Yesterday was “SEC Basketball Tipoff,” aka SEC Basketball Media Day, here in Nashville, and now that I’ve churned through the majority of the Kentucky content, I’m ready to reflect on the event as a whole. Simply put, it was a hot mess.
1. The setup was horrible
I had planned on bringing you guys a rundown of each team in the league; however, once I walked in the tiny meeting room they had us in, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. The room was split in half, with one side set up as a “work room” and the other as the main media area, with small high top tables stationed around the perimeter. Throughout the day, coaches and players came through the room at staggered times, meaning at least two or three people were talking at once, leading to crowding around the small tables and mass chaos on the open floor. TV cameras, cords, tripods, microphones, and large, grumpy reporters were just a few of the obstacles you had to face while switching from one interview to another, and unless you were the height or an actual basketball player or could squeeze through gaps like Benny Snell, there was no getting close to anyone worth talking to.
Media gonna whine, I know, but being smushed up next to a total stranger with a photographer’s hot, smelly breath in your ear is not an ideal way to do anything (legal, at least). When you compare the setup to the palatial spread at SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, it is obvious that, to the league, basketball does not “just mean more.”
2. There was a literal stampede when Calipari walked in
As the day went on, it became painfully obvious how chaotic it would be once Calipari walked in. With no indication from the staff on where Calipari would be placed, reporters and photographers staked their claim around one of the open tables in hopes it would encourage officials to bring him to us. NOPE. At the last minute, they decided to put him across the room, leading to a literal stampede. TV cameras came crashing down as reporters scurried to get a front row spot. Like the nice dufus I am, I stopped to help a camera guy get his tripod and microphone off the floor, which meant I couldn’t even see Cal most of the time he spoke. As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, I ended up watching most of it on John Clay’s iPad (thanks, John!).
That close proximity made it easy for Calipari to reach out and jokingly pat down a few reporters for a wire, much to their enjoyment:
People are getting fired at Louisville meanwhile, Calipari is tickling reporters at SEC Media Day pic.twitter.com/MHQpdS9Lpy
— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) October 18, 2017
Enough complaining. Some good things…
3. There was free sparkling water!
And, like at any SEC event, all the Sunkist and Dr. Pepper you could dream of. I hear the lunch was also excellent (I’m still “eating clean,” which meant an unwich from Jimmy John’s down the block).
4. Andy Kennedy is a treasure
The only thing that makes this event worth it? Andy Kennedy. The longest tenured coach in the SEC always entertains, and yesterday, cracked several jokes about how dumb Media Day was (TRUTH!), how Kentucky’s always good, and Jerry Tipton. The best was when he was asked about Ole Miss’ beautiful new arena, the Pavilion, which replaced the old, dark “Tad Pad.”
“It is well lit. The AC works. I kind of like the darkness at times. I’m better in the dark. Bada Bing!”
LOL. Never change, Andy.
5. Pat Bradley’s accent fascinates me
The former Arkansas Razorbacks guard is now an analyst for the SEC Network, and, as we discussed a little last season, has the most bizarre accent. He was born in Massachusetts and lives in Little Rock now, so he’s got this weird Yankee twang that he turns on and off while on camera. He occupied an entire corner of the tiny room we were in, so we got to hear lots of his questions, which ranged from challenging Cuonzo Martin to one-on-one in Birkenstocks to how many times Ben Howland has seen Godfather and Godfather Part II (80 times). Unfortunately, this video doesn’t do it justice:
The best part when Bradley asked 21-year-old Riley LaChance how often he shaves. If you’ve forgotten, this is what Riley LaChance looks like:
Speaking of accents…
6. Admiral Schofield’s British accent needs work
The Tennessee big man was born in London, England (at the same hospital where Princess Diana gave birth to Princes William and Harry, in fact), but his British accent could use some work:
Kudos to him for being a good sport. He was the funniest kid we talked to all day.
7. Michael Porter, Jr. is a vegetarian
The first player I got to meet was the preseason pick for SEC Player of the Year, Mizzou’s Michael Porter Jr. Considering all the hype around him, I expected him to be a little cocky, but he couldn’t have been nicer. The most interesting thing about him? He’s a vegetarian and always has been, and is now in the process of becoming a vegan. Thanks to some help from a chef from England, Porter and his family — including younger brother Jontay, who reclassified to join Michael at Mizzou — are switching to a raw vegan diet in hopes it will help their on-court performance.
Whenever you hate on Porter this season, remember that, unlike other college kids, there are no late night Taco Bell runs for him. Or real cheese. Have you had fake cheese? For your sake, I hope not.
8. Bruce Pearl couldn’t comment on the FBI investigation
Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person faces six federal charges in the FBI’s investigation into bribery in college basketball. Not surprisingly, Bruce Pearl was asked about it, but couldn’t offer much comment.
“Under normal circumstances, if we weren’t a part of this ongoing investigation, you’d get a lot of comments from me about it,” Pearl said. “But I think because we’ve got something that’s ongoing right now, I just can’t offer my thoughts or opinions, and I hope you understand that.”
9. Everyone else did though
Kyle Tucker made it his mission to ask every coach if their program has been contacted by the FBI, and some took kinder to the question than others. The most annoyed? Frank Martin, who practically went after Kyle.
“Who are you? From? I don’t know if you followed what I said before: We are not under investigation, so since we’re not under investigation, we have no conversations with the FBI. I don’t want to be lumped into something that we have nothing to do with. Lamont worked for me. Lamont is under investigation. Lamont has not worked for me for over a year. We are not under investigation. So I don’t – I did all this; I’m not going to keep talking about the FBI when we have nothing to do with that.”
Yikes. Check out Kyle’s rundown of the other coaches’ responses by clicking here.
10. Wenyen Gabriel hasn’t been to Keeneland
I shared the most ridiculous observation for last. As Kentucky’s session wrapped up, a reporter who covers another team asked Wenyen Gabriel how he liked Lexington, specifically Keeneland. To our astonishment, Gabriel said he’s never been.
“I haven’t gone. Everyone tries to get me to go, but I just feel like I’m going to get bombarded right now. I’m going to wait until I’m not an amateur anymore so I can sit up in a box and do it right.”