"Thompson was the most dominant college player we've seen," said Len Elmore, the record-setting rebounder whose only losses at Cole were administered by N.C. State and Thompson. "I handled playing against Bill Walton. There was no stopping David Thompson."

Ernie Graham often took a backseat to Albert King, but the Baltimorean had a performance for the ages in 1979, when he dropped 44 points on N.C. State. His school record would be 50 if there had been a three-point line.

"Falling out of bounds in the second half, Ernie buried a jump shot," said Greg Manning, a Terps sharpshooter who later joined Johnny Holliday on Maryland's broadcasting team for 14 seasons. "As only Ernie could do, he slowly got back on the floor and lumbered to the defensive end with that gait of his."

Sanctions to sellouts

Dixon is chasing Bias' school scoring record, but no one got more at Cole than Adrian Branch, who dropped in 1,028 points from 1982 to '85. Twenty-nine came in a deliberate overtime win over Virginia in February 1992.

Jordan and the defending NCAA champs went down a year later, when the freshmen included Bias, whose greatest games quelled Tobacco Road. His cocaine-induced death in 1986 led to the forced resignation of Driesell, who's now the coach at Georgia State. Wade left under a cloud three years later, and resultant NCAA sanctions compounded the rebuilding job that faced Williams.

A string of sellouts and an 85-game nonconference home-court streak will carry over to Comcast, but Cole was less than half full in December 1989, when Williams' first team was beaten by Coppin State. Eagles players were met with incredulity when they claimed they beat Maryland; disbelief engulfed Cole, too.

"There weren't a lot of people here who had great dreams," Williams said. "We had to create dreams."

Walt Williams warmed Cole through some hard winters, and Maryland became known to the NCAA as a participant rather than a host when Keith Booth and Joe Smith arrived in 1993. The third member of that recruiting class was Matt Kovarik, a current assistant who joined Reggie Jackson (1979-82) as the only Terps players to experience two wins over No. 1 at Cole. Both of Kovarik's, in 1995 and '98, came against North Carolina.

Point guard Terrell Stokes informed ESPN's Dick Vitale that "we shocked the world" in '98, as that era's students got their turn to storm the court. During the NBA strike a year later, executives and coaches looking to feed their basketball Jones followed the star to Cole, where Francis was performing his acrobatics. Now the Terps are one Kansas loss away from their first No. 1 ranking ever.

"It is absolutely amazing how this has all worked out," said Gary Williams, whose legacy includes a school record 8-for-8 shooting performance in December 1966, during his senior season with the Terps.

Joe Harrington, one of Williams' teammates, is offering pieces of the floor at www.colefieldhouse.com. He'll replace however many rectangles are sold. Until its fate is finalized, Cole will be used for campus recreation, but the concourse -- 5 1/3 laps to a mile -- has long been a serviceable jogging track. Basketball coaches never had much privacy anyway; Driesell used to roust coeds looking for a quiet place to study.

Cole has provided punishment -- how many Millikan players had to run the steps? -- and center court marriage proposals. When there were living quarters on the third floor, above what is now athletic director Debbie Yow's office, Cole was a flophouse for basketball players on semester break and football coaches during two-a-days.

It has produced three Final Four teams for women's coach Chris Weller, 11 men's All-Americans from Tom McMillen through Dixon and a million memories.

The squad that opened Cole and the 1958 NCAA team, old-timers who gathered at nearby Ledo's restaurant last night, will be honored at halftime tonight. The post-game will include a "ball-passing" ceremony linking former Terps and the holdovers who will move into Comcast. Millikan, 81 years young, will be in the house. Sadly, Terps half his age won't, as death already took Bias, Brown, Darrell Brown, Chris Patton and Taylor Baldwin.

The other third of the three-guard lineup that featured Lucas and Brad Davis in 1975 and '76 will remember them, too.

"I'm really, really sad," Mo Howard said. "The new place is going to be state-of-the-art. That's well and good, but Cole is always going to be my home court."