The Barn, another city icon, will meet its end

The Barn door has been closed. It sits in silence as the final days of summer pass by.

Xavier University’s 74-year-old basketball palace is considered by many one of the city’s forgotten treasures that will never take its place among the landmarks in New Orleans’ registry of historic icons.

Instead, it will soon succumb to the wrecking claw of progress and crumble back to the earth from which it sprang.

Over its life span, The Barn became a building in which time stood still for many alumni who returned to reflect on their time at Xavier. But it will soon be time to go for the 1,300-seat gym.

 

New center going up

As many old and outdated facilities have ended their time of service, The Barn is no longer adequate enough to facilitate indoor athletics at the university. It will be replaced by a new 4,500-seat Convocation Academic Center that will be constructed across Washington Avenue on a site bounded by Short, Stroelitz and Palm streets in the fall of 2012.

The Center, which will be linked to the campus via a pedestrian bridge, will house the athletics program and hold other large-scale events, noted Xavier’s Sports Information Director Ed Cassiere.

Yes, the old has to give way to the new as part of the balance of nature. And The Barn will be just another memory.

But there was a time when the building made its mark on history as a basketball facility.

Opened in 1937 and known as Xavier Gymnasium at the time, the building was dedicated by New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel on Nov. 2. The first basketball game was played on Dec. 29, a 32-19 victory by the Gold Rush over Alabama State.

The Barn became a training ground for several notable and some not-so-notable participants.

The 1942-43 team included 6-foot-8 Nathaniel Clifton, who became known as “Sweetwater.” After serving in the Army during World War II following his graduation, Clifton played two years with the Harlem Globetrotters before becoming one of the first African Americans to be signed to an NBA contract (with the New York Knicks).

 

And who can forget the magical seasons of 1972-73 and 1973-74 when Donald “Slick” Watts of Rolling Fork, Miss., and Booker T. Washington standouts Bruce Seals, James Williams and Greg Berniard enjoyed back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1930s and won two NAIA district championships. Former St. Augustine coach Bernard Griffith was another featured player on that team.

Watts went on to an All-Star career with the Seattle Supersonics and played for the Jazz during their final years in New Orleans. He was recently inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Seals, named the Most Valuable Player in Louisiana high school basketball in 1971, played in both the American Basketball Association with the Utah Stars and in the NBA with the Supersonics.

 

Other NBA players like Louisiana Tech’s Karl Malone and Southern University’s Avery Johnson were known to frequent The Barn in the off-season to face competition they deemed tougher than their college counterparts from the local “black top” players that prevailed.

One was a kid named Lou Williams, who was also known as “The One and Only.” He was so gifted, it was said he received scholarship offers from many D-I college coaches, but turned them down because he really didn’t care about the game. Go figure.

Ron Brocato can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

THE BARN FACTS

  •  Xavier’s men won 50 straight games in the early 1970s. Xavier’s women topped that by winning 51 in a row in the late 1990s.
  • Xavier’s women have been virtually unbeatable in The Barn in the last 18 seasons.  Beginning with Janice Joseph’s arrival as head coach for the 1992-93 season, the Gold Nuggets have posted a 233-19 record at home; 76-4 under Joseph in six seasons and 157-15 in 12 seasons under Bo Brower. The women will enter the 2011-12 season with an 11-game Barn win streak.
  • Brower’s teams won 39 straight at The Barn from 2002-06.
  • Xavier’s women have won NAIA district or Gulf Coast Athletic Conference title games at The Barn in 1990, 1994, 1995 and 2010. The Gold Rush did the same  in 1982 and finished 18-0 at home that season.
  • Since the start of the 2000-01 season, Xavier’s Gold Nuggets have fewer losses at The Barn (10) than the Tennessee Lady Vols have on their home court (11).

 

 

 

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