The Chandler Athletic Center is 25 Years Young, But Already Home to a Lot of History

Chandler Athletic Center: a gym, a pool, and a rollercoaster
Chandler Athletic Center: a gym, a pool, and a rollercoaster

The John Wesley Chandler Athletic Center is literally in the center of Williamstown, located just behind the main business district on the east side Spring Street. In the fall and winter the Chandler Athletic Center becomes a center of attention in Williamstown and on the Williams campus.

Named for John Wesley Chandler, 12th President of Williams College 1973-85, the 10.5 million dollar facility features a gymnasium for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, as well as a diving well and pool. Samuelson-Muir Pool is an 8-lane 50-meter pool with a separate diving well that includes two 1-meter and two 3-meter diving boards.

The gymnasium can accommodate 1,561 fans, while the seating capacity of Samuelson-Muir Pool is 400.

Opened for competition at the beginning of the 1987-88 academic year, the Chandler Athletic Center gym is the sixth gym constructed on the Williams campus. In 1991, it was named one of Athletic Business magazine’s “10 Facilities of Merit,” which rated facilities based on space utilization, cost and design. 

“The fall convocation in 1987 that marked the opening of the new gym focused on college athletics,” recalls John Chandler. “The star-studded cast who participated in a panel discussion included Sir Roger Bannister, who broke the four-minute mile, Joan Benoit, who won the Olympic gold medal in the marathon, and Bart Giammati, then the president of the National League, the future Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and former president of Yale.”

In case you are wondering John Chandler had no idea that the new gym that was being built at the end of his presidency was to be named after him. “The announcement that the new facility would be named for me came during the 1985 commencement ceremony -- my last before I retired as president.  Pete Parish '41, chair of the executive committee of the board of trustees, told me that he wanted a brief moment on the program. I more or less assumed that he might want to say "Thank you," but I gave it no more thought.  When he announced the board's naming decision I was totally flabbergasted and virtually speechless -- and all this in front of an audience of several thousand. Back then, the president was the presiding officer at meetings of the trustees, and my first thought was to wonder how they could legally do this without me being there! In any event, I've always been proud of being honored and recognized in this way.”

John Wesley Chandler

More from John Chandler who retired as Williams’ president 27 years ago:

“The sports pages almost daily underscore that there are serious issues regarding big-time athletic programs in many Division I institutions. I became president of Williams just after the formation of NESCAC. NESCAC has established boundaries and limits that contribute importantly to maintaining the priority of academic purposes and programs.”

“We all take pride when a Williams athlete qualifies for Olympic competition or is drafted by a professional team. But that is not the focus or purpose of our programs, which facilitate broad participation.  In comparison with a few decades ago, it is more difficult now for Williams students to become walk-on members of teams, or to play more than one sport.  When eligibility rules for first-year students were more restrictive, JV teams greatly enlarged participation opportunities.”

“With diabetes rates having reached epidemic proportions even among very young people, the athletic and recreational policies and programs at Williams can make a life-long contribution to the health and effectiveness of students, a contribution that parallels and is consistent with the life-long benefits of the liberal arts education that that is our central mission.”

“I love it when Chapin Hall is jammed with members of the Williams community who are there to enjoy a concert or hear a distinguished speaker. I also love it when Chandler Gym is filled with excited and expectant fans who are there to pretend that the Defectors from the Connecticut River Valley need to be punished once again for that infamous deed of long ago.”             

Prior to the 1987-88 academic year Williams men’s basketball competed in Lasell Gym  since 1901, women’s basketball since 1974, men’s swimming & diving since 1908, women’s swimming & diving since 1978, and volleyball since 1976.

Liz Creighton

Built in 1886, a full five years before the invention of basketball, Lasell Gym had to be modified early in the 20th century to safely accommodate its most prominent occupant – Williams basketball. The Eph men went 533-199 (.728) in Lasell, a facility that was considered to be the epitome of a home court with its narrow floor, minimal (to non-existent) sideline space, and running track overhead encircling the court.

Three Eph men’s teams that used Lasell Gym as a home court played in the NCAA Tournament and all three teams were coached by Al Shaw (302 career wins). The 1955 Ephs played in the NCAA Division I Tournament, the 1959 and 1961 Ephs played in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

The roomier and more brightly lit Chandler Gym basketball court has proven to be more of a home court advantage for the Eph men than Lasell Gym. The Eph men’s basketball team is currently 310-59 (.840), while the women’s basketball team is 237-57 (.806). 

An interesting footnote to Varsity basketball being played in Lasell Gym, however, is that even after the Chandler Athletic Center gym opened an Eph game was played in Lasell. The Eph women played and defeated Middlebury (72-59) on February 17, 2001. Current Deputy Director of Admission Liz (Tilley) Creighton led the Ephs with 29 points and Bridget McDonough added 17 in helping the Ephs lock up a berth in the NESCAC Tournament. The use of Lasell Gym was necessitated due to the Ephs hosting the 2001 New England Wrestling Championships in Chandler Gym that weekend.

Men’s Basketball

Lasell Record (1901-87):  533-199 (.728)

Lasell Gym Win Streak:  27, March 16, 1901 – January 20, 1904

Last Game in Lasell:  March 7, 1987. Defeated Babson 92-82 to win ECAC-New England Tournament

All-Time Win Leader:  Harry Sheehy ’75, 324-104 (.757)

Chandler Gym Record:  310-59 (.840)

Chandler Gym Win Streak:  64, which is the current NCAA Division III Record for Most Consecutive Home Court Wins - January 16, 2001 - January 4, 2005

The Eph record win streak began with a 65-64 win over Hamilton College and was stopped at 64 when Wheaton (IL) defeated Williams 82-74 in the finals of the Purple & Gold Tournament.

During the historic march to 64 consecutive wins the Ephs beat three nationally ranked, undefeated teams in five days in 2004 – Trinity (Jan. 23), Amherst (Jan. 24), and Lasell College (Jan. 27).

The 64-game win streak also included 15 post-season wins:

3 in 2001 ECAC-New England Tournament

1 in 2002 NESCAC Tournament

1 in 2002 NCAA Tournament

1 in 2003 NESCAC Tournament

3 in 2003 NCAA Tournament

3 in 2004 NESCAC Tournament

3 in 2004 NCAA Tournament 

In the first 25 years in Chandler Gym the Eph men’s basketball team has fashioned several notable moments.

Ephs & Globetrotters pose under NCAA
Championship banner post-game

November 8, 2003 – The Ephs opened their season as the defending NCAA Division III champions and hosted the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters in an exhibition game that was played straight up by the Globetrotters. The Trotters prevailed 104-79 in front of a standing room only crowd that may have been the toughest ticket ever to get for an Eph athletic event.

The Globetrotters had 11 players 6-7 or taller and they used their height advantage whenever the Ephs threatened. Mike Crotty led the Ephs with 20 points and Chuck Abba netted 13. Crotty later played with the Washington Generals as they toured with the Globetrotters before he played professionally with a team in Germany and then returned to the States to work with the Boston Celtics in player development. Crotty was a member of the Celtics staff when they won the 2008 NBA title.

Following the serious contest the Globetrotters displayed their famous circle warm-up routine and offered many thunderous and spectacular dunks to the delight of the crowd.

Loud basketball moments occur whenever the Ephs top archrival Amherst in men’s or women’s basketball, but some of the loudest men’s hoops moments occurred:

March 13, 1997 Matt Hunt drained five straight threes in the first half to break the Richard Stockton College zone in an NCAA Sweet 16 game sending the Ephs to the quarterfinal round vs. Rowan University.  After Hunt’s first three swishes from beyond the arc, when the ball neared Hunt the last two times the Eph crowd was at a roof-raising frenzied pitch in anticipation. Hunt, whose shooting form was once described by Eph head coach, Harry Sheehy, “like pouring honey from a jar,” swished both and each time the noise in Chandler was deafening.

March 14, 1997 – The debate continues among long time Eph fans over whether or not in the win over Rowan (the team that eliminated the Ephs from the 1996 NCAA tourney) the crowd was louder than the night before vs. Richard Stockton. Late consecutive threes by Mike Nogelo, Mike Humphreys, and highlighted by a 28-foot shot clock beater by Jim Frew loosened the bolts on the Chandler Gym roof and lifted the Ephs to 71-62 win over Rowan and a first ever appearance in the Final Four.

January 24, 2004 – And then there was THE SHOT! Owning a 50-game home court win streak #3 Williams hosted #1 and undefeated Amherst. Williams at one point trailed by 14 in the second half. A missed front end of a 1-and-1 by an Amherst player with 13 seconds remaining in regulation set the stage for THE SHOT!

1/24/04 was a night Tucker Kain
and Eph fans will never forget

Out of the Eph timeout many in the crowd expected one of the Eph senior guards, Mike Crotty or Chuck Abba to take the game-tying three, but instead the call was for sophomore Tucker Kain to shoot from the top of the key.

Kain came off a screen by senior center Ben Coffin and stepped into his three from dead on. As the ball arced towards the hoop the crowd was in hysterics knowing the shot clearly had beaten the buzzer. When the ball hit nothing but net, pandemonium was followed by bedlam.

Kain was not even close to being finished on the night as he netted 13 of the Ephs’ 22 points in the OT session to give Williams a stunning 84-80 comeback win, which then prompted delirium.

Following the Tucker Kain Show Eph head coach Dave Paulsen was quick to give credit to the Eph fans for their support. “The fans were tremendous,” he said. “They gave us some energy when we needed it the most.” 

Through the efforts of students Pierre Meloty-Kapella, Khalid Bashir, and Jessica Torres the “6th Man Club” was officially founded in the fall of 2009, which immediately made an impact on the level of student support at hoop games.

The support of the 6th Man Club was further augmented by the efforts of Drew Murray (“rollercoaster cheer”) and the energetic James Dunn. The Ephs have developed a raucous and entertaining crew of students who come out in force for games vs. traditional rivals, making Chandler a difficult place to play for visiting teams.

Women’s Basketball

Lasell Record 1973-87:  67-36 (.650)

Lasell Win Streak:  15, January 19, 1980 – February 24, 1981

Last game in Lasell:  defeated Middlebury 72-59; February 17, 2001

Chandler Record:  237-57 (.806)

Chandler Win Streak:  23, February 6, 1998 – March 13, 1999

All-Time Win Leader:  Pat Manning 374-169 (.689)

Rebecca Brooks scores inside

Some notable women’s basketball highlights include:

January 16, 1999 – The Ephs led Amherst by 17 points midway through the second half before they went stone cold from the floor and Amherst could not miss. 

Rebecca Brooks’ tip-in attempt at the buzzer was waived off because it as came after the horn and the teams were forced into overtime, much to the disappointment of the standing room only crowd. The Ephs re-gained their touch in OT and out scored Amherst 12-4 to claim a 81-69 win behind 25 points from Brooks, 17 from eventual All-American and all-time leading scorer Kathleen Higgins, and 15 from Robyn Goldman.

March 12, 1999 – the Ephs defeated Rowan 62-56 in a Sweet 16 game that sent them on to their first NCAA Elite Eight contest. Rebecca Brooks' layup at the 3:03 mark off of a feed from Liz Tilley put the Ephs up for good and a subsequent Kathleen Higgins' three ensured Williams a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

January 6, 2007 – Williams held off a determined Amherst squad that had rallied to cut the Eph lead to 10 in the second half when Beth Lorge added a foul shot and on the next possession found Mika Peterman for a three. Peterman was fouled on the made three and converted the free throw to put the Ephs back up 15 in a flash. Meghan O’Malley posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards, while Meghan Stetson (13), Maggie Miller (12), and Peterman (11) joined her in double figures. The win was the Ephs 13th straight over Amherst.

Chandler Athletic Center Samuelson-Muir Pool

Carl Samuelson tuxedo dive

Before the Muir Pool in Lasell Gym was drained and transformed into the Lower Lasell Fitness Center, then Eph head coach of men’s and women’s swimming and diving, Carl Samuelson, scooped out a few buckets of the water. When the new pool in the Chandler Athletic Center was opened Samuelson poured the Muir Pool water into the new facility’s diving area and swimming lanes and then later Samuelson opened the pool by jumping off the 3-meter diving board in a tuxedo.

After Samuelson retired in 1999 the pool in the Chandler Athletic Center was formally re-named the Carl R. Samuelson-Robert B. Muir Pool.

At a celebration honoring Samuelson's retirement and Muir's memory, Williams swimming & diving alums established a scholarship fund named for Carl and Nancy Samuelson seeded the scholarship fund contributions that exceeded 1 million dollars.

The Chandler Athletic Center’s Samuelson-Muir Pool has hosted:

1990 NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships

1994 NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships

1994 NCAA Division III Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships

Men’s Swimming & Diving

Crowd urges on the Ephs
Succes in Samuelson-Muir

Lasell Pool Record 1908-1987:  210-47-1 (.812)

Lasell Win streak:  27, December 12, 1942 – March 5, 1949

Last Meet in Lasell Pool:  January 31, 1987, defeated Springfield 66-45

Samuelson-Muir Pool Record:  85-10 (.895)

Samuelson-Muir Pool Win Streak:  38, January 9, 1993 – January 11, 2003

Men’s All-Time Win Leader:  Carl Samuelson (1967-99), 197-72 (.732)

New England Division III Championships won by the Ephs in Samuelson-Muir Pool:  1990, 1997 & 1999

NESCAC Championships won in Samuelson-Muir Pool:  2006 & 2010

Bob Muir’s entire coaching career at Williams (1937-66) was conducted in the Lasell Pool that later bore the name Robert B. Muir Pool. Muir logged an impressive 189-46 record (. 804) that included 17 New England Championships. A member of the U.S. Swimming delegation to the Olympics since 1936, Muir served as the U.S. Men’s Team head coach in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia.

Carl Samuelson succeeded Muir and coached for 32 years finishing in 1999. Samuelson began coaching in the Robert B. Muir Pool and concluded his career in the Samuelson-Muir Pool in the Chandler Athletic Center. Samuelson guided the Eph men to 18 New England Championships.

Women’s Swimming & Diving

Samuelson-Muir hosts a
lot of
big meets
11 NESCAC titles in a row

Lasell Pool Record 1978-1987:  38-6 (.864)

Lasell Win Streak:  17, December 2, 1981 – February 2, 1985

Last Meet in Lasell Pool:  January 31, 1987, defeated Springfield 88-55

Samuelson-Muir Pool Record:  88-7 (.926)

Samuelson-Muir Pool Win Streak:  68, January 9, 1993 – current

Women’s All-Time Win Leader:  Carl Samuelson (1976-99), 176-30 (.854)

Lasell Pool was the home water of the first women’s swimming & diving team to win the NCAA Division III title in 1982 and then the Eph women became the first team to repeat by winning again in 1983.

Those two NCAA titles were the first two of the 25 current NCAA titles won by Williams College.

Varsity swimming & diving for women began in the 1975-76 academic year with Carl Samuelson as the head coach.

Samuelson’s Eph women’s teams won 16 of 20 New England Championships, including all 10 in the 1990s.


New England Division III Championships won in Samuelson-Muir Pool:  1991 & 1996

NESCAC Championships won in Samuelson-Muir Pool:  2007 & 2011

VOLLEYBALL  

Lasell Record:  48-17 (.738)

Lasell Win Streak:  16, October 8, 1979 – October 11, 1980

Last Match in Lasell:  October 7, 1987; lost to Springfield College 2-1.

Chandler Gym Record:  211-37  (.851)

Chandler Win Streak:  42, September 9,2000 - November 20, 2004

All-Time Win Leader:  Fran Vandermeer (2000-08), 254-73 (.777)

Head coach Fran Vandermeer authored the 42-match Chandler win streak, which began with a 3-0 win over St. Joseph (CT) to open the 2000 season and ended November 20, 2004 in an NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal contest vs. NYU when the Ephs fell 3-1.

7 NESCAC titles in 9 years "Greatest crowd ever"


"Their crowd was a huge factor in the match," NYU head coach Ed Caesar said of the over 800 fans packed into Chandler Gym, "When we were up 11 in the fourth game, and they scored one point, and I thought the roof was going to fly off. This is the best crowd I’ve seen all year, maybe the best ever.” 

From 2001 to 2009 the Ephs won seven NESCAC titles, the first six under Vandermeer and the 2009 title under current head coach Christi Kelsey.

Here’s to at least 25 more years of unforgettable Eph memories in the Chandler Athletic Center.