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More Butler Basketball

Game Day at Hinkle Fieldhouse

By Bill Kintner

December 2nd

Game Day at Hinkle Fieldhouse

It is a cloudy November day in Indianapolis as the fans stream into historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Just about everyone seems to be wearing dark blue clothing except for a few fans from the opposing team, Miami University, wearing red.


Warming Up For The Game

The hallway that circles the outside of the seating bowl is jammed with fans heading for their seats or the overcrowded concession stands.   Hinkle doesn’t have a big spacious lobby or wide well lit concourses that can handle the crowds that come to see their beloved Bulldogs.  There are no corporate luxury boxes, no fancy score boards, padded seats or cup holders.  As a matter of fact Hinkle doesn’t have any of the modern amenities that fans have become accustomed to in college basketball arenas.   But that doesn’t matter to the about 5000 fans that are here to enjoy today’s game,


Hinkle was built in 1928 and at the time it was “the arena” in the basketball crazy state of

Indiana.   Over the years the “Fieldhouse” has been renovated a number of times but it still retains the charm of a 76-year-old gym.   Butler has added seats down low on the sides, but the majority of the seating is still wooden bleachers just like the Palastra in Philadelphia, which was built in 1928.


As the fans enter the seating bowl the band is blaring out hits from the last four decades of music.  Having a student pep band and a very good one at that, seems to just fit in with the atmosphere rather than playing recorded rock music like a lot of arenas do.  The dance team looks like the most All-American girls you can imagine.  Smiles from ear-to-ear, no over-bleach blondes, no tattoos and no suggestive out-fits.  Just good clean fun


Miami Coach Charlie Coles

As the game gets rolling Miami jumps out to a 9-6 lead.  With each basket that the Bulldogs make the crowd screams louder, the students jump and clap at a faster pace and the atmosphere becomes what makes college basketball so special.  No sushi serving, luxury box, padded seat, corporate NBA arena could ever touch the atmosphere of Hinkle Fieldhouse.   In my book, a bad day at Hinkle is better than a good day at any NBA arena,   


Cazzie Russell

By Butler Sports Information

By half time the score is tied at 21-21.  As the dance team performs I look up into the balcony and see Butler Hall of Famer Ed Schilling sitting with his sidekick Hershel Glass.  I can close my eyes and almost see the nearly six foot, seven Schilling known as the “Big Chill” streaking down the court and pulling up to sink a 12 foot jump shot.  Or elbowing Michigan great Cazzie Russell out of the way to pull down one of the twelve rebounds he averaged a game as a player at Butler.


The second half starts and Butler pulls ahead at the 17-minute mark 26-21.  As Miami’s Chet Mason goes streaking by my courtside seat I can imagine what it must have been like to see Oscar Robertson as an Indianapolis high schools player destroying his opponents in the 1950’s at what was then known as the Butler Fieldhouse.


As the game goes on Butler begins to methodically break down Miami’s defense.  They start draining treys.  Butler’s Bruce Horan leads the three parade.  He didn’t take a shot inside the arc.  He ended up 5-10 and made a free throw for 16 total points.  You could see a little Steve Alford in him.  Alford as a high school player once scored over 50 points on this same court at Hinkle Fieldhouse.


Larry Bird, George McGinnis, Damon Bailey all played games at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  In fact, about every great player that grew up in Indiana played at one time or another in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.


Over the years there has been some incredible shooting on the floor at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  To this day games are still played on the original floor.  In February of 1987 a little guard for Butler named Darrin Fitzgerald lit up Detroit for 54 points.  He went on to score 2019 points making him the second all-time Butler scorer in history.   Even more amazing was on that same team there was a player named Chad Tucker who scored 2321 points to become Butler’s all-time leading scorer


How could anyone talk about Indiana basketball without mentioning Bobby Plump?  He is the player from tiny Milan High School who made the shot to beat Muncie Central High School in 1954 Indiana High School Championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Without that shot there would have been no movie called Hoosiers, which by the way the key game scenes were shot on the court of ……… guessed it, Hinkle Fieldhouse.   What many people don’t know is that Plump went on to have a stellar career at Butler averaging 16.4 points per game and ending up the tenth all-time scorer in Butler history with 1439 points.


Hinkle From Outside

By Butler Sports Information

But when you talk about scoring the name that comes to mind is Billy Shepherd.  In 1969-70 season he averaged 27.8 points a game!  That is not a typo he really did score 27.8 points per game.  For his career he averaged 24.1 points per game before the three point shot.   He went on to play in the ABA.


Going back a bit there was a player named Ralph “Buckshot” O’Brien.  Another Indiana prep player who played for the Bulldogs.  He was known for both his ball-handling and outside shooting.  He ended up with a 13.9 scoring average, but if there were three point shots who knows how many he would have scored.   I have to admit his nickname makes him a player to remember almost as much as his basketball talent.


When I just think back over the last few years there are plenty of memories.  Darnell Archey setting the NCAA record with 85 consecutive free throws during the 2001 to 2003 seasons.  It started at Hinkle on February 15, 2001 against UWM and it ended January 18, 2003 again at Hinkle against Youngstown State.  I remember Butler’s 6’6” Mike Marshall pushing Wright State’s 6’10” center Israel Sheinfeld all over the place.   Brandon Miller driving to the basket creating havoc with opponent’s defense.  Thad Matta storming the sidelines or the calm, measured Todd Lickliter clapping his hands encouraging his team.   An interesting side note………Matta, Lickliter and Barry Collier not only coached at Butler but also played for Butler.      


Or how about all the players that came to Hinkle to play against the Bulldogs who now are in the NBA Willie Green, Vitaly Potapenko, Brian Grant, Aaron Williams, Bonzai Wells and that is just off the top of my head.  Boy I could spend an hour naming all the great players that played at Hinkle and then played in the NBA.


"Tony" Hinkle

By Butler Sports Information

You can name a ton of greats that played at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but really you have to go back to Tony Hinkle to see where it all started.  He even pre-dates the Fieldhouse which opened in 1928 with a 21-13 overtime win over Notre Dame.  Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle came to Butler as an assistant coach in 1921.  He became the head coach for the 1926-27 season going 17-4.  In 1929 under Hinkle Butler became the National Collegiate Champions.  He retired as coach in 1970 after 41 years with 560 wins. 


Tony Hinkle is the man that molded Butler’s athletic tradition.  He served as not only a coach, but a teacher and athletic administrator.  He even coached the baseball and football teams too.  He had over 1000 collegiate victories which makes him one of the top 3 sport coaches of all-time.  What I find most fascinating is that he originated the orange colored basketballs now used by the NCAA.  Until the late 1950’s basketballs were dark brown, but Hinkle wanted a ball that could be better seen by players and fans.  He worked with The Spaulding Company to come up with a new ball, which was tested at the 1958 NCAA Finals in Louisville.  The NCAA was impressed and the new orange ball was adopted.  


Hinkle Fieldhouse has reined as one of the greatest sports arenas for over seven decades.  During that time it has stood the test of time, maintaining the splendor, character and atmosphere that made it one of the most famous basketball arenas more than a half century ago.  In addition to being the home of the storied Bulldogs Hinkle Fieldhouse hosted the Indiana high school basketball tournament from 1928-1971 with a brief interruption during World War II.  It also hosted the first USSR-USA basketball game, all-star games for both the NBA and ABA, college all-star games, four US Presidents and a Billy Graham Crusade.   And I once smoked a cigar in Hinkle Fieldhouse with the Big Chill as Todd Lickliter looked on nervously.  Surely that ranks among the great moments. 


The Final Score

Back to the game at hand.  Butler goes 8-12 from three point land to hand the Miami Redhawks their first loss 61-48.  It is a good game between two very good teams.   Both Charlie Coles and Todd Lickliter are great coaches that recruit good student athletes.  Both teams play a solid team oriented game and there isn’t a better place to watch these teams play in than Hinkle Fieldhouse. 


The only thing missing on this cloudy day was the sun shining through the windows at the top of Hinkle Fieldhouse.  When that happens it seems like I am in heaven.  


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