Remember the first time you stepped into a historic building?
I certainly do.
During my early years in journalism, I enjoyed the perk of covering Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.
Cameron Indoor Stadium was my first-ever stop.
That particular afternoon, Juan Dixon and his Maryland teammates upset Duke on a Sunday afternoon.
About a week later, I headed to Chapel Hill for a matinee game inside Carmichael Auditorium. If I remember correctly, the newly-minted Dean E. Smith Center had been reserved for a concert, which meant I’d finally get to see where Tar Heel basketball was born.
I showed my press credential and stepped inside the door.
I took a deep breath, peaked around a breezeway and saw that powder blue midcourt logo glowing in the lights. I snapped a pic or two and heard someone ask, “can I help you, sir?”
“First time here,” I said.
“Oh yeah?” they replied.
Our conversation lasted about 10 minutes as we walked around the concourse.
I had never seen so many concession and memorabilia stands in all my life. To this day, I can still smell the freshly-cooked popcorn and pretzels.
My unofficial tour guide walked me around to press row and I eagerly looked for my spot.
There it was - “Rudy Coggins, The Evening Telegram.”
I put my camera bag in the chair, grabbed the camera and walked down to the court.
“Looks bigger on TV,” I said to no one.
Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Donald Williams stepped onto the floor. Jeff McInnis soon followed, along with Dante Calabria.
The thud of balls bouncing off the hardwood filled the air.
Serge Zwikker and Shammond Williams joined the group. I remember Zwikker working on post moves underneath and Williams launching 3-pointers while he joked with Stackhouse and Wallace.
Awe struck by my view, I heard someone say, “heads!”
Seconds later, I ducked a ball that caromed off the rim and into McInnis’ waiting hands.
I glanced up at the scoreboard and saw we had about 30 minutes before tip-off. The guys put the balls back on the rack, trotted toward the locker room and I climbed back up the steps to my seat on press row.
I won’t bore you with the details of the next two-plus hours, but I can tell you this:
And I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my dad about my first visit to Carmichael, which wouldn’t be my last.
Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com