One of the curses of having lived in Charleston since Kresse is remembering how basketball used to sound.
In the days before the currently named TD Arena, the College of Charleston played in a high school-sized fortress with concrete walls and pull-out bleachers. The seating capacity of John Kresse Arena was listed as 3,500, but on the nights when the school ignored the fire marshal, you could cram in 3,800 people, high into the bleachers that now make up the seats of the Johnson Center’s physical education and exercise science classrooms.
And oh, the noise.
When Kresse’s Cougars were the kings of mid-major basketball, his palace was one of the most feared courts in the country. Three thousand people on their feet for the better part of two hours, with a constant dull roar that lasted from tip-off to the final horn. A block, a steal or a breakaway dunk would provoke a crescendo that rolled down from the stands and across the court, reverberating off the concrete walls and buffeting the players like a broken wave at the Washout.
In 26 seasons, the Cougars won more than 86 percent of their games at Kresse Arena. Before moving to the Southern Conference, they dominated the Trans-America Athletic Conference to the tune of a 44-2 home record. A 36-game win streak. A 7-1 mark in one-point games.
John Kresse was a legendary coach, but he will tell you how much those crowds, and that wall of noise, lifted his teams to greatness.
I won’t say that fans didn’t leave games early. There were probably some midweek, midterm contests when the student section was quiet. There may have even been games when visiting fans put ours to shame, suggesting that Furman or The Citadel might have more support in our own gym than the Cougars. Actually, no. I’m guessing that last one never happened.
The legacy of John Kresse Arena is one of dominance, dictated not only by the teams on the court, but also by the fans in the stands. By the wall of noise that greeted visiting teams each and every time they tried to bring the ball up the court. By the swell of sound that can turn one great play into a run, and can turn a close game into a rout.
If we want great basketball teams, it is time for College of Charleston fans – students and alumni, young and old, from the age of LeBron, the age of Jordan, and the age of Maravich – to find their voices. It’s time to turn our home court back into a fortress. It’s time to once again make a trip to Charleston one of the most feared things in mid-major basketball.
Davidson comes to Meeting Street on Thursday night in what could be a preamble to the SoCon Tournament final. It’s well past time that we show them what it means to walk into our house.
Cougar fans, it’s time to be heard.
*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.