Tad Pad memories: Pete, Coolidge, Gerald, C.J. and RFK

Tad Pad
When the Tad Pad was packed, it rocked, and the Rebels usually won.
Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

The Ole Miss Rebels gave us one last Tad Pad memory Tuesday with an overtime victory over Troy before a loud, packed house. On Jan. 7, Alabama comes to town and the Rebels move to the long-awaited Pavilion at Ole Miss.

It will be like trading in a ’66 Dodge Dart for a 2016 Mercedes.

Few tears will be shed for the Tad Pad. It has been the butt of many jokes, some deserved.

But, for Ole Miss basketball, it has been home, albeit leaky, since 1966.

Can’t tell you how many games I’ve seen there, but memories abound. I’ve seen some really good basketball and I’ve seen some that has long been forgotten.

I remember driving from Hattiesburg, either ’68 or ’69, to see Pete Maravich. Oh my heavens, he was The Show. Best I’ve ever seen, then and now. How good was Pete? Ole Miss fans cheered an LSU player. That’s how good.

Coolidge Ball, the first African American player at Ole Miss, wasn’t nearly as flashy or as talented, but will be remembered for his effort, his consistency, his will, his character and his integrity. He remains the school’s fifth all-time leading rebounder, although he played just three years of varsity ball. He was co-captain as a junior, captain as a senior and was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Who can forget Bob Weltlich’s teams, which put on basketball clinics at the Tad

Stroud
Stroud

Pad? Sean Tuohy passed, Roger Stieg set picks and rebounded, John Stroud and Elston Turner scored — and everybody defended. I’ve often wondered what might have happened had Weltlich not left for Texas.

Nobody who was there will forget the night of March 4, 1989, when then-Chris Jackson went for 55 points, Gerald Glass for 53 and the Rebels defeated LSU in double overtime 113-112. Do yourself a favor. Go to youtube.com, search for Chris Jackson and Gerald Glass, and sit back and enjoy. You forget how good those guys were.

I remember the moving memorial service for Chuckie Mullins on May 8, 1991. “The most courageous football player, I’ve ever known,” Billy Brewer called Chuckie. “ChuckieMullins showed us a lot about how to live. We thank him for it, we love him for it,”Gov. Ray Mabus said.

I remember Van Chancellor’s splendid women’s teams and so many gifted, well-coached players. Van was a sports writer’s dream, a pearl of a quote every time he opened his mouth and drawled.

I remember Rod Barnes as a player. “Stick Man” we called him. Ed Murphy, one of my favorite people, didn’t think Barnes was good enough to play for him at Delta State and then inherited him when Murphy came to Ole Miss. All Rod became was one of the best players in the SEC and one of the best in Ole Miss history. Later, he was a National Coach of the Year, taking Ole Miss to the Sweet 16.

Rob Evans could coach, too. In fact, he mentored Barnes.

So many more memories: Carlos Clark. Ansu Sesay. Anthony Boone. The Provine Posse, Jason Harrison, Michael White and Keith Carter, Rahim Lockhart, Andy Kennedy’s first team that improved dramatically, won the SEC West and gave Ole Miss basketball renewed hope. Marshall Henderson. Stefan Moody.

All in all, the Tad Pad has been a fantastic homecourt advantage. When the place is packed, the sound can be suffocating. I’ve always thought opponents were caught somewhat off-guard. You come in to this kind of dumpy looking, little place and then all the sudden you can’t hear yourself dribble.

“I hope we can carry some of that over,” said Andy Kennedy, and he should.

Actually, the ultimate visiting “team” was also named Kennedy. This was March 6,

Robert Kennedy
Robert Kennedy

1966, when Robert F. Kennedy, fewer than four years removed from the Ole Miss riot and his acrimonious dealings with Ross Barnett, came to the brand new Tad Pad to speak. The event was supposed to have been held in Fulton Chapel but the students’ demand to attend led to it being moved to the then-brand new Ole Miss Coliseum, later named for Tad Smith, the long-time athletic director.

Who would have thought it? RFK speaking in Oxford? My great friend Ed Ellington — now a federal bankruptcy judge in Jackson, then an Ole Miss law student, eloquently introduced Kennedy.

“I know there was some controversy about my being invited here,” RFK told the students. “Some compared it with inviting a fox to a henhouse. Some of my friends thought it was more like putting a chicken in a fox house.”

That eased any tension. He had them right then.

As with Pete Maravich, Kennedy was warmly received.

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3 thoughts on “Tad Pad memories: Pete, Coolidge, Gerald, C.J. and RFK”

  1. My first basketball camp I attended Coolidge Ball was one of the instructors…he went out of his way to help me and shared some great pointers.
    I played for Coach Murphy at Delta State and was a Grad Assistant during Gerald’s two years at DSU before he transferred to Ole Miss. Gerald was a special player. I was there for the LSU game, sitting on the aisle steps in the nosebleed section with thunder booming and lightning popping right outside the window. There were no tickets to be had so they just let us go through the coaches’ office and find a seat wherever we could…what a night!!!!
    Thanks for rekindling these memories!!

  2. Rick-

    Thanks for the mention of a personal hero of mine — my father. I still can’t believe the Holmes County man my father is – once set the state on fire by inviting Bobby and Ethel. Thanks to Dickie Scruggs for searching me out to tell me what that night meant for so many young Mississippians. It’s good for a son to know the impact his parents have had in the lives of many.

    I look up to you, and for you to mention my Dads name in this context means a lot…

    Thanks for connecting sports to the story of our culture yet again…

    EC

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