Brian Tarrant '96 Gives the Melo Center an Extra Dimension
The Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center provides the men's and women's basketball teams with a training facility that rivals any in collegiate sports. But there is more to the Melo than conditioning equipment, audio-visual rooms, and practice courts. It is also home to a unique immersion experience for Syracuse alumni, students, and sports fans: the Orange Basketball Hall of Fame. Brian Tarrant '96 played a key role in giving the permanent exhibition its singular qualities. "On a visit to campus several years ago, I saw some of the items under consideration for the project," says Tarrant, a vice president at MC2, a leading designer and builder of exhibits and marketing environments. "It was good stuff, but didn't really tell a story, which is what we do at MC2. So I reached out to [athletics director] Daryl Gross and got together with my design team to make a presentation. I think we really knocked their socks off with it." Tarrant credits Gross, Rob Edson '90, Susie Mehringer, Pete Moore, and Pete Sala of the athletics department for their contributions to the production process. "It was a great pleasure to work with them," he says.
Dark wooden trophy cases, historical time-lines, and yellowing newspaper clippings are in short supply in this hall of fame. Instead, visitors are dazzled with a collage in glass and metal, bringing together the generations, the men's and women's teams, and all the great personalities and memorable performances, with the spectacular 2003 NCAA championship trophy at the center of it all. "We didn't want the younger generation walking off to one side and the older generation to the other," Tarrant says. "Our aim was to have everybody see every part of the exhibit."
Tarrant knows firsthand about the role of facilities in attracting student-athletes. A recruited high school football player from Long Island, he was all but set to accept an offer from Rutgers when he made a campus visit to Syracuse. "I took the trip just for the heck of it, and I fell in love with the place," he says. A sociology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, Tarrant played defensive end for the Orange, and was a member of the 1993 team that defeated Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. After graduation, he moved to Las Vegas, where his parents had relocated. "I looked in the football alumni book and found exactly one name in Nevada, Shawn Garrity ['86], so I looked him up and sent him a resume," Tarrant says. "He started me on the phones in a sales job." Tarrant has come a long way since, earning a reputation in the experiential marketing industry for coordinating corporate events, trade show exhibitions, and retail environments for such top-shelf outfits as Nike and Mercedes-Benz AMG. In 2008, he was picked to head MC2's newly formed collegiate services division.
Putting his talents to work for SU was particularly satisfying, according to Tarrant. "This was not just a job-this is my home, a place I come from," he says. "I asked myself, ‘What was important to me at 18?' and I remembered how cool it was learning about the great Vic Hanson ['27]." Hanson, who captained Syracuse basketball, football, and baseball teams, is the only individual enshrined in both the College Football and Naismith Basketball halls of fame. As a junior, he led the men's basketball team to a 19-1 national championship season, and his number 8 jersey hangs in the Carrier Dome. Honoring Hanson in the Orange Basketball Hall of Fame was a special delight for Tarrant. "We searched for everything we could find that would give students that kind of excitement and pride," he says. "We want them to know they're part of something bigger." —David Marc