By Alex Bozek
In his second year High Point University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tubby Smith Tubby Smith is more than excited for completion of the building of the new Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center. The new facility is set to be finished in time for the upcoming 2020-2021 basketball season.
The latest project for HPU’s campus includes a brand new basketball arena for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The current Millis Center holds 1,750 and is one of the smallest arenas in the Big South Conference. With this new arena boasting 4,500 seats, HPU will have the fourth largest in the Big South. The size, luxury boxes, training facilities and other features are a huge transition for the future of Panther basketball.
Coach Smith is very familiar with the Panther basketball program. He played in the purple and white almost 50 years ago. Attending then High Point College, from 1969- 1973, he brought his love of basketball with him. He is still ninth on HPU’s all-time scoring list in men’s basketball with 1,589 points. He also got his 600th career coaching win last November.
While Smith didn’t play in an era of using peach baskets for hoops, he does remember the, he does remember the original Millis Center. He described it as it was “just a gym.” He remembers the rubber floors that they played on at the time. Regardless, he appreciated the simplicity.
The new arena has him and his crew excited to play. The roster currently has seven freshmen, with only one senior graduating this May. He wants to “build the program through freshmen,” as his goal is to bring “longevity” to the team and teams of the future. He is trying to build, as he says, the “winning culture.”
He also believes in the maxim: “defense wins championships.” Smith says that recruitment will be key to reaching his goals and expects the new arena to play a major part in that. “There’s nothing like it in the country,” he says.
Smith has been at multiple programs that are bigger than HPU’s. Coaching at the University of Kentucky, Memphis, Georgia, Texas Tech and more, he has been in his fair share of large stadiums. When he won the 1998 NCAA Division I Championship, he coached at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamodome can hold up to 70,000 people. That will be over fifteen times larger than the new stadium.
Coach Smith has visited the stadium to keep up with the construction progress, and he was there for the ground breaking ceremony.
“When I walk through the arena, all I can think about is visualizing what it will be like to walk out of the tunnel,” says Smith. “The players are eager to play there. We know how fun it’s going to be. I’m excited for how it will raise student engagement and serve as a moral booster.”
This moral booster should help the team on the court as well. Despite this season being a tough one for the Panthers thus far, Smith thinks a bigger stage and louder crowd should help that. Currently, the men’s team has a record of 7 – 17 and has a tough ending to the season.
Although this may not be a big change for him, he is taking this to heart. With HPU being his alma mater, he finds this coaching job more personal and he plans on staying.
“It feels like home to coach here,” says Smith.
The new stadium will be state-of-the-art. It is truly one of a kind and one befitting of the HPU campus.
“I’m focused on selling the dream,” says Smith. “I focus on the dream of playing in front of a big crowd and having the support of our fans behind us. But I also remind my team that, at the end of the day, basketball is basketball, and they have to do their job.”