Sooners return to field house where Alvan Adams starred for exhibition victory
NORMAN, Okla. – Oklahoma's old McCasland Field House wasn't quite the way Alvan Adams remembered it. Just the chance to see another basketball game played in the gym where he starred was a unique opportunity.
The Sooners beat Central Oklahoma 94-66 on Wednesday night in an exhibition at the gym they called home from 1928 to 1975.
McCasland's close coincided with the end of Adams' superlative career, and he had a career-high 43 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in what had been the final game ever to be played in the building on March 5, 1975. After that, he left early for the NBA draft, where he was selected fourth overall by the Phoenix Suns.
"I was glad they hadn't torn it down, and they were able to use it for this exhibition game," said Adams, who was honored at halftime, along with a dozen other Sooners who played during the Field House's final years in the 1970s.
Adams said he visited McCasland a while back and found wrestling mats inside. It remains the home of the Sooners' wrestling and women's volleyball teams, and some gymnastics meets are held inside the red brick building that sits on campus just north of the football stadium.
The Lloyd Noble Center, down the street and south of the main campus, became the basketball program's new home after Adams left in 1975. But the athletic department decided to hold two games — a regular-season contest against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 31 will be played there — after a new roof, locker rooms, restrooms and other updates were completed this summer.
Naturally, it was a different experience than when Adams played. He said he was trying to think in the first half about how the backboards used to be hung permanently on the wall, instead of the portable stanchions that are used in modern times.
There was no "Alvan's Army" cheering section for him in the south stands, the players wore shorts that reached beyond their knees and there was a 3-point line on the court. Even that was different — the basketball lines were temporarily drawn on the volleyball court.
"I loved coming over here to wrestling and gymnastics and going to baseball games and of course, the football. That's one of the reasons I came here," said Adams, noting he met quarterback Steve Owens while being recruited.
Second-year Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger visited McCasland twice as an opponent, leading Kansas State to an 80-71 victory in 1972 with 18 points and nine rebounds. He sat out a 1973 game in the Field House because of an injury.
"It is a lot different. Of course, my perspective's a little bit different, too," Kruger said. "At that point, everything looked loud and it was."
Attendance was 2,880 — few enough to get lost in the Lloyd Noble Center, which holds four times that many but a good-sized crowd for McCasland. And with the seats much closer to the court, it made for a noisy atmosphere.
"It's very packed and everybody's around us and we can hear everything," forward Amath M'Baye said. "It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad the crowd showed up. That's something I'd like to do again."
Kruger said the Sooners would like to play a couple games a year at McCasland. For Adams, even the opponent proved nostalgic. When he was just starting to play the game in seventh and eighth grade, Adams said he used to watch games at Central State College — which later changed its name to Central Oklahoma.
"To me, that was the big time. We didn't drive down to Norman to games. I watched a few professional playoff games on TV but that was a different world of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell," Adams said. "But going to Central State and seeing Mike Mims play, I'd go: 'I'd like to do that someday. Mom, can I come play where you're teaching?'"
The reverse was true for Bronchos coach Terry Evans, a former Sooners guard whose father, Eddie, was among the former Oklahoma players honored at halftime.
"We wanted to play Oklahoma. It didn't matter where we played them," Terry Evans said. "I guess be careful what you ask for sometimes.
"But it was great. It was a great atmosphere. Sometimes a game like this, when you know you're not going to get a gym full, it's good to play it here. It's a great atmosphere. I know it meant a lot to some of the older people that used to watch games here and play."