Collector’s Corner: No Place Like Carmichael


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No Place Like Carmichael: In this feature of Collector’s Corner Scott remembers Carmichael arena

Collectors have many reasons that fuel their passions.  In my time collecting UNC programs, I have encountered quite a number of passions that differ from mine.  For instance, there is a fellow out there who focuses entirely on the Justice era in football.  I have met others who have complete sets of Carolina basketball schedule posters.  The oddest reason, or at least I thought, was the fellow I met online that collected football programs for their cover art.  Turns out that many collectors desire 1930s and 40s programs for their covers.  Lon Keller was the preeminent cover artist of that era, and I obtained my 1939 Virginia and 1940 Appalachian State programs from such a collector.

From that point, I paid more attention to the beauty (or, at times, lack thereof) of my program covers.  In a future posting I will share my favorite football program cover.  Today, though, I’m sharing the basketball program that makes my eyes smile every time I look at it.

Though I have many basketball programs, I don’t really collect them.  However, when this beauty from the 1978 season appeared on Ebay, I just had to have it.  Why?  Because of its cover.

Pictured beautifully on the cover is a full view of Carmichael Auditorium.  That picture could have been a snapshot straight out of my mind’s eye.  No matter what, Carmichael will always BE Carolina basketball.

Since I started at Carolina during the 1986-87 basketball season, UNC basketball had already moved to the then-named Student Activities Center.   Fortunately for me, Carolina still played a Blue-White game in Carmichael in those days, and I enjoyed that very much.  I remember hoping the bus to Fowler’s Grocery Store following that scrimmage, and before I made it through the checkout line, Steve Bucknall joined the line with a case of beer under his arm.

Prior to actually attending Carolina and the games, UNC basketball occupied mythical proportions in my mind, and Carmichael was very much Valhalla.  I remember how stunned I would always be if Carolina lost in Carmichael.  Seeing as how Carolina lost just 20 games total in the 20-year history of Carmichael, I guess I was not alone in feeling that way.  One of my favorite trivia questions back then was to name the 4 – yes, just four – non-conference teams to beat UNC in Carmichael.  It wasn’t Michigan State and Magic Johnson, who lost in Carmichael the year they beat Larry Bird and Indiana State for the NCAA Championship.  Neither was it Indiana and Isaiah Thomas when they beat UNC for the ’81 title, even though UNC won the regular-season meeting in Carmichael.

In this age of Google, I’ll let you see if you can name the infamous four.  However, if all else fails, leave me a comment, and I’ll tell you.  While you’re at it, see if you can find who “unofficially” made the final basket (a layup) in Carmichael.

I had but one chance to attend an actual game in Carmichael.  That would be the last-ever Carolina-Duke game there, unfortunately won by Duke.  That program is slated for a future story, but, suffice it to say that my awe of actually being in that building tempered my disappointment.

In my opinion, Carolina lost something special when it said goodbye to Carmichael.  The Smith Center is nice, and its capacity needed, but it is no Carmichael.  The combination of that building and Dean Smith and some games one could only catch on the radio perfectly formed the mythos that was Carolina basketball in my youth.  If you look at the cover, you can imagine the vantage I had for my only game there.  The angle’s off a bit, but it’s close enough.  Take a look at that cover, and you’ll see why it will always be one of my favorites.