Basketball Museum Puts Fans Into the Game
The steering committee of the Carolina Basketball
Museum spent a long time trying to find a synonym
for “museum,” a word members thought too stuffy for
the game-day excitement they hoped to re-create. They
abandoned the search after Terry Healy of the museum’s
designer, Gallagher & Associates, advised, “If you make
it good enough, they won’t care what you call it.”
Alumni and friends heard that and other inside
anecdotes of how the collection of basketball memorabilia came together to capture the thrill of the sport’s
legacy during a GAA Lifelong Learning program Feb.
7. The program culminated in a tour of the new museum in the Ernie Williamson Athletics Center next to
the Dean Smith Center and Koury Natatorium.
Associate Athletics Director Steve Kirschner, writer and
author Adam Lucas, and sports statistician, history buff
and writer Freddie Kiger ’ 74 — all members of the
committee that oversees the museum — talked about
the part each played in taking the shrine from dream to
reality. Lucas, who wrote the text explaining the displays, contributed some of the artifacts he and his
father had collected over the years. Kiger wrote the
scripts for the videos, and Kirschner took the lead in
soliciting the more than 450 items on display.
“This is a living, breathing museum,” Kiger said.
“You’ll come back again and again, because you can’t
absorb it all in one visit.”
Former Carolina basketball star Lennie Rosenbluth
’ 57 attested to that as he stopped by the museum for
his third time since it opened Jan. 28. He likes the
interactive video displays, where visitors can push a
button and view video clips of basketball highlights for
a given year.
“The first button I pushed was 1957,” said
Rosenbluth, who was National Player of the Year on
that championship team. “If you’re a Carolina basketball
fan, this is heaven, Blue Heaven.”
A pulsating six-minute video shown on a 12-foot-
high concave screen envelops visitors with the tingling
anticipation of game day at the Dean Dome, then sends
them out to the 8,000 square feet of basketball history.
Look up for video clips of game highlights and interviews with coaches and players. Look down for game
balls and famous shoes in the glass cases embedded in
the glossy wood gym floor. Motion sensors start videos
and radio broadcasts when visitors arrive. Glass cases
display memorabilia such as jerseys, playbooks, championship rings and trophies. As of early February, 84 players and coaches past and present had signed the giant
UNC logo hanging on one wall.
Judging by the footprints painted on the floor marking spots where Tar Heel stars made crucial shots,
Michael Jordan ’ 86 pushes off for a dunk where most
SARAH MCCART Y ARNESON ’ 96
There are more than 450 artifacts for fans to browse among at the Carolina
Basketball Museum. Besides trophies, uniforms and the center court section
from the 2005 national championship in St. Louis, highlights include videos
from great games and tributes to players and coaches.
people might try for a longshot “R” in a game of
HORSE. The basket is an impressive distance from
where Pete Brennan ’ 58 halted to make a clutch
jumper that forced a second overtime in a national
semifinal against Michigan State in 1957, or where
Rick Fox ’ 91 banked a shot with no time left to beat
Oklahoma in 1990. The ball frozen in the goal is the
coolest sight for D’Monte Kinney, a Chapel Hill sec-ond-grader. “They have a lock on it so it won’t fall,” he
Vicki Lotz, widow of John Lotz, assistant coach
under Dean Smith, pointed out her nattily dressed husband in a mural along one wall. “The museum is just
beautiful,” she said. “It brings back memories of some
wonderful times of Carolina basketball.”
Bill Walker ’ 65 started going to games in Woollen
Gym and has followed the team to the Smith Center.
“It’s a part of my life,” he said, his eyes darting back to
the video of an interview with Dean Smith. “I have a
very personal reaction, because I’ve lived so many of
the great moments.”
One piece of history the museum doesn’t have,
Kirschner said, is the bloodied jersey from when a
Duke player broke Tyler Hansbrough’s nose during
Carolina’s win in 2007. As soon as Hansbrough took it
off, the ultra-efficient equipment manager threw it in
the wash. Kirschner made do with the Lucite mask the
sophomore star wore for the next few games. ■
— Nancy Oates
The Carolina Basketball Museum is free; parking is in the
lot across Skipper Bowles Drive out front. On non-game
days, it is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On game days, the museum closes one hour before tip-off; on
weekend game days, it opens three and a half hours before the