Situated near the heart of the Delta State University campus is a circular brick building, known as Walter Sillers Coliseum, which is home to some of the most historic athletic programs at Delta State—Statesmen and Lady Statesmen basketball.
Completed in time for the 1961-62 season, Walter Sillers Coliseum was named after Rosedale, Miss., native Walter Sillers, who was a long-time advocate and friend of the University and showed what was termed as “unusual loyalty and devotion to DSU.” Sillers Coliseum was dedicated on Jan. 19, 1961, at an elaborate ceremony that featured then governor Ross Barnett and comments from Walter Sillers.
The 3,000-seat arena offers fans a panoramic view from two different levels, including more than 1,000 chair-back seats in the mezzanine level. During the spring of 1997 the bleachers on the lower east level were replaced with luxury seats for fans and lowered almost to floor level in 1999. A large stage dominates the north end of the arena. Though rarely used in theatrical productions, it serves as the focal point for DSU commencement exercises and the stage for Delta State’s pep band during home basketball games.
The famed floor that so many DSU greats played on was replaced by a state of the art parquee floor following the 1998 season. Prior to the 2008-09 season, the court was freshly painted and touched up.
The court was later renamed and dedicated in honor of former head coach for the Lady Statesmen Lloyd Clark on Jan. 10, 2015.
Clark took over the program in 1983 after the Lady Statesmen suffered their first losing season since reinstatement. Walter Sillers Coliseum was one of the most feared venues in America under his watch. In 19 seasons, the Lady Statesmen dominated play in Sillers going an amazing 264-22 (.923). DSU also became the first school in NCAA history to win a National title on its home floor. During his career, Clark guided teams to the NCAA tournament 16 times. Eleven of those years DSU advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. In those 16 appearances, the Lady Statesmen compiled a 39-14 (.736) record.
In its heyday, Sillers Coliseum was one of the finest indoor arenas in the state, and soon became host to every high school and college tournament and event imaginable.
Today, it is still one of the largest arenas in the Gulf South Conference and has hosted conference, regional and national tournaments, including the 1989 NCAA Division II Women’s Final Four and the 1998 NCAA Division II Men’s South Regional.
The coliseum lobby features the DSU Athletic Hall of Fame and includes plaques of the school’s all-time athletic superstars, and the Wade Trophy, awarded annually to the top collegiate woman’s basketball player in America.
Offices for men’s and women’s basketball are located in the coliseum. There are also four spacious locker rooms, a referee’s lounge, weight room, media room, and several classrooms.
During the summer of 2008, the player’s locker rooms were completely renovated and included the addition of a player’s lounge that features a flat screen television, Internet access and luxury couches and chairs.
In the fall 2015, Delta State Athletics announced plans to renovate Walter Sillers Coliseum. Construction has already begun on the south end of the facility.
Standing outside the coliseum is a statue of the “mother of modern women’s collegiate basketball” former Lady Statesman and legendary coach Margaret Wade.
A standout player for the Lady Statesmen from 1929 until the program’s disbandment in 1932, Wade became head coach in 1972 when the program was finally reinstated.
During her career as a head coach, Wade led the Lady Statesmen to historic success. She finished with a career record of 465-85 and guided the Lady Statesmen to three-consecutive A.I.A.W. National Championships in 1975, 1976, and 1977. Her winning percentage (.789) remains one of the greatest of all-time. She retired as head coach following the 1979 season with a 157-23 record.
Although Wade passed away on Feb. 12, 1995, her legacy lives on through the tradition of Lady Statesmen basketball.
The statue was dedicated in honor of Wade on Nov. 14, 2014. Renowned Mississippi sculptor William Beckwith, who created the sculpture of William Faulkner on the square in Oxford, Miss., was commissioned to produce the Wade piece. The Taylor, Miss., native has created many memorable pieces across the state, including the statue of B.B. King in Indianola, Miss.; Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Miss.; Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog at the William Percy Library in Greenville, Miss.; and the Flag Bearer of the Mississippi 11th at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa.