Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The G:TB Review of Books: Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral

Eric Angevine is a proud member of the CAA diaspora, his ODU Monarchs now a part of some far-flung conference that isn't Virginia-based. One of the proprietors of the late, lamented Storming the Floor blog (which remains intact on tumblr), we first connected with him over a shared affinity for CAA hoops. He even published a long, whingey piece we wrote on W&M basketball's historical 'achievements' back in 2008 (lost, sadly, to the sands of time - trust me, it was pretty great).

He's also the author of Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral, which will be released on March 2 as a part of Arcadia Publishing's Landmarks series.

Angevine's written about college basketball for ESPN.com, CBS, NBC, and a number of other generally more reputable outlets than ours, but we're pleased and grateful that he spent a generous amount of time answering our moronic questions about his new book. We're told that we're important in reaching the jackass demographic, so we're happy to help. G:TB's questions in bold, with Eric's answers following. Probably should've given the guest of honor the bold-type treatment, I guess:

Hinkle's obviously one of the great cathedrals of college hoops, but there are certainly others. What convinced you to choose Hinkle as the subject of a book? 

This was actually almost a case of the butterfly effect. Back in 2010, before Butler had been to the Final Four, I was freelancing for ESPN, and the Final Four was going to be in Lucas Oil Stadium. I had always wanted to see Hinkle, so I proposed making a trip there and making it do double duty: I'd write about Lucas Oil for one article and Hinkle in another. As it turned out, Butler was the big story that year, and both articles got a lot of views and were re-run a couple of times. So, when the History Press was looking for someone to write this book, and all the reputable writers had said no, they found my articles and asked me if I'd do it. I said hell yes.

In retrospect, there are things about Hinkle that make it an ideal subject for this kind of book. Tony Hinkle as the sort of human embodiment of the athletic program for decades gives it a through-line. The single-class high school basketball tournament being played there allowed me to write about players like George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson, John Wooden, and others who never suited up for Butler. And the building hosted presidential speeches frequently, so that gave me a lot to write about.

What's the relationship between the Butler student body/community and Hinkle? Do they revere it, or is it just another building on campus? 

It's a very tight bond. There are only around 2,000 students at Butler, so you could put every one of them in the building on game day and still have room for all of the alumni and fans who want to attend. The fieldhouse is also used as classroom space and the school's commencement is held there, so even those who might not love sports the way we do have a deep connection to it.

We know the Hoosiers story, and Butler's history at Hinkle. Since our producers haven't been able to procure an advance copy of the book for us to read and prepare questions, what was the most interesting story about the building that you uncovered in your research? Also, do you have any leads on producers, as we seem to need some?

Like you, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on the building's basketball legacy, so it was some of the other events that really drew me in as I researched them. In the 1930s, the building hosted a six-day bicycle race, which was apparently a huge deal back then. I spoke with a historian who really brought the event to life for me. I also loved getting volleyball legend Karch Kiraly on the phone to talk about the 1987 Pan Am Games, when he and his teammates faced off against Cuba during the cold war (though he said it was blazing hot inside un-air-conditioned Hinkle that summer).

Basketball-wise, the story that meant the most to me, and that I hope I got 100% right, is the story of Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks becoming the first segregated all-black team to win a state title. It happened the year after the Milan Miracle, and it didn't resonate as much with the state at large, so I felt it needed to be told and emphasized as an important historical event. (Note: this story is excerpted on NBC Sports Game Changers site.)

You have an undergraduate degree from Kansas (if we have our research right). Were you a big basketball fan before you made your first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, or was that formative for you? For those of us that have never attended a game in the Phog, give us a sense of what it's like to be part of 'Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk'.

I should have my degree from Kansas. I spent five years there but was defeated by Calculus. I went back to school at Old Dominion as an adult to finish up, which is how I stumbled into the bad part of town and met you losers. (Editor's note: Of COURSE we didn't have our research right. Probably Teejay's fault.)

HOWEVER, Kansas was THE formative influence in my reverence for college ball. I was a freshman in 1988 when Danny and the Miracles won it all. Prior to that season, I had a passing interest in the game, which was the annual talk of the town in Lawrence, of course. But that was the first time it really felt like my team, and I was hooked.

Allen Fieldhouse is an unusual structure. It's huge inside, but the acoustics are ideal. It gets loud. And the rock chalk chant is haunting as it echoes throughout the arena. As for how it feels? I got goose bumps just typing that sentence.

Obvious question here, perhaps, but you've now got a foundation from which to tackle other great collegiate hoops landmarks. Is that something that you're planning? What great old arena(s) interest you from a historical perspective? 

I actually sent a promo postcard to the staff at Williams Arena in Minneapolis with the note Got Next? That's a hidden gem that I've never been to, and I suspect I could find some good stories. My bucket list still includes The Pit in Albuquerque, Rose Hill Gym at Fordham, and Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OK. Now that I have some publisher street cred, I would love to leverage it into more writing about old, possibly endangered venues.

Counting Michael Litos and Jerry Beach, we now know three authors of books about sports. Do you think you could take the other two in a game of '21'?

Oh, god, I just pictured that game in my head. There are no winners. I do have a sneaking suspicion that Litos cheats, so he'd probably win.

The book is subtitled, 'Indiana's Basketball Cathedral', and Hinkle had a close association with Indiana high school hoops for decades. How do people in the rest of the state view the building today? Is it considered part of the state's heritage, or now that Butler has ascended to a more national profile, does the rest of Indiana downplay the historical association?

It is a statewide point of pride for exactly the reason you mention. Just about every corner of the state can point to some local team or player who made his mark there. I wondered if younger generations had lost that reverence, since the high school game is no longer played there, but I spoke to Brandon Crone, who played for Butler under Todd Lickliter, and he assured me that the mystique was still present for his generation.

How does the gameday experience at Hinkle compare to other arenas you've visited? Are the soft pretzels there as bad as the ones Teejay and I ate at LaSalle's Gola Arena?

It's a fantastic gameday experience, because it starts feeling special as you're walking from your parking spot, and you see the building in the distance. Then you go inside and wander around and look at the historical displays in the corridors. There's no secret entrance to the floor, so you end up passing the team in the hallways. And I love the moment early in the game when the bulldog Trip runs across the floor and the student section gives him a massive rawhide chew toy to enjoy during the game.

In the old Hinkle, there was almost no room for concessions, and I don't remember anything they served being particularly special. Not sure if that's changed in the renovated space. But Trip usually shares the rawhide (not a euphemism) so I never get hungry.

Please tell us the book has pictures from the Sonja Henie Ice Show. Or at least a Mellencamp concert.

I wish. I keep hearing about some of these other events that happened there, but I could never find pictures.

When William and Mary makes the NCAA Tournament and plays Kansas in the first round, you'll be rooting for the Tribe, correct?

Incorrect. I know rooting for Kansas is like rooting for Darth Vader in some circles, but I grew up in Lawrence, so it'd be like rooting against my own childhood. However, I am a rational fan. When one of those small schools takes down the Jayhawks, I'm happy for them. I don't get the logic of being mad at another team for taking advantage of your own failures. And if it was the Wrens, I guarantee I'd be thrilled for them. I guess I could live with the fact that it would make you guys insufferable to be around.

39 comments:

Marls said...

Who is he kidding? We're insufferable already.

Nice job Rob & Teej.

T.J. said...

It was all rob

Marls said...

Which explains why he didn't use the services of the fictional producer of ZMan and the Teej.

rob said...

tribe favored by 10.5 over towson in the burg this evening. w&m has everything to play for - two wins = caa champs. towson is locked into the play-in round. we drubbed them in towson earlier this season. they're a great rebounding team, while we're mediocre, but we're superior in every other phase. all signs point to the tribe, and so do i. still nervous, tho.

Squeaky said...

I know most on this site aren't into the Pixies but I have the pre-sale password for tickets to the latest tour that go on sale at 10AM today. Let me know and I'm sure 'snakes' will find their way to you.

rootsminer said...

Speaking of Indiana basketball, I saw a black dude in a Larry Bird Celtics jersey as I cycled to work this morning. It just looked weird.

rob said...

so much hipster in that comment

zman said...

Every once in a while we appear to be a legitimate source of creative content. Well done.

rob said...

there's a blind squirrel nut joke in there somewhere

Shlara said...

Nice interview Rob. I'm looking forward to reading the book, and visiting Hinkle.

Mark said...

Hinkle, The Palestra, Phog and Cameron are my must attend CBB venues. Throw The Pit in there too if I need to make it a top 5. Nicely done, Rob.

rob said...

mark, we need to make a trip to the palestra a gtb priority next season. somebody with follow-through please take note of that and remind us this summer.

Danimal said...

somebody with follow through. that's funny.

Mark said...

I'm game for that, Rob. The trip. Not the follow through.

rob said...

honestly, we probably need shlara to be in charge of follow-through. none of the rest of us can be trusted on that front.

rob said...

12-2 inches of snow forecast for williamsburg this evening. i can't remember seeing anything close to that amount while we were there. i do recall one snowy/icy caroling outing, but there was nowhere near that much on the ground.

Squeaky said...

You guys are lazy, whip out your phone and say, "Siri, remind me on July 31st to plan for the palestra".

Or just put a post in draft with the correct title and let it sit there for 5-6 months.

Shlara said...

Shocking that none of the GTB men have their shit together enough to organize an outing to a basketball game.

You are the weaker sex.

Palestra would be good. KU is on my list too.

If I organize the event, you f-ers better post.

zman said...

Salty Shlara! For the record, my shit's together like Voltron. Who organized Gheorghefest (probably Shlara)?

T.J. said...

BaconBaking handled G-Fest

zman said...

I will organize a trip to the Teaneck Armory.

zman said...

BaconBaking definitely has her shit together.

Whitney said...

I have enough trouble organizing one get-together a year.

Great post, Rob. Started off shaky with a misplaced modifier in the second sentence, but then you go and do something like that and totally redeem yourself.

rob said...

i noticed that misplaced modifier, too, and just forgot to go back and fix it. see, shlara's right about how useless we are. glad she's organizing the palestra trip.

rob said...

marcus is the tribe's all-time leading scorer. dropped 15 in the first half to remove all drama. went for a vicious tomahawk to get the record, was fouled, made both freebies.

rob said...

tribe wins! tribe covers!

rob said...

and if the tribe wins on saturday at home against drexel, we win the regular season conference title and are guaranteed at least a berth in the nit.

zman said...

Good for Thornton.

Sneak preview of that new Tuxedo album!

http://www.npr.org/2015/02/22/387517135/first-listen-tuxedo-tuxedo

rob said...

i have to give a presentation to colleagues in india and australia in 45 minutes. hope they don't mind if i've had a couple of beers.

rob said...

while shlara's organizing the palestra trip, maybe she can straighten the wizards out, too. that team's got a funk on it.

zman said...

AJ Hawk is the Packers' all time tackls leader?! That surprises the hell out of me.

rob said...

my gallipoli joke went over like a lead balloon. sensitive blokes, those aussies.

Danimal said...

hi gheorghies.
rob - I had full intention of placing that bet this eve and did not get around to it. I'm 0-2 on your picks. it's not your fault.

TR said...

Hi folks. On way in to office. About to find out if I'll get to keep my job for longer than the next two months! I may get partnered with a rival at another firm who I have previously described this way: If chlamydia was a person, it would be him.

Contingent plans are in effect, and there's a small chance I could get severance afterwards, which could last through most of the summer. Would be a compelling opportunity for sloth-like summer behavior.

Would be neat if it coincided with the last time I got fired: Friday March 13th in 2009.

TR said...

On topic of Tribe hoops, Sammy the Bull texted me that Thornton was not only about to become the all-time leading scorer, but that the previous leader had the record since 1950, the longest run of any school's all-time points leader.

Fellow mathematicians will agree it would've been cooler if this recors was broken in 2019.

Dave said...

wow! two days of non-filler.

well done, g:tb!

you should have asked him about ghosts. doesn't every book about a building go into some ghost stories?

Mark said...

We'll forgive you because it's early, TR but Rob mentioned that all time leading scorer nugget earlier this week.

Hope you get to keep your job. Or collect a sweet ass severance. Whichever you prefer.

Squeaky said...

TR, good luck today.

Mark Anderson said...

The book then twists in reverse describing not just the basketball group's history under any semblance of Tony Hinkle and Brad Stevens,additionally subtle elements including occasions from six-day bicycle races and a Dwight D. Eisenhower's stump speech to the 1987 Pan Am Games volleyball competition and myriad big high school hoops contests.
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