Dropping Names and The Ball

By Jerry Palm - April 04, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- The Final Four attracts all of the big wheels of this sport, and sometimes even other sports, to the host city, and we are blessed this year to have the event in San Antonio. Unlike Detroit, which hosted last week's Midwest regional and hosts next year's Final Four, you can walk this city. Most people do that on the Riverwalk, where there is a bevy of bars, restaurants and shops to keep people occupied.

You can also walk to the Alamodome, although it's a longish walk. I did that when I first arrived (on a flight that included Illinois coach Bruce Weber, his assistant Jay Price, and Georgetown coach John Thompson III -- it's never too soon to drop names) in the hopes of picking up my credential.

What an idiot I was. I had an easier time getting into Canada than picking up my credential. That's because I succeeded at getting into Canada.

The credential system for the Final Four "works" as follows: You apply for a credential and submit a photo with your application, because Final Four credentials have pictures on them. Then, they drop the ball by losing or otherwise deciding they cannot use your photo. Next, they make you stand in a ridiculously long line to wait to have your picture taken with their camera, which must be the only one capable of producing an approved photo. Then, the camera breaks, and you give up and go home. Even when the camera worked, the process was, to be kind, inefficient. I decided not to spend the rest of my first day in town waiting in that line, so I will try again today. I hope I don't need my passport. I didn't bring it.

I caught up with fellow blogger David Scott, road trippers Jake and Cyrus, Drexel assistant Tony Childs and Rhode Island SID Mike Laprey at a bar called Crazy Sam's. Sam must have been the bartender. He didn't seem entirely sane.

We quickly got out of there though and headed to Casa Rio, a Mexican joint on the Riverwalk. We ate outside, on the edge of the river, which gave Laprey an opportunity to wave to all the tourists, and gave us a chance to share our food with the rather bold pigeons and ducks. The food was good, but the service was a bit slow.

Scott, the relentless blogger, never takes a break, even to eat.

We were there for a few hours before the party broke up and Scott and I headed back to the coaches' hotel to see if there was any action there. Scott complained earlier that the lobby there was not particularly busy earlier, which is unusual for the coaches' hotel. That's typically one of the world's great meet markets.

There was more activity this time. On the way there, we ran into Purdue coach Matt Painter and his former assistant and current Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery. We also said hello to Matt Brady, who recently left Marist to take the job at James Madison.

As soon as we got into the lobby, we saw former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian and chatted with him for a bit. I am a regular on his radio show on Sirius and hope to get a chance to be on today (depending on whether I can get my credential in time).

We also ran into Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, who was holding court with a couple of younger coaches. Among other things, they were asking him about The Play. He never tires of talking about it, and I never get tired of seeing it.

Homer's already smiling, as if he knows what's coming. Actually, Homer is always smiling.

I asked him about his experience with the CBI and he thought it was great (Valpo won at Washington, then lost at Houston). He's in favor, like most coaches, of anything that keeps teams playing. He suggested it could help coaches keep their jobs. I'm not so sure I buy that.

We also chatted with The Sporting News writer extraordinaire Mike DeCourcy about some of the recent and rumored coaching moves. When Kansas State coach Frank Martin came by though, Mike had work to do.

We also talked with former Providence assistant Steve Demeo and Tim Walsh's father, Jerry, before Scott had to go gussy himself up for a shindig later that night.

I eventually made my way over to Pat O'Brien's to check out the action at the WGN radio remote, where host David Kaplan interviews a parade of coaches and other big names in the sport. He has me on too, and yesterday, I was on with Rob Jeter, the coach at UW Milwaukee, and then we were joined by basketball camp pioneer Howard Garfinkel. Garfinkel's appearance got Jeter jazzed up a bit because he played in Garfinkel's 5-star camp as a high schooler.

I also got to meet Cliff Ellis, formerly of Clemson, now at Coastal Carolina, Wisconsin boss Bo Ryan, Blaine Taylor of Old Dominion.

During the show, Bob Huggins and Tom Izzo did a segment together which was just hysterical. Huggins seemed particularly, um, loose. At one point, Huggins says to Kaplan, "you have completely lost control of the show, haven't you." Yes, he had, and he was loving it. It was great radio.

Kap and I went out for a bite to eat with a couple of friends of his that happen to be from my neck of the woods in NW Indiana. We ended up at Saltgrass on the Riverwalk, after Kap convinced the manager to serve us, even though they had technically closed 10 minutes earlier. It was worth the effort. I had something called Beef Enbrouchette, which is French for "wrapped in poblanos and bacon." It was really good.

While we were sitting there, Dickie V walked by, our last star sighting of the night. After dinner, it was off to sleep. I need to be well rested to get through the credential process today.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 08:08 AM on April 04, 2008

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