Johnson City Plans to Renovate Civic Center

Freedom Hall in Johnson City TNJohnson City, Tn. – We’ve all seen the various media reports now. Johnson City is FINALLY looking to invest in major renovations for the venerable Freedom Hall Civic Center. The venue has seen some fantastic shows over the years, Elvis, Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis, AC/DC, and even the 16 time world heavyweight champion Ric Flair has graced the halls of the once proud venue. But years of neglect have taken a toll on the place. Cracked walls, plumbing, HVAC, and old, worn out seats are just some of the issues facing the building opened in the 1970’s. Since that initial night, very little has been done to update Freedom Hall. This past week, the city has made clear its’ goal of allocating 12 million dollars to give it a facelift. Bucs fans should be ecstatic this is happening. Now I’m the first to say even with the renovations, Freedom Hall is a bandage for a much larger issue (a new arena), but we’ll get to that another day. What is it you would like to see that would make Freedom Hall better, not just for basketball and entertainment, but for fans and patrons of the venue? For me it all starts with tickets, traffic, and toilet paper. The bathrooms there are terrible. Anytime I’ve been in the facility with more than 3000 people, there’s standing water in the men’s bathrooms. Traffic and tickets are always a nightmare. Part of traffic is people simply can’t drive, but a huge part is parking over there really isn’t all that great. Getting into the place is also inconvenient. There never seems to be enough people working the doors to get people in, so you have to get in obscenely early to ensure you don’t miss the start of anything. Next comes the seats. The seats have NEVER been replaced in Freedom Hall. Now for those of you who remember Willie Nelson, Lynard Skynard, and some of the shows of the 70’s and 80’s, think long and hard about what’s been on those seats over the years.

It’s long overdue, and with the right leadership running Freedom Hall, it could attract better entertainment that would provide a nice boost in the local and regional economy. But in the process, let’s hope the city is in a silent, pre planning phase for a long term solution that involves a new, downtown arena and convention center that can attract the truly big names of the music and entertainment industry.

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New ETSU coach has energized the Bucs fan base.

April 7th, 2015 – The excitement is back for ETSU men’s basketball. When the announcement was made that long time head coach Murry Bartow would not be retained as head coach, it created a buzz across coach who was one of the winningest coaches in the history of the program, had taken the team to multiple postseason appearances and never finished worse than fourth during the Bucs time in the Atlantic Sun. Nationally, people didn’t understand that fans were tired of the same ol’, same ol’. 15-20 wins a year, no real shot at winning an NCAA tournament game or two like it was when Ed DeChellis, Alan LeForce or Les Robinson were around. Even coach Bartow had become complacent on the sidelines. Fans were drinking the sand, accepting a program that had sunk into mediocrity in the A-Sun. Then something happened, ETSU brought in a new president and athletic director. All this new energy saw the women’s program get a young, energetic coach that was able to mold a talented, but underachieving group into nearly winning the Southern Conference tournament this year over nationally ranked Chattanooga. Then the whispers started happening. Private messages, text messages, and phone conversations everywhere that a change was imminent. Could it be true? Then it happened. Speculation over the 16th head coach at ETSU was rampant. Bucs fans had set their sights on long time Tennessee assistant coach Steve Forbes, who had made his way out to Wichita State to work with Greg Marshall after a dustup with the NCAA. So many candidates, Mike Morrell, Keith “Mister” Jennings, even long time UTC coach and ETSU alum John Shulman was mentioned to be in the mix along with Forbes. Then ETSU athletic director Dr. Richard Sander made the magic happen, he brought in Steve Forbes, and sent a shock wave throughout college basketball. ETSU fans couldn’t be happier.   You can sometimes gauge excitement by the activity on a message board. ETSU’s season has been over for a month now, and fans are already posting about next season. There’s talk that even fans who are upset over the Freedom Hall move are ready to come back just because they believe the Bucs have a shot to return to the Glory Days.

I tend to agree. Coach Forbes was an amazing assistant coach at Tennessee, working as Bruce Pearl’s right hand man to the most successful run the Vols had been on since the Ernie and Bernie show. He does come with baggage. The show cause penalty is what it is, but in his time in the juco ranks he led a team to a ton of success, then joined up with Greg Marshall and the Shockers. He’s a ton of different experiences, lots of recruiting ties all over the southeast, and is very engaging with the public. It’s safe to say that Sander & Co. didn’t just a hit a homerun, they hit one that hasn’t landed yet. If it wasn’t for the excitement of football returning on September 3rd against Kennesaw State at Kermit Tipton Stadium with a kickoff at 7pm (That’s a hint to get your tickets and be there), Buccaneer Nation would be ready for basketball 2015-2016.

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Game Capsule: ETSU vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss

Date:  12/14/12

Tipoff: 8pm (7pm local)

Location: Tad Smith Coliseum – aka the Tad Pad

Team: Ole Miss

Nickname: Rebels

Mascot: Black Bear (The riverboat gambler retired)

Founded in: 1844

Enrollment: 20,844 (All UM campuses combined)

Head Coach: Andy Kennedy

All time:  Ole Miss leads 8-5

Last time: 2010 Ole Miss won 71-50

Leading Scorer: Marshall Henderson (Jr.-Guard)

Players to watch: Murphy Holloway (Sr. Forward), Reginald Buckner (Sr. Forward)

TV: None

Web: RebelVision at olemisssports.com

Radio: Buccaneer Sports Network affiliates and on etsubucs.com

The Bucs close out a brutal three game road stretch Friday night at the Tad Pad against Ole Miss.  Still without freshman guard Petey McClain, the Bucs are hoping to have Jarvis Jones back, but could very well be without Hunter Harris who is listed as day to day with a stinger.  Ole Miss will be looking to take out their frustrations on ETSU after dropping a heartbreaker to brother university MTSU before finals began.  ETSU is looking to continue to improve and gain experience for its’ young squad as they move closer to conference play.  Tip off is 8pm EASTERN, 7pm CENTRAL for fans who are making their way to Oxford.

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Bucs Learn Lessons, Gain Experience in Chapel Hill

ETSU vs UNC
North Carolina and ETSU

Johnson City, Tn. – As the final horn sounded, the mercy of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams could clearly be seen.  The Tar Heels played all 16 players listed on the roster, and would’ve probably played the intramural champions and members of the football team if NCAA rules allowed it.  No player for the Tar Heels played over 23 minutes, with starters James McAdoo and Dexter Strickland showing the way in minutes played.  What clearly could’ve been a record setting day for the Heels in points allowed, points scored and just about every other statistical category, was more of a sign of sportsmanship and the chance to get some role players in the scorer’s book.  Anyone who watched knows this game could’ve been 120-24, easily.

So what did ETSU gain (besides a paycheck) for this game?  With such a young roster, valuable experience, film and the chance to play against one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball.  Players like Lester Wilson, Rashawn Rembert and John Walton will continue to grow as players, which may not help much this season but as upperclassmen will pay huge dividends.  The adversity that this group of young men are having to overcome is something Buc fans haven’t seen in a long time, you have to go back to late in the Alan LeForce era and the early days of Ed DeChellis to find a team so short on scholarship athletes and division I experience.  The Bucs move on Friday to Ole Miss, where all things point to another difficult outing, even if grades are posted on time and Jarvis Jones gets cleared (Hint:  get your butt in gear ETSU and get the grades up).

As we continue through what potentially could be a very difficult season, we’ve seen to this point out of these “Young Bucs” what true ETSU Pride really is.  They’ve gone out in every game, played as hard they can, given the best effort they can night in and night out.  It’s clear it will continue to be a struggle as they learn to play together, and play at the Division I level.  We’re going to continue to see this team struggle, frustrating losses potentially could be the norm this season and not the exception along with some plays that will leave even the most novice of fans

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Bucs’ Bartow Still Feeling the Affects of Losing His Father?

Murry Bartow
Murry Bartow

There is no greater pain in life for a child than the loss of a parent.  From conception on, a child is closer to his or her parents than anyone else.  Even when there’s a disconnect, whether it be from adoption, estrangement, etc… most children still miss their mom and dad.  It’s no secret among Buc fans that head coach Murry Bartow truly is a “Chip off the ol’ block.”  As an undergrad, I remember seeing the late Gene Bartow visit and be at games, much like Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson and his father Wimp Sanderson.

Upon reflection, I’ve noticed the declining health and eventual passing of the elder Bartow has appeared to take a severe physical and emotional toll on the younger Bartow.  His approach to everything he does publically seems different now.  From coaching style, recruiting, interviews and even his physical appearance makes it seem as though he’s lost focus.   He didn’t have discipline issues other than one hiccup in the 04-05 season, which is still his only losing record in his time leading the blue and gold.  One wonders if he’s gotten complacent in his job, multiple trips to the NCAA’s, 20 win seasons and statistically being the most successful coach in school history.  The bottom line is, he’s lost a step the last few years.  The program has been plagued with discipline problems, underage consumption/DUI, domestic assault, and other legal issues are the things that have made the papers.  Whispers off lockerroom issues with teammates who have now left, alleged drug use and even dealing from on campus apartments, and squabbling over who’s getting shots have led to a disconnect among teammates, and an in house cancer has made for a rough patch.

After the abysmal loss to an overly pedestrian James Madison, the Bucs were shown mercy at North Carolina, which to me I would have rather UNC given an honest effort rather than playing the pep band, male cheerleaders, and Phil Ford.  This is a territory that ETSU hasn’t been through in a long time, and one that a man grieving may find challenging to pull out of.  Gene Bartow was more than just a father, he was a colleague, friend, mentor and confidant to his son.  His loss may very well have led to complacency and perhaps even a level of apathy that seems to plague ETSU not just in athletics, but the campus as a whole.  Time will be the factor in telling whether or not Bartow “wakes up” in time to salvage an already tough stretch.

-Scott Lawson

 

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Young and Depleted, Bucs Set to Improve Against 16th ranked North Carolina

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina

Johnson City, Tn. – With ETSU extremely limited in just about every facet of the game, the trip to Chapel Hill might be more of a learning experience rather a shot at shocking the world.  The Bucs will face a nationally ranked North Carolina team expected to contend not just in the perennially tough ACC, but also for a trip to Atlanta for the Final Four.  Head coach Murry Bartow is left again to find a replacement for injured point guard Petey McClain, as he continues to recover from his ankle injury.  Kinard Gadsden Gilliard it looks like will be ready to give it a go on Saturday when the Bucs tip off inside the Dean Smith Center at 7:30 (ESPN3/Buccaneer Sports Network).

The roster woes will continue for the Bucs, as the earliest its’ projected that Jarvis Jones could be back would be for the Ole Miss game, and ETSU alums know how getting grades posted can go.  (Writer’s note:  It can take an eternity for them to be put online.)  Playing a nationally ranked opponent and one that let’s be honest here, is head and shoulders ahead of you will be valuable for a group that at this point has no leadership and is continuing to gain experience by the game.

The Heels are led by the living legend, Roy Williams, and will come at ETSU offensively with multiple looks.  James McAdoo leads the team in several offensive categories (nose hair isn’t one of them) including points per game, shots made, shots taken and minutes.  McAdoo is also the teams leading rebounder.  And while anyone who’s ever watched North Carolina or knows Roy Williams knows that zone defense simply is not an option, until now.  Look for the Tar Heels throw some zone out there just to have some different looks for ETSU as well as future opponents to digest.

After the Bucs were blown out by a pedestrian James Madison squad, Murry Bartow said:  “It’s not that we’re not playing hard, but if you look at the box score no one really played well.”  With guys out of position it’s tough, Rashawn Rembert who is really more of a 2-3 guard and maybe even a small forward was forced into the role of point guard.  Bartow compared that to a tight end playing quarterback.  With Gilliard returning it should provide a little relief to the legs of a young group that will only continue to improve with each passing game.

Side notes:  Saturday is UNC’s Toys for Tot’s game, in short, bring a toy!  Also, ETSU is having another alumni gathering before the game, with a chance to speak with Dr. Noland not just about hoops, but all of the exciting changes that are certain to come at ETSU in the coming days, months and years.  If you’re going to the game, don’t miss out on a great opportunity here.  The only alumni connection I can really think of at this time is two:  Scot Brummet and Gerald Sensabaugh, two of the members of the 2003 football team who transferred to North Carolina at the conclusion of what appeared to be the Bucs last football game.

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Game Capsule: ETSU vs. #16 North Carolina

Opponent: #16 North Carolina

Nickname: Tar Heels

Conference: ACC

Founded In: 1789

Enrollment: 28916

Venue:  Dean Smith Center

TV: None

Web: WatchESPN or ESPN3.com

All time series:  North Carolina leads 5-0

Last time:  1987 North Carolina won 118-65

Previous game: ETSU lost to James Madison 70-45 and UNC beat UAB 102-84

UNC Players to watch:  James McAdoo, PJ Hairston and Reggie Bullock

Leading Scorer:  James McAdoo 15.8

With ETSU’s roster depleted, expect North Carolina to build a lead early and experiment with defensive looks, lineups and younger players.

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Bucs Set to Head North to Take On James Madison

James Madison
James Madison

Johnson City, Tn. – The rebuilding campaign continues for the now REALLY YOUNG Bucs Wednesday night when the travel up I-81 to play 2-5 James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia (7 PM tipoff).  After some of the more tumultuous moments in the Bartow era, the Bucs have managed to post a couple of wins and began to move past the off court troubles and back to basketball.   They will do so however with a razor thin roster, as freshman point guard Petey McClain is OUT with an ankle injury, and Kinard Gadsden Gilliard is hampered with ankle issues.  With six scholarship players available, expect the Bucs to dig deep into the roster, with walk on player and Kingsport native Todd Halvorsen seeing some action, if nothing more just to have some age on the court.  When the Bucs take the floor, this will be the youngest and most inexperienced lineup in the Bartow era at ETSU.  One scholarship junior is for sure available in Hunter Harris, the junior college transfer will be playing in his sixth division I basketball game, with the most experienced players being John Walton and Rashawn Rembert.

The outlook for JMU is different, but similar.  Injuries have plagued the Dukes the entire tenure of head coach Matt Brady, and this year is no different.  Returning to the lineup is preseason All CAA selection AJ Davis, as well as leading scorer Rayshawn Goins and leading rebounder Devon Moore.  Andrey Semenov has been bothered by a groin injury and as of this typing it is unclear whether or not he will be a go for the inter-conference tilt.  At 2-5, JMU has certainly seen its’ share of early season struggles, despite having a roster chock full of fifth year seniors, and explosive freshmen who have been seeing time on the floor.  Replacing Humpty Hitchens has been met with somewhat balanced scoring, with the Dukes having three players averaging double figures, but not much else.  Expect Devon Moore to give ETSU fits on the defensive end, but also is solid with ball distribution offensively.

The midweek game gives the Bucs their third road game out of the last four.  It also kicks off a three game road stretch that includes stops at North Carolina and the “Tad Pad” at Ole Miss.  The game can be heard on the same Buccaneer Sports Network stations as usual and be seen online for free through Madizone, JMU’s Official Audio and Video Home for athletics.  As a side note, Murry and Gene Bartow rank fourth all time in NCAA wins as a father/son duo.

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