HELENA — A step onto the court of PE Center at Carroll College is one into a major overhaul.
Vivid purple, white and gold make up the interior. Your eye cannot help but immediately notice the sharp, bold “Carroll College Fightin’ Saints” lettering that pads the east and west walls.
And at the center of it all is new hardwood, the PE Center’s most prominent facelift since the building’s dedication in 1970.
A new Connor Sports, a company known for its work with NCAA and NBA courts, made the court. Another company, Northern Hardwoods, installed it during the summer.
The center court is stamped with the Saints’ massive C-logo, with a halo swooping around the letter, a huge 36-foot extension that dwarfs the previous center court imagery.
The design trends with what some major universities have done recently. Its size lies somewhere between Michigan State’s Spartan centerpiece and Cal’s hulking bear fixture.
The areas inside the 3-point line are a lighter tone than the rest of the court, and placed inside the bright purple key area is a logo of Halo, the Saints’ new mascot.
Both men’s and women’s basketball coaches recently praised the new floor, noting its spring taxes athletes’ joints less. The infamous dead spots of the prior court are no more.
Though this winter when water seeped into the PE Center, the court required a bit of work. Another company helped prevent any major damage to the new hardwood.
After all, it was nearly 50 years worth of wear-and-tear that prompted the new court. Carroll originally planned to hang on to the old court for a few more years. Upon beginning a patch-up, a discovery of the court’s damage led the Saints to upgrade.
The breakdown of the last court came with it an exodus of the maple hardwood that cushioned many remarkable feats and tough defeats. The last court saw its run of conference championships and elevated Saints volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams into respective NAIA National Tournaments.
The old court’s first use came during the 1970-71 season when only men’s basketball played on it. A few years later, women’s basketball and volleyball came into the fray, and the court held strong for many years.
One of its main inhabitants, Saints women’s assistant coach Gary Turcott, who coached men’s basketball at Carroll for 19 years from 1990-2009, spent a few moments recalling his nearly two decades of memories on that court, “some not so pleasant but lots of pleasant ones too.”
Turcott, perhaps more so than anybody within Carroll athletics, save director of athletic operations and facilties Steve Jones, has spent a great deal of his time on that court.
He agreed the last was dated by modern courts standards. As the Saints pulled the trigger on the upgrade, Turcott saw it as another feather in the cap of athletic director Charlie Gross.
“We’ve got this athletic director, Charlie Gross, and I think he is steadily really trying to improve the athletic facilities,” Turcott said. “He’s not a guy that I see as drawing a lot of attention to himself or promoting any of the stuff he does. He’s making the place better.”
Turcott paused when asked about his best memory from the old court. It was an arduous process, picking a single memory out of a time span that’s older than some current Saints. He thought, and then thought more.
Finally, he knew the answer.
The first conference championship the Saints won under Turcott in his second year as coach. Turcott cherished the memory not because it added some glitz to his coaching resume, but rather because it gave his greatest player, current Capital High girls basketball coach Bill Pilgeram a championship.
“It was a championship for Bill Pilgeram, who had done everything there is to do in college basketball except win a championship,” Turcott recalled.
The game, too, finished in dramatic fashion. Montana Tech, perhaps the Saints’ greatest rival, trailed by two and called a timeout to set up a play. The Orediggers had a chance at a basket and missed it.
And now, Turcott is assisting Rachelle Sayers, who has the Saints’ taking full advantage of their new court. Both she and men's coach Carson Cunningham’s Saints are ranked in the Top 25 and both teams are playing great basketball.
If year one is any indicator, the Saints’ new hardwood will harbor plenty of new memories.