It’s time again to swat away the cobwebs from my brain and look back at a career that has been a blessing. Doing this Wednesday blog is enjoyable for me and I hope you get at least a little something out of it. Admittedly, it’s pretty self-absorbed, but I like thinking about the opportunities I have had in the newspaper business through the years.
I am frequently asked about the coaches I have dealt with. Who do I like? Who don’t I like? Who is the most difficult to deal with? Who is easiest?
Coaches are interesting. My first real introduction to a high-level coach was in high school, where Jim Davie was the football coach. I didn’t play football in high school because, well, I’m a wuss. But for some reason Davie took me under his wing and really was the guy most responsible for getting me involved in journalism. He was able to hook up a job for me at the Derby Daily Reporter, for which I am forever grateful.
Davie, now, was a load. He was loud and mean – or so it seemed – and he intimidated everyone in that high school. Nobody wanted to cross the man.
He and I left Derby at the same time, in 1973. I went to Wichita State to study journalism and he went to Southeast as football coach. Our paths would cross again in 1975, when I started covering high school sports for The Eagle. And Davie was as irascible as ever, but he always had something to say. To this day, my dealings with Davie are among the most enjoyable I’ve had.
He was the kind of guy who would call me on a Sunday morning to complain about something I had written. Because he had gotten me that job in high school, I think he felt like he held something over on me. And as a young reporter, I’m sure he did. I probably gave in to Davie’s whims and desires more than I should have. But at some point, I started talking back. And what had been a one-sided discussion turned into a debate. Davie was finding out that as I gained more confidence in what I was doing, he wasn’t able to push me around as much.
I think his respect for me increased. We developed a relationship. That was an important training ground for me as I continued to learn how to deal with those I was writing about.
Coaches are, by nature, aggressive. They like to gain the upper hand, especially in their relationships with reporters. And it’s not easy for a green kid just out of school – or still in school, in my case – to find that balance. It’s not a reporter’s job to be antagonistic with a coach or anybody else. But it’s also not our job to just take whatever someone in power is giving.
Anyway, Davie was an instrumental figure in my career – both in helping me get into the newspaper business and then for learning the fine art of dealing with a strong-minded coach who was used to getting his way.
I’ll provide you with some quick thoughts on some other coaches I’ve covered in my career, too.
Bill Snyder – Obviously, not an easy guy to get to know. One-on-one interview opportunities with Snyder are few and far between. But those that I have had have been enjoyable. I don’t think there’s a phony bone in Snyder’s body. I think he’s genuinely the guy he appears to be, quirks and all. He’s a football geek, through and through. And he doesn’t get caught up in moments. The only time I’ve seen Snyder show raw emotion was after Kansas State lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game in St. Louis in 1998. That loss, of course, probably kept K-State out of the national championship game. And it took a good long while for Snyder to compose himself enough to be able to talk to the media after it was over.
Bill Self – Good, good guy. And a quote machine. For years, Self has made covering Kansas basketball easy because of his ability to communicate. Ask Self a question – even a bad question – and you get a great, thoughtful answer. He’s a “quote machine,” as we in the media say about a guy who can fill up a notebook. Self has never had a Barack Obama First Debate moment. He’s A-game every time.
Gregg Marshall – Marshall is sensitive. But he’s also really smart and another guy who can be among the best quotes out there, when he’s feeling it. There are a few times each season when Marshall just isn’t in the mood. It’s easy to determine when those times come about and I just refrain from asking too many questions. We’ve had our moments, which isn’t surprising given what the two of us do for a living. But Marshall doesn’t dwell on a tiff for long. When it’s over, it’s over. I think he’s a fantastic basketball coach and I think he’s genuine.
That’s enough for now. Thanks, as always, for reading my blog.