Tinker Returning for Final Beard-Eaves Game

Comments from former Tigers Wally Tinker and Bill Alexander are featured as Auburn basketball prepares to end the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum era.

Auburn, Ala.--Wally Tinker, who scored the first points in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum basketball history, plans to return to Auburn on Wednesday night to watch what is expected to be the last college basketball game in the 42-year-old arena.

Auburn and Mississippi State will play at 7 p.m. in the regular season finale for both teams. Next season Auburn will move across the street into its new arena that is scheduled to be completed this summer.

On Jan. 11, 1969 Tinker and the Tigers opened the building with a 90-71 victory over an LSU team featuring superstar guard "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

Unless a Mississippi State player scores 46 or more points on Wednesday night, Maravich's total from the first game will stand as record for the most points scored in the arena by a visiting player.

The Tigers opened the 1968-69 season playing in the now gone Sports Arena, which was known affectionately to Auburn players and fans as "The Barn," because the new Memorial Coliseum wasn't ready when the season began.

For the first game at the coliseum vs. LSU, the contest was played without the floor level pullout seats that were late being installed.

Tinker remembers the festive atmosphere of opening night in the new building plus the buzz of Maravich being in town. On his previous visit to Auburn, more than 10,000 fans were in line two hours before tipoff trying to get into the 2,500-seat arena that was originally built as a World War II?airplane hangar.

"It was a lot of fun because we had played in The Barn for so long," Tinker says. "It only held two or three thousand people, then we moved into the big coliseum and there were several thousand there.

"The most memorable thing was Coach (Bill) Lynn told me that my job was to guard Pistol Pete Maravich so that was a big memory for me there and a big thrill for me to get to guard him because he was the best around," Tinker says.

"We didn't practice much in the new coliseum before we played them, but we put a pretty good whipping on them," Tinker recalls. "We beat them 90-something to 70-something so that was a thrill. There have been a lot of games in there since then that I really enjoyed."

The first two floors in the coliseum were a rubberized surface called Tartan that most players disliked. "It was hard on our knees and feet because it was so much different," Tinker says.

The Tartan, which would harden with use and caused injuries, was replaced by a portable hardwood floor and that was replaced by a permanent hardwood floor that is in use today.

The current coliseum floor was installed in 2006.

Remembering the first game in 1969 at the coliseum, Tinker says keeping up with Maravich was a major chore. In fact, he remembers looking at his shoes and seeing sweat dripping out he was so hot.

"I think it was right before halftime we lined up on the free throw line and Pete was beside me and I looked over at him and told him we were going to have to slow down and he looked at me and said, ‘We are just getting started.' I said it's going to be a long night tonight. He hadn't even broken a sweat hardly.

"It was enjoyable playing against him and playing in the new coliseum that first game because there were so many people there and we weren't used to that," Tinker notes. "We were just used to a couple of thousand in there and then we moved to that place and it was huge. We hadn't practiced in it. We were just getting started. I was so tired when the game was over that I could hardly walk, but we won and that was the big thing about it."

Bill Alexander, the starting center for the Tigers in the first game at the coliseum, remembers the event.

"Wally would take Maravich and we ran a switching man-to-man," Alexander says. "Every now and then he would get close to me and I would have to guard him. I would sure try to push him back toward Wally.

"Wally Tinker was the epitome of a teammate that any person could ever have in college basketball because he was the most unselfish player we had on our team," Alexander says. "I think Wally would rather give you an assist than he had to make a basket. It was very fitting that Wally made the first basket in the coliseum because the most unselfish player got to do it so it was a big highlight for all of us because Wally got to make it."

Auburn will look for its fifth straight home victory on Wednesday night to close the coliseum. The Tigers are 14-15 overall and 5-9 in the SEC. Mississippi State, which is trying to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, is 21-8 overall and 9-5 in the SEC.

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