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Scandlon Gymnasium Opened 50 Years Ago

December 2, 2018

Scandlon Gymnasium Opened 50 Years Ago

Notre Dame began the 1968-69 men’s basketball season with high hopes.

The fourth-ranked Fighting Irish had three high school All-Americans — including future No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Austin Carr — and a beast of a schedule that included home games against UCLA and Indiana, as well as trips to Kentucky, the Houston Astrodome and Madison Square Garden.

Notre Dame also, if for only two nights at the start of the season, brought its national spotlight to Wilkes-Barre.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1968, Scandlon Gymnasium opened with a basketball doubleheader; Luzerne County Community College beat the King’s freshman team, 78-65, and then Notre Dame defeated King’s, 84-54.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” former King’s small forward George Reimiller of Edwardsville said this week. “Notre Dame was Notre Dame. They probably had the best talent in the country.”

King’s-Notre Dame was played in front of a standing room-only crowd of about 4,000 at the structure that cost $2.2 million.

The game was reportedly sold out “for some time” before Dec. 3.

“We could have sold 20,000 tickets for that one,” King’s coach Ed Donohue told The Morning Call.

According to reports, Notre Dame arrived by plane Monday, Dec. 2. The Irish then worked out locally before attending a dinner and press conference.

At least one photograph shows Notre Dame posing at Hotel Sterling, formerly in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Game night began with a win for LCCC and coach Jim Atherton, followed shortly after by King’s-Notre Dame.

King’s kept the game close early, trailing 19-18 in the first half. Ron Rose scored a team-high 17 points with 16 rebounds for the Monarchs. Reimiller added 10 points.

Dave Lampman scored eight points, Ron Stepney six, Len Holecki five and Jim Williams had four points. John Angelo and Jerry Janeski added two points each.

Notre Dame ultimately pulled away for a 41-23 halftime lead and cruised from there.

“I think what happened — at the start of the game, we were so pumped up, the adrenaline was flowing, and we took ourselves right out of the game,” Reimiller said. “When that wears off, you get kind of lazy as a team. We just went through the motions and then finally in the second half, the game’s over, but we played basketball for a change.”

The 6-foot-3 Carr scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half, as Reimiller remembers guarding Carr in the second half.

“Everything he was scoring, he wanted to go right,” Reimiller said. “They only had him in there for about 8 minutes (of the second half) because the game was out of hand by then. I just took away the right hand.”

In addition to Carr, Notre Dame started 6-5 Bob Arnzen, 6-8 Sid Catlett, 6-7 Bob Whitmore and 6-4 Tom Sinnott. Donohue remarked Notre Dame’s height played a big factor in the game.

Notre Dame didn’t quite live up to all its preseason hype, though, ranking 17th in the final AP poll without a win in the NCAA tournament. It lost to Miami (Ohio) in regional play.

Carr played two more seasons at Notre Dame and was the 1971 recipient of the Naismith Trophy, given to the most outstanding player in college basketball. He played 10 NBA seasons and remains in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ top-10 in career games, points and assists.

Meanwhile, King’s — then an NCAA Division II program — finished the season 13-12.

The Monarchs hosted a few more major opponents in the season-openers of 1969 (Mount St. Mary’s) and 1970 (Monmouth), but they were nothing like Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame is it — that’s the No. 1 team we played,” Reimiller said. “One year, we were trying to get a game with Spencer Haywood and Detroit. Ed Donohue, being that he was a city guy and he played for Niagara, he wanted to play the best he could get.”

A 2007 article on the King’s website called the December 1968 Notre Dame-King’s game “the greatest spectacle in the college’s athletic history.”

King’s also played road games at Notre Dame the two seasons prior, losing them both.

Prior to Scandlon Gymnasium opening in downtown Wilkes-Barre, King’s played at Coughlin High School and Scandlon Field in Kingston.

Scandlon Gymnasium has undergone many changes in the last 50 years, but the two-story facility remains at 150 N. Main St.

Inside are facilities that house the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as volleyball, wrestling and swimming teams.

Contact the writer:

mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060;

@CVBufano on Twitter

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