Blast from the past: Mayser Center housed national basketball legends

By Lila Epstein ’14, Senior Editor

While Diplomat fans gathered Saturday to watch men’s basketball take on Haverford College and win 62-56, what many of these fans might not have known is that the Philadelphia 76ers trained at Mayser Center from 1978 to 1994.

Steven Greenberg ’81, former play-by-play sports broadcaster for F&M, recalled the buzz about the players training on campus.

“There was a collective feeling like, ‘what are these amazing athletes doing here in Lancaster? This is very cool,’” Greenberg said.

Greenberg explained how the Sixers chose to train at F&M because they were looking for a good basketball facility away from any distractions that would be present in a big city like Philadelphia. F&M had recently been equipped with a new soft floor on the basketball court which was beneficial for the knees of the players.

“Their presence didn’t really impact life on campus beyond Mayser Center. This was F&M after all. Academics takes priority even over professional sports,” Greenberg said. “However, the fact that one of the most famous athletes in the country was training every day in Mayser Center definitely gave our campus a certain swag.”

While the Sixers were training at F&M, Greenberg had the opportunity to interview Julius Erving, a NBA Hall of Fame member who won championships and MVP awards with both the ABA and NBA.

“As sports director of WFNM, I was given access to the Philadelphia 76ers closed practices,” Greenberg said. “I simply walked up to him after practice one day and asked him if I could schedule an interview with him. He readily agreed; he could not have been nicer.”

Greenberg noted Erving was very thoughtful, respectful and articulate throughout the entire interview.

“It was just me and him, sitting outside on the steps by the front entrance to Mayser Center,” Greenberg said. “No PR people, no agents, no team execs or anyone else. It was incredible. He is 6’7”, so even though we were both sitting he actually had a hard time speaking into the microphone I was holding.”

Greenberg had the opportunity to ask Erving about the creation of the three point shot (which was new that season) and his experience training at F&M.

“Today, students would be Instagramming their Dr. J. sightings all over campus but it was much more low key back then,” Greenberg said.

In addition to Erving, Greenberg was also able to interview Darryl Dawkins, a 6’11, 250-pound center for the team.

“He put his hand on my head at the end of the interview. His hand was so huge I felt like a pistachio nut,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg interviewed several other Sixers players, but found his interactions with F&M athletes to be equally memorable.

“I also feel nostalgic about the interviews I conducted with F&M players like Donnie Marsh, Don Anderson, Dennis Westley, Art Taylor and more,” Greenberg said. “They were always gracious and thoughtful, and they made broadcasting the games so much fun. I have such great memories of doing those post-game interviews with the help of my broadcasting partner Tom Larkin. Interviewing famous people was thrilling, but in some ways interviewing my fellow classmates meant even more to me, because they were my friends and we were all learning our roles together.”

Senior Lila Epstein is the Senior Editor. Her email is lepstei1@ fandm.edu.

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