100 Harmon Gym The Basketball Arena at Cal was for a while known as the Men's Gym, then as Harmon Gym afterwards it was changed to Harmon Arena (under Coach Campeinelli) and now after the $11 million dollar retrofit in the late 90s, Haas Pavilion. And while Haas Pavilion is certainly a very nice place to watch a game, to me, nothing will equal the electricity and pure mayhem that was 100 Harmon Gym.
More after the jump As a huge basketball fan, I had certainly picked a fortuitous time to attend Cal. Already at Cal were 3-time all-Pac-10 performer Brian Hendrick, as well as up-and-coming forward combo Al Grigsby and Lamond Murray, but the key was incoming freshman and all-state performer shooting guard Jerod Haase. No, wait, I mean McDonald's All American Jason Kidd. Yeah, he was the good one.
Having a good basketball team was only part of the puzzle - the other part was provided by the building itself. The LA Times once described as "looking straight out of Hoosiers," - and it was. Tiny (seated only 6,900) little bandbox with the Straw Hat band on one end and the student section - not only right at mid-court, but right ON the court. Literally on the court. Like if you took a step forward, you could set a pick. Like when they did sideline out-of-bounds plays, you had to either move or press really far against the the 2nd row of students. And what an atmosphere it was. Every Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, people would line up early to get the front section - or even the front row to a. Get on television and b. get the closest heckling space to the game. 6,900 people - all of whom are wearing pretty heavy sweatshirts and coats - and with everybody jumping and screaming for 2.5 hours straight - well it got really steamy, like a sauna, or Twist's bathroom. How early did people line up? Well, during the 4 years I was there (1992 - 1996) I got to see some pretty good (not great, but pretty good) Cal teams - along with NBA players Jason Kidd, Lamond Murray, Michael "Yogi" Stewart, Sean "Kiwi" Marks, Tremaine Fowlkes *cough*, Ed Gray, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and NFL star Tony Gonzalez. With such star power, premium seating was limited and in high demand - and with a first-come, first-serve student section, trying to get front row seats was like a game of chicken. During my sophomore, junior and senior years - I'd wander by Harmon every hour or two hours, just to see if there was a line - if there was, I'd get in it. Usually for normal games - say an out of conference game or Washington State, the line would start at about 3:30pm for a 7:30pm tip, or 9am for a 12:30pm tip on Saturday. If it was a bigger game, say Oklahoma State with Big Country Reeves or Stanfurd, people would start lining up at lunch. The biggest games (Arizona and UCLA) usually went to the Oakland Coliseum except for one magical time we got UofA in Harmon - this was one of the really great Lute teams - with Damon Stoudamire, Reggie Geary, Miles Simon and Khalid Reeves.
via media.scout.com (I really really really hated Reggie Geary)
And I happened to walk by the Harmon Gym student entrance at 7:00pm the night before. . . and there were people already waiting, so I got in line and left a voice mail for my friends. (Yes! No cell phones! and only drug dealers had pagers!) And we spent 24 hours waiting for the front row in a basketball game. Despite the loss it was one of my favorite memories at Cal. In fact, the whole "front of the line, front row" culture that developed those four years are some of my favorite memories - replete with the informal line rules (no cutting, no holding places for people who show up 10 minutes before game time, know your group, no interlopers unless they're willing to put in the time in line, etc. etc.) OK, now I'm tired of writing in complete paragraphs, so here's some of my favorite Harmon memories in small paragraph form:
Cal vs. Oklahoma State - ESPN with Dickie V. It's Harmon Hysteria, Baby! (Still one of my favorite Cal shirts - next time I'm home I'm going to pick it up). We ran them out of our gym, even with NBA lottery pick Bryant Reeves. Big Country got heated up in our sweat box, and his skin turned bright red. Combine the Berkeley stereotype of Oklahoma + Big Country's bright red skin + "Take off that red shirt" chant = "Take off that red neck!" directed at Reeves for what seemed like 10 straight minutes. Reeves got so flustered that he tripped over the mid-court line back-pedalling on defense - which led to the start-up of the chant again.
Getting into trash talking battles with opposing players from David Crouse at USC ("Hey Crouse! Get off that bench and do something!") to Jason Terry at Arizona ("Socks!") to Reggie Geary at Arizona to Brevin Knight at Stanfurd - the student section was close enough to the court and the acoustics good enough that conversations could be had with opposing players. This didn't always work as one guy once got into a running trash talk battle with Ike Fontaine at WSU, and pissed him off enough that he hit some absurd number of three pointers on his way to 30+ points and a win in Harmon. After every shot he made (and he made a lot) he'd look over at the guy and yell "What else you got!?" It got so bad that half the Cal student section was telling the guy to shut up and stop pissing Ike off.
Cal vs. USC - 1993. 1 game after Bozeman started as head coach mid-season, we got annoying USC and super-annoying Burt Harris (picture a not-as-athletic, but still pretty good Nate Robinson). They came into our house, took us to over-time but Jason Kidd took the game over down the stretch, including rebounding his own miss for an and1 play to seal the game. It was the loudest building I've ever been in - my ears were ringing for 2 days afterwards. Oh, and we rushed the court - well that was pretty easy, it's just one step forward.
While the California Marching band is one of my favorite things about the university and football - I feel their full creativity only comes out with the Straw Hat Band - the more mischievous, zanier, wackier younger sibling. (At their most awesome at Cal Ice Hockey games, but that's another post). I love love love the Straw Hat band and all of their traditions in Harmon. One of which I think (I think - because I've only been to about 10 games at Haas) has been lost has been "TUNNNNNAAAAA". The story is this - back in the mid-80's, there was a really talented, but nervous player at UCLA who had the number "42" and the band would get on him mercilessly. "HEY FORTY-TWOOOOOOOO" - every time he caught the ball, and he'd drop it or misplay it somehow. Over time "FORTY TWOOOO" became "TUNAAAA" and the band exported it from just using it against UCLA to all schools. Where now, the band in the first quarter would go "Hey, Number 12! You're our TUNA for tonight! Tu-Na! Tu-Na! Tu-Na!" - then for the rest of the night, every time the guy caught the ball, "TUNA!!!!" I miss that. . .and the singing of Hail to California.
I ended up stacking my classes my junior and senior years on Monday Wednesday Friday during Spring Semester so that I could have the entire Thursday off - me and my friend S. would have a standard routine. Thursday nights was IB Hoagies (Cheese steak with, no hot sauce for me, Meatball, no hot sauce for him - with a Snapple Ice Tea and a Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale and the Contra Costa County times - on Saturdays it was two Egg Mit bagels from the newly opened Noah's - and the Coco Times) And it was always the same 40 people at the front of the line, except for the very big games.Haas is a really nice and pleasant place to watch a game, but Harmon was a real home-court advantage. As Jason Kidd said in the "Kidd from Cal" - "People talk about the Dukes and Oregons and UCLAs of the world, but I think Harmon can fight with any of them." I've written a lot of words here, but I still don't think I'm doing 100 Harmon Gym any justice. Just know this - it was the loudest, most claustrophobic, steamiest little bandbox of a gym, and while I understand the economics behind Haas Pavilion, I think our athletic program is slightly poorer for it.