Demolition of Erwin Center signifies end of era for Texas men’s basketball

Christina Huang, Sports Desk Editor

Since its 1977 opening, 28 NCAA Tournament-bound Texas teams have played in the Frank Erwin Center. 

Out of those teams, 16 were led by Rick Barnes, the Texas head coach from 1998 to 2015. Barnes made his return to Texas back in January for the Big 12/SEC Challenge with Tennessee, facing off against his former team. 

“17 years (at Texas),” Barnes said. “I loved it. I really did.” 

Barnes’ last trip to the Erwin Center before its impending demolition served as a reminder of not only the most successful stretch in Texas basketball history, but also of the place where the magic happened. The Erwin Center was home to Texas’ 2003 Final Four team, which made the farthest NCAA Tournament run in program history. 

No. 21 Texas men’s basketball played its final game at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday night and came up short in a 68–61 loss to No. 3 Baylor. Regardless of the outcome, the game marked the end of a monumental era in Texas basketball history.

“Obviously, the outcome of the game’s disappointing for us,” Texas head coach Chris Beard said. “But it can’t, and should not, take away from the last (men’s basketball) game ever (at) the Erwin Center.” 

Texas men’s basketball ended its time at the Drum with a 549–142 record, with a few of the wins coming from some timely plays. In a memorable 2017 win over Oklahoma, Andrew Jones led Texas to a victory. In 2015, Javan Felix’s buzzer beater upset No. 3 North Carolina. 

A video that highlighted some of Texas basketball’s greatest moments, including Felix’s buzzer beater, was shown prior to tipoff Monday night. The highlight reel also included plays from former Longhorn and two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant. 

Although Texas basketball icons like Durant and T.J. Ford are long gone, their legacies are a part of what makes the Erwin Center so meaningful. Durant and Ford are the only players in Texas history to have won both the Naismith and Wooden Awards in the same year. 

Ford was one of many former Longhorns to make an appearance at the Erwin Center’s farewell. Seeing past Texas stars at games this season was not a rare sight, with head coach Chris Beard heavily pushing a campaign to unite those of Texas basketball past and present. Beard’s “Unite the Family” effort also meant packing the Erwin Center full of 16,540 fans for one last ride. 

Despite multiple sold-out games this season, the Drum never carried the reputation of being a difficult environment to play in. 

“This is one of the easiest places in the league to play because they don’t bring people in here,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “You can hear conversations in the stands almost.” 

But Beard was able to turn things around for one last go-around in the Erwin Center. Kansas head coach Bill Self said the Feb. 7 crowd was the best he has seen in Austin. 

“I will say this about tonight,” Self said. “It’s probably as good of a crowd as we’ve had since we’ve played here.” 

Although the demolition of the Erwin Center closes a chapter for Texas basketball, the legacy of success at the Drum lives on through the high expectations set for the Longhorns year after year. 

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March 4, 2022 flipbook.