The Walsh Gymnasium at which the students arrived Monday is hardly the one that Bill Raftery, the college basketball commentator and a former Seton Hall coach, remembers — dim with poor lighting and a dark floor, warped near midcourt after a flood, that resembled a poor man’s parquet.
It is now gleaming after a series of renovations with blue-and-white chairs replacing most of the bleachers, a bleached wood floor with a Pirate logo in the center, and team offices replacing most of the seating behind one basket, making the building built in 1939 a clean, contemporary home for Seton Hall’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams, and where the men’s basketball team occasionally plays a nonconference game.
Still, a stage remains at one end of the court, the same one graced in the mid-1970s by Bruce Springsteen for a pair of concerts after he released “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”
Don Bunch, the Rochester Royals and the Harlem Globetrotters have played on the court, which also hosted the first Big East Conference game, Boston College’s win over Seton Hall on Dec. 11, 1979.
Raftery was on the sidelines then.
He described the old gyms in the Big East as intimate and intense, where coaches knew they had a home-court advantage. Lou Carnesecca, the St. John’s coach, would remark that every year he visited Seton Hall, the same window would be broken in the visitor’s locker room. Rollie Massimino, the Villanova coach, used to have two priests sit behind the bench at Nevin Fieldhouse, the 2,200-seat on-campus gym known as the Cat House.