State hoops tourney didn't meet my expectations

March 16, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

Thanks for the heads up.

This past weekend was my first experience covering the Maryland state basketball championships.

Prior to Friday, a staff colleague told me not to get my expectations up. He was aware of my years covering state championships in Ohio and the level in which they are conducted.

Taking his advice, the level of expectation on my part dropped a notch or two even before the tournament started.

I probably shouldn't have had such expectations in the first place.

Things started Friday with the South Hagerstown-Lansdowne semifinal at Comcast Center at the University of Maryland. Dan Kauffman and I were there early enough to catch the end of Allegany's game and then the Class 2A semifinal between Friendly and J.M. Bennett.

The first surprise was having only to sign in as a media representative. No notice ahead of time was needed. Next, I was surprised that press-row seating was not at courtside like you see at the college tournaments. It's not that there wasn't enough room - there weren't that many writers there, either. Press row is cornered on tier levels at one end of the court, not all that bad but not what I expected. Mistake.


There was a press room, used for Terps' games, available for us. It was also to be a hospitality room for staff workers and the media. The real hospitality room must have been somewhere else. Mistake. Up to the concession stand we went and I had the privilege of being handed a rock hard bun with hot dog in it. At least I didn't make the mistake of presuming it was OK before I got another.

At the conclusion of the South contest, we moved our equipment to the press room and then went to the interview area further on down the corridor toward the dressing rooms. Not that there was a throng of scribes waiting to pencil comments, but with a fast-approaching deadline, we waited 20 minutes for anyone to emerge. Normally, staff representatives will get the coach and a player, or two, and take them to the press room after a short cooling off period. Mistake. The coaches finally came to an "open" area without players. Little did we know South's players went out another exit headed toward the bus while we talked with coach Bob Starkey. Guess where we got our quotes from the players that appeared in our stories?

Saturday's visit was to Catonsville and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's Recreation Athletic Center. Nice place. Just about the same results except for press row being courtside. However, getting a copy of the official statistical results was like driving a wood nail into cement. The media room wasn't much different than Comcast.

Any positives? At least the MPSSAA had a creditable tournament magazine and did a good job of postgame ceremonies for presenting awards to the runner-up and champion.

I hesitate the continuance of reference to experiences in Ohio but I'm encouraged to do just that.

It's an event for two consecutive weekends - the state tournament at Ohio State University in Columbus. Schools don't have to worry about their team qualifying in the boys and girls tourneys on the same weekend and wondering which game you go to.

You'd better have your credentials lined up a month ahead of time. Unless you're in the immediate area and plan for the three-day weekend you need hotel reservations. It's a media convention, even if you don't have a team from your coverage area in the tournament.

The writers come, radio stations come and it's a statewide event on television. Fans flock to the tournament and coaches set aside the weekends on their calendar to attend the tournament if they aren't one of the fortunate participants.

Please don't tell me "that's how it is in this state." I will turn a deaf ear. There is so much that can be done right and so little that should go wrong. If the playoffs were restructured there is no reason for tournaments to be held singularly on successive weekends. All it takes is a little care and effort.

The playoff is another story in itself and this morning I'll be conducting an interview with Ned Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA. No doubt the comments will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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