never actually coached on the sidelines due to the United States’ Olympic boycott that year.
While Rowe’s coaching acumen is impressive, it’s what he’s done after that cements his position as one of the most important figures in the history of UConn athletics.
After retiring in 1977, Rowe still played an integral part in UConn’s growth. He was a major factor in bringing donations to make Gampel Pavilion a possibility. He had a role in the formation of the Big East conference under Dave Gavitt’s vision. Not to mention, he was on the search committee that made two of the biggest hires in UConn’s history in Calhoun and Auriemma.
Let’s talk about those two for a second. On paper, Calhoun and Auriemma seem equally deserving of having the court named in their honor. Calhoun is one of the most successful men’s basketball coaches of all time, building a UConn program from nothing into a national power. Auriemma owns the most national championships of any college basketball coach ever, and will reach 1,000 career wins next season. Not to mention, he’s probably got a few national titles left to win, too.
But while both built their respective programs up with their blood, sweat and tears, the two are definitely not the best of friends. Yes, the two are civil and have certainly been more cordial towards each other in the last few years, but who knows how the other would react if one got the court named after them and the other didn’t? Naming the court after one might mean alienating the other.
Both Auriemma and Calhoun are fantastic representatives of UConn and have donated sizable amounts of money to the university, so picking one in favor of the other could hurt the school in more ways than one. On top of this, while the two might not like each other, they both openly admire and respect Rowe. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Rowe was honored for his impact on the sport of basketball earlier this year, when he received the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame. To put the magnitude of this award in perspective, Rowe joins fellow greats John Wooden, Summitt, Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy as recipients of this honor.
Now represents the perfect time to honor Rowe for his success and vision while at UConn. For nearly the last half-century, Rowe has had a hand in some of the most important decisions in UConn athletics, and laid the foundation for which a perennial basketball powerhouse was built.
These days, Rowe is still seemingly always at Gampel Pavilion, passing down his years of wisdom and experience. After a brutal snowstorm this season that made it nearly impossible to get around even on campus, Rowe sauntered out to Gampel to catch the end of a women’s basketball practice. Also, in my time as a student and on the women’s basketball beat, I’m not sure he’s missed more than a handful of Gampel games in the last few years.
Throughout the years, Rowe has done seemingly anything and everything for this university to make it better in any way possible. It’s time to do the same for him and name the Gampel Pavilion court in his honor.