A time to meet and greet at Final Four Final four will 'D' up, keep scoring down
By Jeff Portnoy
Yesterday was a day filled with shoot-arounds, coach and player press conferences, awards, celebrity sightings, and meetings.
The day started with the U.S. Basketball Writers Association awards breakfast. The honorees were Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim as National Coach of the Year, John Wall of Kentucky as Freshman of the Year, Evan Turner of Ohio State as National Player of the Year, and IUPUI head coach Ron Turner as the "good guy" award winner for his work for samaritan feet, a non-profit that has provided more than a million shoes to kids in third world countries.
You might remember Ron coaching a game in bare feet.
Presenting the awards were writer John Feinstein, Andy Katz of ESPN, Kentucky coach John Calipari, and Oscar Robertson, for whom the national player award is named after.
After that, it was off to Lucas Oil Stadium for the team shoot-arounds and interviews.
Normally, these open practices are free to the public, not the interviews, and fans of the teams come to watch what is a fairly boring exercise. But yesterday, there were more than 20,000 Butler fans in the stadium to watch their beloved Bulldogs.
The press conferences were fairly routine with the coaches and players saying all the right things, but my highlight was meeting the actual Butler Bulldog, who unless something is done about our quarantine laws, will have a hard time making it to the Diamond Head Classic.
I spent some time talking to Greg Gumbal of CBS, and met Jim Nance and Dick Enberg. I am staying at the media hotel and all the CBS talent are here.
I also spoke to Duke's Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) who I have had the privilege of hosting in the old Rainbow Classic.
I then spent time with former UH head coaches Riley Wallace and Larry Little. Riley had just come from a reception for the College Basketball Insiders Tournament, where he is on the selection committee.
The tournament's Most Valuable Player award will be named after him.
Jamie Dixon is the same humble guy as he was when he was making $40,000 as a UH assistant, even though he just signed an extension that reportedly will pay him more than $2 million a year. He continues to have a great love for Hawai'i and the basketball program, and hopefully he will bring his Pittsburgh team to the islands someday soon.
Folks here continue to talk about Butler and the movie "Hoosiers."
You may recall that the movie starred Gene Hackman as the coach of Hickory High School, who beat powerhouse South Bend Central on a last-second shot by Jimmy Chitwood.
In real life, it was Bobby Plump who hit the last-second shot. And it was Milan High, with an enrollment of 161, which beat Muncey Central High, with an enrollment of over a thousand, to win the Indiana state championship.
Plump still owns a restaurant named Plump's Last Shot. Plump will be the guest of the Indiana governor tonight.
Finally, UH Athletic Director Jim Donovan, Diamond Head Classic head Dave Matlin and I spent two hours talking about UH athletics, including the hiring process that led to the selection of coach Gib Arnold.
Jeff Portnoy is a Honolulu attorney and basketball enthusiast.