Russell Lee Will Always Have A Piece Of The Old Arena

An era comes to an end Friday night in Huntington when the final game at the Veterans Memorial Field House is played and fittingly it will be a Marshall alumni game to send off the old facility that holds so many great memories for Herd basketball fans. It’s easy for fans to get emotional over an old facility like the field house, but even easier for the former players who ran up and down the creaky floor and fed of the energy of the crowd that was bearing down on them.
Russell Lee will be part of the festivities to say goodbye to the Veterans Memorial Field House.

You could almost see a sparkle in former Herd basketball star Russell Lee’s eye when he talked about the building during a visit to Huntington this past fall. Lee was in town for Thundering Herd Madness but couldn’t help but think about February when the Memorial Field House would hold one more game.

“It was loud at the old gym,” Lee recalled as he compared it with the Cam Henderson Center. 
No doubt it was loud in the gym when Lee took the floor with the rest of his teammates in the early ‘70’s. Lee played on one of Marshall’s best basketball teams ever. The 1971-72 team was ranked 8th in the nation at one point and advanced to the NCAA tournament as an at large team when only 32 teams got in the show.
Ask Lee about his favorite memories of The Herd’s old home floor and it won’t be a specific game, play, or shot that comes to mind. It’s the raucous Herd crowds that made life miserable for any opponent that ventured into the field house.
“They [the crowd] were right there on the floor,” remembered Lee. “I felt sorry for the visiting team because it was hard for them to hear what the coach was saying with all the cheering and yelling that was going on.”
Finally after 31 years of service (1950-1981), Marshall moved from the once stellar facility to the new Cam Henderson Center on campus. Now, the Veterans Memorial Field House is scheduled for demolition to make way for the future of Thundering Herd athletics. Where the field house now stands a new soccer facility will be constructed as part of a $30 million project that will include a new indoor practice facility and other amenities that will propel Marshall to the head of the pack when it comes to athletic facilities.
However, even after the dust settles from the demolition and the old basketball arena is long gone, Russell Lee will always have a piece of the Memorial Field House with him.
“They’re giving me a piece of the floor,” Lee said with a grin. “I want a piece of the floor I played on.”
Maybe it will be a piece of the lane. It would only be fitting for a guy who average 11 rebounds a game during his career with The Herd.
Follow Dave on Twitter @wvmetro_dwilson. E-mail comments to

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