Howard Herman: New gym floor at Pittsfield is good news



The news came out Tuesday night, and if you are a high school basketball fan, it had to make you smile.

The Pittsfield City Council approved an additional expenditure to enable the city to replace the rubberized gym floor in Pittsfield’s Moynihan Field House with a wood floor.

"It’s been a long time coming," Pittsfield girls coach Joe Racicot said. "Our kids are ecstatic right now."

For as long as I have been around the high school sports scene, the rubberized gym floor at PHS has been as much a part of high school basketball as a 3-point shot.

"As a player, you just kind of made the best of it," said Mount Greylock coach Bob Thistle, who graduated from PHS in 1985 and played basketball for the Generals. "It just never had the same feel as a wood floor.

"You had funny bounces. It never seemed like a true basketball environment to me."

In the 1970s, AstroTurf baseball and football fields were becoming all the rage. It was around the same time that artificial surfaces were coming into vogue for basketball.

The University of Tennessee was one of the first Division I colleges to put a rubberized basketball court in. Unlike football fields, artificial surfaces in basketball were a fad.

The talk of converting the PHS floor back to wood is something I’ve heard for years, but now, it’s happening.

Every Pittsfield basketball coach used to talk about going back to wood, and a visiting coach used to complain about it. That’s over now.

"We’re happy about it," PHS boys basketball coach Steve Ray said, adding that Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, the city council and school officials should all be credited with supporting the plan. Good for them.

Ray played on the floor, watched his son Steve play for the Generals and is now coaching on it.

"Every school said it was the worst gym they played in," Ray said.

If you attended a Pittsfield game, you probably saw more traveling violations than you might see at the Boys and Girls Club, at Hoosac Valley or at Drury for example. A lot of the calls were strictly because players, on both sides, would slip.

"It’s going to allow us to be more aggressive," said Ray. "Over the course of a season, it won’t hurt our lefts as much. They’re going to feel better about playing on it."

Unlike the Green Monster at Fenway Park or the smaller dimensions at the old Boston Garden, the new floor in Pittsfield High School will make it a more even playing field, so to speak.

"I kind of lose home court advantage because everybody hates [the old floor]," said Racicot, who used to coach girls basketball at Taconic and Hoosac Valley. "When I was at other schools, you just had to block it out of your mind."

Now, if we can just get that turf football field project rolling.

To reach Howard Herman:,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman


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