March Madness Odds and Ends

April 2, 2008

Justin Story

Between the game-watching parties I covered and the reporting about the potential windfall to hit WKU after its recently completed Sweet Sixteen run, I feel as though I took on the “March Madness” beat during this year’s NCAA Tournament, talking to John and Jane Public as well as Jim McDaniels, WKU’s All-American from the 1971 Final Four team.

Of course, the news out of Hilltopper country has moved at a rapid pace since the season ended, with Darrin Horn leaving to coach at South Carolina.

Discussions I’ve had with people inside and outside the newsroom revolve around whether this was a good move for Horn.

My input, for what it’s worth — you may as well strike while the iron is hot. A team with several talented seniors who played well together caught lightning in a bottle, and Horn’s path to Columbia also included a stop on the coaching staff of the 2003 Marquette team that played in the Final Four, so there’s little doubt Horn has the ability to improve South Carolina’s position in the SEC.

I respect the argument for building a tradition of winning at WKU before striking out for the proverbial greener pasture (becoming a much more valuable commodity to major colleges with coaching vacancies in the process). After all, South Carolina cannot command the attention of the upper echelon of the coaching pool – at least not in the way Kentucky, Kansas or Indiana can.

Even so, the opportunity to improve on what personal success you’ve already built should seldom, if ever, be bypassed. If South Carolina presents the best opportunity for Horn to continue building on his record, so be it.

Now, some final tidbits and stories during WKU’s run that caught my attention:

— The New York Times had a great feature recently spotlighting the Hilltoppers pioneering spirit on the court when it came to integration. Actively recruiting and giving extensive playing time to black players in an era and part of the country where major schools resisted integrating their basketball teams into the 1970s in some cases should be recognized.

— UCLA legend and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar posted a blog on the Los Angeles Times’ Web site that is also highly complimentary toward WKU’s history.

— Here’s a commentary on Bloomberg.com that places WKU’s recent tourney run alongside George Mason’s 2006 Final Four and Gonzaga’s emergence as a tourney mainstay. This was written before Horn’s departure, but the short-term gains are still sure to be realized and the opportunity is there for the basketball team to carve out a similar niche to these other so-called “mid-major programs.”

— Finally, we in the newsroom are well aware of the fast-traveling rumors connecting Bobby Knight with the now-vacant coaching position.

As it turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, the Indiana University discussion board hosted by Rivals.com is also addressing this subject.

Please take whatever you may read on this board with the appropriate amount of salt.


Sweet 16 Blog from Phoenix

March 27, 2008

Media CircusGameday

It’s GAMEDAY! Got up this morning to watch BKO sports anchor James “JB” Brandenburg being interview on ESPN’s First and Ten talking about the Hilltoppers. He was the best of the bunch that was interviewed about the teams they cover. I packed my gear and hit the media hospitality room for a bagel and coffee. Road the media shuttle to the arena and set up shop. I grabbed my little Canon G7 Powershot and went looking for WKU fans to do a quick video. I shot the t-shirt vendors setting up shop and wandered around until I found two WKU fans for a quick standup interview. Then I peeked into the arena to watch a few seconds of WKU closed practice. I tried to grab a few frames of video, but no luck. I was also worried about getting ousted. As I made my way back down to the photo workroom, I found the team walking to their bus. I shot a few seconds of video and started to put it all together. It is pretty down and dirty. I took the avi files into VisualHub and converted then into iMovie for a quick edit. I then took it back into VisualHub to export as an flv file. Compressed it and sent it to our online producer Chris Houchens. Did a walk around the arena, grabbed a Diet Coke and sat down to blog. Headed to the media buffet in a few and then will get gear ready and head to the floor. Very nervous. Pretty excited. Hoping for a win.

More in a bit.

Media Circus

Well, it’s officially a circus. I took the media shuttle to the U.S. Airways Center this morning at 9:30, got my credentials, secured a spot in the photo work room, talked to the photo marshall about my shooting spot for the game, saved the paper $300 on internet by getting a wireless line for cheap, got my camera’s cleaned, got some cool loaner gear, bought shirts and a hat for the family and oh yeah, shot a ton of pictures. 830 to be exact. I started off with West Virginia’s practice. Bob Huggins was looking rough. Then WKU took the floor and I shot from multiple angles, down low, up top and under the basket. The Hilltoppers looked relaxed, but not too relaxed. Following the 50 minute practice, they opened the locker room to the media. It was a circus! Reporters, videographers, photographers and more reporters rushed in for the news feeding frenzy. The players looked like deer in the headlights! I had to shoot from way above Courtney to see him from all the people closing in around him. Tyrone Brazelton was backed up against the wall. Even Adam Howard was getting some journalist love. I bet 30 people rushed in. I shot for about 20 minutes and did a quick sound interview with A.J. Slaughter and Boris Siakam. I use the voice recorder on the back of my camera to get 60 seconds of sound and then use it in the SoundSlides program we do our shows with. It just adds a little bit extra to the show. They should be online at www.bgdailynews.com by now. After the media frenzy, I went out and grabbed a few frames of Xavier’s practice for my shows. I went back and edited and then hit UCLA’s practice. They had the most fans. And man are they big, I mean really big. Speaking of fans, during WVa. practice a guy in a red shirt with a W on it sat down with his son and started watching the players and he stayed through WKU’s practice. I saw a bunch of TV people and reporters go over and interview him. I shot a few frames and planned to go over and get some sound. When I got closer, I noticed the W looked funny. I asked his name, Todd Baumer of Fort Wayne, Ind. I asked is he was a WKU fan. He said this is a Wisconsin shirt, I am a basketball fan and I came to watch all of the practices. He laughed and said every member of the media was surprised, thinking he was from WKU. He gave me his thoughts on the game and I used his sound.

I spent about two hours editing the pics, sound and slide shows. I shipped everything to the paper and packed up. On the way out I checked my photo position. During the first half of the WKU/UCLA game, I will be in the front row about the middle. In the second half, on WKU home end, I am in the front row, right under the basket. Primo photo real estate. Unless of course I get a ref who parks himself right under the basket. Which will really suck. Anyway, I am getting a little nervous about shooting. David Smith did such a good job for us, the pressure is on. I really will have to step it up a notch and shoot hard to justify spending almost $2K for a photographer to come out when we could get pics from the wire services. That’s why I did the slide show and put up the extra content. Time to find some dinner. I will log back on tonight to add more stuff to this blog, the Daily News blog and the online reprint service. I just got off the phone with Tracy and she said people have asked if I am having fun, did I go over to Las Vegas. I wish. If (or when WKU, wins) I might check out Phoenix and the surrounding area on Friday. If they lose, I am headed back to BG so I can see my son play soccer on Saturday. Just got a call from Brent Price. He and Jill are in Phoenix and I will be on the lookout for them at the game. More later.

Sweet 16 day 2

Here I am at the U.S. Airways Center on Thursday ready to cover practice and media day at the West Regional Finals. Rode the shuttle over, got my credentials, found the photo workroom and talked my way into $16.95 a day wireless instead of the $350 hard line. I went out and checked the light on the court and am getting my gear ready. Met the Nikon techs and got some loaner gear. West Virginia is on the floor and I shot a few pics and came back to post before WKU takes the floor. There is a ton of security and people checking your credentials everywhere. I am getting a bit excited about things starting to happen. I am ready to get the show on the road. More after WKU’s practice.

Sweet 16 day 1

I stayed up late last night packing for my trip to phoenix and the chance to cover the Hilltoppers. I made the morning budget meeting and worked the photo desk for three hours until a 1015 press conference at Diddle. Usually just the WKU beat writer Rob Herbst and BKO’s own James Brandenburg are there. But today we had the AP, Louisville and Nashville tv along with a few word herders I didn’t  recognize. Ty rogers and Tyrone Brazelton came in and sat down and answered questions for about 30 minutes. They were used to it by now. They have been on sports center CBS and been interviewed by tons of national press. They both gave great answers and one that stuck out was Tyrone talking about his friends asking if WKU was a Division 2 school. I tried to make interesting pictures to Wednesday’s sports centerpiece. I pulled out all of the stops looking for every angle. Another tv guy showed up late and took Ty and Tyrone out to floor of Diddle were I think I made the picture that will run Wednesday. I talked with ty for a minute about their travel plans and then left to pick up my reporter. We headed to Nashville to catch a flight on Southwest to Phoenix. The team was leaving by charter at 3 from BG. So here I am typing on my iPhone 40,000 up. Herbst wrote his story and crashed. I am going to get the flight attendants attention and cash in my free drink coupon for a bourbon. Back in a bit.

Made it to Phoenix. More later.