Closing Night for Hoops at the Coliseum

Former Auburn star Doc Robinson and Coach Jeff Lebo discuss the end of an era of Auburn basketball with the final game scheduled at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--Former Tiger Doc Robinson, who had a tremendous amount of personal and team success playing in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, says he has found memories of the building, but adds that it is a good thing that AU basketball will have a new home next season.

The final basketball game scheduled for the 42-year-old coliseum is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday when Mississippi State comes to Auburn.

Commenting on the new Auburn Arena, which is scheduled to open this summer, Robinson says, "I think it is going to be a good recruiting tool. A lot of other universities have updated or have gotten new facilities.

"I think it is going to bring a lot of kids that are going to be able to come in and see that Auburn is taking the basketball program seriously," Robinson says. "They are going to want to experience it. They are going to find out that it is probably the best place you can be, the Loveliest Village on the Plains."

Robinson was a bluechip point guard recruit from Selma High who was a key player on Auburn's 1998-99 SEC Championship team that posted a 29-4 record.

He remembers the excitement at the coliseum the night the Tigers defeated Vanderbilt to clinch the league title.

"That was a very exciting game," Robinson says. "The year before Vandy had beaten us up at their place. We were looking to try to get a little revenge. Also, we had an SEC title that was on the line as well that we were trying to win and trying to compete for a number seed in the (NCAA) Tournament. We just wanted to come out and try to impose our will on them.

"The fans were there, they were loud and they were rocking and rolling," Robinson recalls. "After we got the victory, that is when the celebration began. Everyone stayed. I don't even think anyone left that night until we all left the coliseum. It was a wonderful experience and I will never forget it."

Doc Robinson is shown in action playing for the Tigers.

Robinson says he has fond memories of his days at Auburn and playing in the coliseum, particularly the championship season. "For me that was one of the best years that I had while I was over there. I think it was just the excitement of the fans, everybody coming out every night we stepped on the floor.

"In the arena, it was 10,000-plus," he says. "It was standing room only. A lot of people weren't able to get in. I haven't seen the coliseum like that in a while.

"My first and second year we started building a little bit of a fan base, but that year everybody came out to support us," he adds. "There was so much energy. It was like that sixth man. Beard-Eaves Memorial was just rocking and rolling. That was the best time. I will never forget that."

Wednesday night's game will also be the final home contest for Lucas Hargrove and the rest of the Auburn seniors.

This season's Tigers aren't playing for NCAA Tournament seeding, but the opponent is. Mississippi State is 21-8 overall and 9-5 in the SEC. Auburn is trying to post a winning record this year. The Tigers are currently 14-15 overall and 5-9 in the conference.

The Bulldogs are led by 6-9, 230 senior Jarvis Varnado, who averages 13.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game. He broke the NCAA record for career blocks in his last outing and has 536.

Jarvis Varnado

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo notes that with Varnado in the game it is tough to score anywhere close to the basket.

Lebo is hoping the Tigers will rise to occasion to win the last game at the coliseum like the women's team did in its last game on Sunday vs. Kentucky.

"The history of the building and the last game, there are so many memories," Lebo says. "It is the 42nd year of playing in the building. I think it kind of brings a little bit of added pressure to our team to play well and try to end it the right way."

Lebo adds, "There are a lot of great coaches and former players who have played in the building who have a lot of fond memories. They have spent a lot of time, not only games, but practicing in this building. We certainly want to send it out the right way."

The game will also be Senior Night for starters Lucas Hargrove, Tay Waller, DeWayne Reed and Johnnie Lett plus backup center Brendon Knox. "That is something that has kind of got shoveled underneath with the last game in the coliseum," Lebo notes.

"We have a lot of seniors," he says. "A lot of guys who put forth a lot of time and effort in this program. Two of those guys have been with me for four years and we are excited about them (Hargrove and Reed) both getting their degree this semester. Again with the last game and Senior Night, it gives a lot of added pressure to the game for everybody."

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