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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Most Celtics fans are unfamiliar with the Greensboro Coliseum. Thankfully for the Celtics, some of their players are not.
The Greensboro Coliseum, where Boston will play its second preseason game at 7:30 p.m. tonight against the Charlotte Hornets, has played host to at least five of the players on Boston’s training camp roster, including Tyler Zeller, Terry Rozier and Demetrius Jackson. The common link between those players is that they all played for schools that were members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Coliseum has hosted a record 28 ACC basketball tournaments, dating all the way back to 1967 while hosting as recently as 2015. Needless to say, many ACC basketball memories have been made there.
Zeller, Rozier and Jackson were present for some of the building’s greatest memories, as they recalled before Thursday morning’s shootaround.
Zeller, leaning back into a courtside seat at the arena, casually remembered his favorite moment in the arena.
“There’s a lot of good memories,” he said with a grin. “There’s a game in the ACC tournament that we won on a buzzer-beater.”
Zeller, a modest guy, just so happened to leave out the fact that he was the player who scored that buzzer-beating basket.
Back on March 11, 2011, his Tar Heels squared off with the Miami Hurricanes during a quarterfinals game of the tournament. The teams were tied at 59-59 heading into the last possession of the game.
Kendall Marshall, a fellow NBA player who starred alongside Zeller at North Carolina, drove down the right side of the lane and dropped an up-and-under pass to Zeller, who was standing just below the left side of the backboard. Zeller caught the pass and dropped it softly off the glass and through the basket as time expired to push the top-seeded Tar Heels into the winner’s circle.
While Zeller’s moment was great, it doesn’t compare to Jackson’s. Zeller’s team wound up losing in the championship round of the 2011 tournament, while Jackson’s team at Notre Dame took home the title in 2015.
“It was really fun to go up and cut the nets down and share a lot of joy with my teammates,” Jackson remembered.
He also recalled what it was like playing in such intense ACC games in the middle of the state.
“It seemed like we were against all odds with it being in North Carolina,” he said. “We faced two Carolina schools, two of the more premier Carolina schools, so it was crazy … We had a small, little green section, and the rest of it was just blue.”
Rozier’s memories aren’t quite as positive, as his Louisville team lost to North Carolina during the first round of the 2015 tournament, but he does remember how overwhelming the passion for basketball was in Greensboro during his time there.
“It’s crazy,” Rozier said of the city’s atmosphere during the tournament. “You’ve got so many teams from North Carolina: Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, and so on. It’s just packed with North Carolina basketball fans from all of the teams. Our (Louisville) fans, they travel, they support, but they still had so many more fans over us.”
Such is likely to be the case for Rozier and his Celtics tonight. Boston’s fan base travels as well as, if not better than, any team in the league, as Celtics fans are scattered across the country in large groups. But tonight’s game will take place just 90 miles up Interstate 85 from the Hornets’ home arena in Charlotte.
The Hornets will undoubtedly have a home-court advantage during this tilt, but fortunately for the Celtics, some of their players have experience playing on this court and against all odds.
Hopefully that will help the C’s can log a memory of their own: their first win of the 2016 preseason.