In his latest installment of insightful, revelatory coverage of U of L basketball at theathletic.com, Jeff Greer visits Freedom Hall with Denny Crum. I was reminded of the following LEO cover story I wrote in March, 2010, during the week of the Cardinals’ final game in the hallowed venue.
As a holiday gift for Red & Black faithful, and college hoops fans everywhere, I repost it.
Phil Rollins has been immersed in the University of Louisville hoops tradition for half a century. His playing days predate Freedom Hall.
As a senior in 1956, he starred on Louisville’s team that ruled Madison Square Garden, winning the NIT. Rollins has been a fixture at Freedom Hall since 1963 after his pro career ended.
He’s red and black to the core. His business card includes a photo of him in his Cardinal uniform and reads “1956 NIT Champs.”
“What I remember is that a lot of people thought Freedom Hall was going to be a white elephant. It’ll never be what they want.
“I was in the service, but made it back for the first game in Freedom Hall. The place was packed. Charlie (Tyra) broke his record. Tommy Hawkins played a great game for Notre Dame.”
U of L contested its first tilt in Freedom Hall on Dec. 21, 1956. By that time, two other games had already been held there: Ed Diddle’s Western Kentucky State College Hilltoppers (later just WKU) bested San Francisco, 61-57. Several days earlier in the official inaugural, Bellarmine played an “exhibition” versus a squad from Fort Knox.
The Cardinals whipped Notre Dame, 85-75, before 13,756 fans in that first bout at the Hall. It was in that game that Tyra, cover boy on the first-ever Street & Smith College Basketball Yearbook, tallied 40, including a perfect 18 for 18 underhanded free throws. Sophomore guard Harold Andrews scored a dozen in his first start. Bill Darragh scored 17. Continue reading Freedom Hall: A Diehard’s Remembrance