MAAC on the Road: Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
The 2011 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classis took place at Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut, and I was fortunate enough to be working this event. The tournament took place on Saturday, November 19th and Sunday, November 20th, with the tournament being broken up into two brackets, the Naismith and Springfield bracket. The Naismith bracket featured Kentucky, Old Dominion, Penn State, and University of South Florida, while the Springfield bracket featured Marist, Vermont, Long Island University, and Radford. On Friday my job was to supervise team practices for Penn State, Old Dominion, Radford, and University of South Florida at the brand new practice facility of the Connecticut Sun. The facility was so new that teams couldn’t use anything except the courts. The teams couldn’t use the locker rooms or the showers because these were not completed. This facility is one of the nicest ones I have ever seen to date. Staffing these practices gave me a chance to meet the head coaches of the basketball teams and observe how these teams conduct practices. What a great experience it was, having only seen these teams on TV and now getting to watch them up close and personal.
That night we had a banquet dinner with all the teams, along with some Hall of Famers. Nancy Lieberman, one of the Hall of Famers and an Old Dominion alum, gave a speech about her life and how it feels to be in the Hall of Fame. Other Hall of Fame inductees that were in attendance were CM Newton, a former Kentucky player who coached Transylvania College, University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University; Dan Issel, a two time all American player for Kentucky and former coach of the Denver Nuggets; and Tommy Heinsohn, an eight-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics and a six time NBA all-star.
My job throughout the event was to be a team greeter and supervise the back of house. Back of house refers to the part of an arena that is not accessible to the public. To manage this area, you have to learn the flooring plan of the arena and where everything and anything is just in case a team needs it. For example, one question I received was if it was possible to get a projector and a monitor to Radford’s locker room for their late game. I had to get in contact with the facilities manager and see if they had a projector/monitor and if it was possible to have it in a locker room. I also was in charge of making sure the locker rooms were switched over for the next team to come in, and that the rooms were filled with Powerade and fruit for the teams when they arrived. Along with the back of house I was the team greeter, welcoming the teams as they arrived at the arena and showing them to the locker room they would use that day.
Kentucky and Penn State started off the tournament off with a noon time tip on Saturday, with Kentucky fans packing the Mohegan Sun Arena. While Kentucky and Penn State were playing, I was arranging the locker rooms for the next two teams that would arrive and checking on the status of the officials’ locker room. As the game went on, the radio personnel for the second game showed up and I had to show them where they would be stationed and help them set up. After the game was over, I assisted with the press conferences. When someone raised a hand to ask a question, I would walk a microphone over so the question could be heard by the entire room. In my mind that was a cool perk of the job, as I have only seen press conferences on TV and to be part of running one was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. As game two started between Old Dominion and USF, I was busy making sure that the previously used locker rooms were getting cleaned and nothing was left from the past teams. Soon the next two teams were showing up and the second game was over, and I was back to making sure the locker rooms were clean and ready to go for the last teams to come in.
After a long Saturday, Sunday was scheduled for another day filled with basketball. Game 1 was the championship game of the Naismith bracket featuring Kentucky and Old Dominion. My job again for the day was to be a team greeter and to supervise any issues the teams had about their locker rooms or any general questions about the facility. While setting up for game two on Sunday, Rajon Rondo a former Kentucky player and now point guard for the Boston Celtics showed up to support his old team and watch them win the Naismith bracket. As part of working the back of house, I had to make sure the trophy was delivered on time and was nice and shiny. Than I had to again make sure the locker rooms were clean and ready to go for the next two teams to come in. The championship game for the Springfield bracket featured Long Island vs. Vermont. Again my job was to make sure the trophy was delivered on time and make the trophy look like it just came out of the box.
With the tournament over and the champions crowned it was time to break everything down and clean up. On our way out the Radford team manager stopped us to say how great the tournament was run, how they loved the experience, and most of all how they would do this every year if they could. For a team that went 0-2 in the tournament to tell you how successful the tournament was run is a great feeling. It makes you feel that the long weekend was worth it in every way. This tournament was one of the reasons why working in college sports is the right career for me.