Suns bring ‘Madhouse’ back to life for a night

Eric Bledsoe capped Saturday's Suns scrimmage at Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a driving layup with seconds remaining to seal a 67-66 win.

During one second-quarter stretch of Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Devin Booker made six quick points on a 3-pointer, a driving layup and a free throw. The spurt galvanized an already engaged crowd of 8,000 mostly clad in purple and orange for the team’s fan fest.

Just down the hall from the refurbished court, Walter Davis — 42 years Booker’s senior — mused about the jump shot that had scored more points in the same building than any other Suns player in team history.

"I worked on that shot for hours," he laughed.

Such was the clash of old nostalgia and new energy in the building that created both in its heyday. The Madhouse on McDowell was alive again, reminiscing about its glorified past while offering a sneak peak of a tantalizing future.

Suns legends, including several Ring of Honor members, arrived to meet and interact with fans before the scrimmage took place. One fan sported an ABA ball adorned with several of the former league’s stars. He saw former Phoenix superstar and Hall of Fame inductee Connie Hawkins add his signature to the list.

An elderly father and his middle-aged son arrived wearing shirts acquired during the former’s prime and the latter’s youth. The shirts bore an image of the Coliseum, and wording that commemorated the arena’s 24 years of service as an NBA arena. Those shirts are now 23 years old.

A new generation of Suns fans mingled with its predecessor. Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker jerseys numbered in the dozens. One fan arrived supporting Tyson Chandler, Phoenix’s headline free agent signing, by wearing his Team USA jersey from when the veteran big man won gold in the 2012 Olympics.

Fans of all ages and eras sat in the old Coliseum seats and watched their former player and current coach Jeff Hornacek — who played all six of his Phoenix years at the Madhouse — come onto the floor wearing his old Suns warmups.

"The guys in the locker room were getting a kick out of it when I put [the warmups] on," Hornacek laughed, "but then they were saying ‘Hey, those are pretty cool! We should get a set of those!’"

Hornacek’s introduction was followed by 40 minutes of spirited play from his new squad. On several occasions when play stopped, fans were treated to the Gorilla’s antics in live and video format. At one point, the renowned NBA mascot rappelled from the ceiling of the same arena where he began his antics 25 years ago.

At halftime, Hall-of-Fame broadcaster and Voice of the Suns Al McCoy introduced the Suns legends in attendance, which included everyone from 1969-70 starting center Jim Fox to 1988-89 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Eddie Johnson to long-time trainer Joe Proski.

The basketball was just as captivating as the atmosphere. Team Cotton (named after former Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons) took a commanding double-digit lead in the first half behind Sonny Weems (14 points), Jon Leuer (12 points, nine rebounds) and Brandon Knight (10 points, six rebounds, five assists).

Eric Bledsoe and Team MacLeod (named after former Coach John MacLeod) stormed back in the secon half with stifling defense and 14 rebounds by Chandler. Bledsoe capped off the comeback with a driving layup with seconds remaining to seal the 67-66 win.