Basketball was one of my seasonal beats when I was a sportswriter at the Sun Herald in Gulfport, Miss.
Though it was always a bonus to get paid for work I might have done for free, I had to deal with deadline pressures and cantankerous coaches and fans.
It’s a relief the stressful part ended many years ago, when I stopped covering basketball, but I still enjoy watching it, and the first game I attended since I retired in March 2017 was the Memphis-Tulane contest on Feb. 17 in New Orleans.
It was my third trip to Fogelman Arena, the small gymnasium on campus, and my first since the night I covered a Southern Miss-Tulane game in 1992, my last year as a sportswriter.
The Memphis game was a 2 p.m. tipoff and I went to it with Biloxi and Gulfport Sports Hall of Famer Doug Barber, my longtime Sun Herald sportswriting colleague and a Tulane graduate.
The game was close, Tubby Smith’s Tigers holding off Mike Dunleavy Sr.’s Green Wave, and before we left Fogelman, I told Doug about my first visit to the Tulane gym.
We walked through the lower seating area behind the goal at the east end of the court, and I pointed to a spot where I saw Pete Maravich when the New Orleans Jazz held their first media day. That was in 1974, months after the Atlanta Hawks traded Maravich to the newest team in the NBA, and back then, Fogelman wasn’t known as Fogelman.
I was there with Cliff Kirkland, my sportswriter friend, and we were hoping to interview The Pistol, already a legend after playing at LSU. The thing is, a New Orleans reporter was having a long one-on-one interview with Maravich and Cliff and I didn’t want to be known as the 22-year-old Mississippi rubes who interrupted them, so we went to the other end of the gym and talked to Steve Kuberski, who was a Boston Celtics rookie in 1969-70, my senior year in high school.
Perhaps Cliff and I were bad karma for Kuberski, because he never played for the Jazz. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in October 1974.
In their first season, the Jazz played some of their home games at Loyola Field House, which was about one block down Freret Street from the Tulane gym, and it was a place that also hosted concerts.
It was torn down years ago for a Loyola University recreational sports complex and free parking garage, and that’s where Doug parked his car. Yeah, Tulane and Loyola are in the same Uptown neighborhood.
I wonder if Doug parked in the spot where I saw Herb Alpert back in the 1960s. My brother Mike and I went with our parents to see Alpert and the Tijuana Brass at the height of their popularity.
Dad was a fan of the band, the makers of mariachi Muzak, and Mike and I were Beatles fanboys.
I remember a man behind us saying he was happy to see that teens were getting away from rock and roll.
Man, little did he know. Ever since, it’s only rock and roll.