The 1995-96 marked the Loyola Ramblers final campaign in tradition-rich Alumni Gym. The team will now compete in the Joseph J. Gentile Center, which is located just east of the gym. The Ramblers finished their tenure in Alumni Gym with an all-time record of 484-136, which translates into an impressive .781 winning percentage.
Everyone at one stage of his or her career played in a gym such as this one," said the Bill Jauss of the Chicago Tribune. "Cozy, personal, intimate, fans in your lap. Home court advantage? Sure. But even visiting players enjoyed the trip back to a time when playing hoops was such sheer fun.
The Gym underwent a major renovation in recent years, adding new locker rooms for both men's and women's basketball, a reception lounge for post and pre-game functions as well as additional office space. The weight room was expanded greatly, and now contains brand new free weights and machines for use by all Loyola student-athletes. Additionally, a study area was created along with an office for learning assistance.
An edition of the Loyola Quarterly from 1923 described the newly designed Alumni Gym as, "A very good gymnasium, quite the equal of anything in this part of the country. It will be two hundred twelve by ninety, and will house, besides a large playing floor, bowling alleys, billiard rooms, various club rooms, locker compartments and a swimming pool."
Although the billiard rooms and bowling alleys are long gone, the "Big Brown Box That Rocks," as it is nicknamed today, still stands on the Northwest side of the Lake Shore Campus. The gym is still the home of Loyola's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Designed by Paul V. Hyland and built by George W. Stiles Company of Chicago, Illinois in 1924, the construction was partly financed by a group of twelve Loyola alumni, who referred to themselves as the "Bugs."
The "Bugs" gave a dinner party on November 16, 1923 at Chicago's Hotel La Salle for 175 other Loyola graduates. The group was able to raise an impressive $31,000 which was used to cover a portion of the $500,000 cost of construction.
George Ireland's 1962-63 squad, which went on to win the NCAA National Championship, went undefeated in Alumni Gym during their title season. Additionally, the all-time Rambler record for points in a game, 133, was set by the home team vs. Loras College in Alumni Gym on November 22, 1979.
"I always loved Alumni Gym," said Ireland. "I still do. Friends told me I couldn't win there. I used to laugh to myself when I'd hear people say, 'This can't be the place where the NCAA Champions played, can it?'"
"It's unbelievable, the advantage that Loyola had in Alumni Gym with the closeness of the crowd and the excitement of the fans," said Jerry Harkness a 1963 Loyola All-American. "I remember chasing a ball out of bounds and falling into the crowd as I flipped the ball behind my back to Les Hunter. Les dunked the ball and I can picture the crowd exploding with excitement and pushing me back onto the court. We had such a feeling of confidence in Alumni Gym. We felt it was our house and we weren't going to be beaten there."
Alumni Gym has seen more than its share of exciting games over the years. During the 1977-78 season, Jerry Lyne's Ramblers won nine games in Alumni Gym, including victories over Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores team, 79-76; Kevin McHale's Minnesota squad, 70-66; and a Georgetown team led by first-year head coach John Thompson, 68-65 in overtime.
Beating Indiana State in Alumni Gym meant the most, because I regard Larry Bird as the greatest college player I ever saw," said Lyne.
Besides becoming the home of the Ramblers, Alumni Gym also hosted the National Catholic Interscholastic Basketball Tournament, beginning in 1923. Teams representing Catholic high schools from across the nation all came to Chicago to square off in Alumni Gym for the coveted Cardinal Mundelein Cup, which was a silver regulation size basketball on a revolving stand, was awarded every year to the champion. Loyola hosted the tournament until 1941.
The final game in Alumni Gym certainly did justice to the tradition and excitement that had occurred in the previous 72 season. Loyola hosted cross-town rival UIC in the farewell game, and the Ramblers came out on top by an 89-85 final. With that win, the Ramblers closed Alumni Gym by winning their last four games there.
The final game was a "who's who" of Loyola basketball, with alumni and coaches from almost every team from the last 50 years in attendance. The ceremonial jump ball was thrown out by coach George Ireland, with assistance from Jerry Harkness, 1972 all-American LaRue Martin and 1952 all-American Nick Kladis.