March 24, 2006. 6 am. We packed our bags and flew on a small, 6-seater plane. We were going to Oxford, Mississippi, because Dad had accepted a job there as the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Coach the night before, after a loss in Cincinnati ended his term in Ohio as an Interim Head Coach. I looked over at my sister, barely 6 years old at the time, and thought about how different this new place and our new life would be.
We arrived at the small private airport in Oxford and drove straight to the Tad Smith Coliseum. (Shortly after it was affectionately named the “Sad Pad” by none other than AK himself.) We were ushered onto the makeshift stage in the middle of the court of what seemed like a huge arena from a 10-year-old’s court-side view. I remember sitting down in between my father and sister, wearing the red dress my mother frantically picked out for me only a few hours earlier, and watching adults I did not know stand up one by one and speak about my dad. The coliseum was crawling with journalists and local Oxfordians all vying to get a glimpse of the new basketball coach and family. Soon Dad got up and spoke briefly, Pete Boone spoke again, and then we were done. Someone took our picture and then invited the rest of the family, including a proud Mimi and Gramps, to join us for a picture of the one big happy coach’s family. I looked out around the Tad Pad and thought about how exciting this new adventure would be for us, and all the fun we’d have in this building.
Three months later we came back to Mississippi for good, in June of 2006.
Fast forward. 2010. I sang the National Anthem in the Tad Pad for the first time, at a women’s basketball game. I would go on to sing at a men’s game later that year and then 4 other times over the course of the next 5 years.
May 29, 2015. I had the awesome opportunity to graduate from Oxford High School in the very same Tad Pad that I started my journey in Oxford in some 9 years ago.
There are some things I will never forget about the Tad Pad. I will always remember Chris Warren’s legendary 3 with 2.7 seconds to go that put the Rebels in the position to beat Kentucky in 2011, solidifying our reputation in the conference and nationwide, and the awesome headline on the Eagle the next day: “DECLAWED.” Or the first year we were here when Todd Abernethy & Team led the rebels “From Worst to 1st.” Or all of the games leading up to the SEC Tournament Championship in 2013. Or the viewing party that we sped back from Nashville on that same little Chancellor’s plane to get to, where we watched Ole Miss reach the NCAA tournament all together as a community that same year. Or the time when I watched my dad get his 200th win at Ole Miss, a feat he alone has accomplished in all the history of Ole Miss Basketball. (#AK200)
(There’s also that time the lights went out and we had to take a 15 minute timeout while they turned back on….but maybe I’m the only one who remembers that 😉)
The Sad Pad will forever be home to so many memories, for me and my family and the families of so many others who have come before us. Through the ups and downs of the seasons, one thing has never changed, and that’s that no matter what we knew that we would always have the Tad Pad to come back to for another game. Every March when another season ended I immediately looked ahead with excitement to that day in October when we would get to return to the Tad Pad again.
December 22, 2015. One more game. One more time to pull up to the front parking spot that a special guard always saves for my mother and I. One more time to walk across the court with my pass and greet the gate guard with a familiarity that only comes with time. One more time to sit in Section J, Row 3, our famous home base of so many years, surrounded by all the coaches’ families and people I love. One more time to watch the drummer tape “3” signs all along the Club Red railing as Moody continues to drain 3’s. One more time to cross the court post-game and get the final stat sheet from David Kellum, a special tradition of ours 10 years in the making. There will be streamers and cheers and even snow globes, in celebration of this place that so many, including myself, have called home since 1966.
This coliseum has been a place where life happens. For me personally, I have grown up in this place. I started and ended my journey in Oxford here, from the first Press Conference to my first national anthem performance to my final graduation. Life has happened for me in the Sad Pad.
This coliseum will be loved forever. May the memories it holds live on past it’s closing, and may the Pavilion be a place of celebration of our prior achievements there. Here’s to new beginnings for Ole Miss Basketball, and all whom it affects.
Long live the Sad Pad!!!!!! ❤️🏀💙