Off to the coaches’ offices


Russ Smith brushes up on an English homework assignment during quiet time at the Yum Practice Center.

Wanting to be one of 700 fans in line for Charlie Strong’s Maker’s Mark bottle signing event, the observer leaves his Internet browser on the ticket web site the night before, the credit card laying beside the computer for a $1 ticket.

Clicking on the site the next morning 10 minutes before 9 a.m., he gets the message, “This page cannot be displayed.” No connection to the Internet. Not a good sign. Finally getting on the net 30 minutes later, to get the news, “This item is sold out.”

The caller couldn't understand why Rick wouldn't sign a UK basketball.

But there are other autograph challenges, the observer the go-to guy for the church auction. The organizers need Charlie Strong’s autograph on a football, Rick Pitino’s on a basketball. The observer has such connections, you know, but all he does is leave the ball at the office and wait for a call two or three weeks later.

So off to Belknap Campus, specifically the Schnellenberger Complex. Leaving the car in a spot beside a sign that proclaims, “No Parking” next to the building. The alternative is a long walk from the parking area before hoofing up a 200-foot ramp in the sweltering heat. But at the top of the ramp, there’s a sign on the door, “Coach Strong is not signing autographs at this time. He will be signing at the Fan Day event Aug. 12th.

Well, there’s always the basketball office on Floyd Street. Parking at a meter this time, entering the building, looking for Pitino’s office. Entering a small room, the observer is face to face with Russ Smith,  a book and notes spread out in front of him and a competitor’s blog on the computer monitor. A brief hello, Russ is working on an English assignment. He points upstairs, but not before checking out a Card Game photo of himself. “Someone sent me a link to it,” he says.

Entering the coach’s office, there are at least a half dozen balls and other paraphernalia waiting to be picked up. Administrative assistant Stephanie Davis is on the telephone, patiently telling a caller from Murray that Rick Pitino doesn’t sign blue and white basketballs, the person will need to call the University of Kentucky.

No getting off the phone easily, the conversation goes on for a while. Meanwhile, she hands the observer a contact form. Stephanie sighs after hanging up, explaining the caller couldn’t understand why Rick wouldn’t sign a UK basketball.

“Coach Pitino is out of town recruiting for a while,” she says. “You’ll get yours in a few weeks.”

The autographing process can be an ordeal for fans … and coaches.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

2 thoughts on “Off to the coaches’ offices

  • July 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm
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    I love my hometown university and was one of the lucky ones to get a ticket after many struggles with that web site. That scene this morning was extremely bush league and definitely not befitting something associated with the UL athletic department. That site was clearly not ready for the onslaught of traffic it was hit with shortly before 9 am. I’d think that they could find some Computer Science students on campus that could create a better e-commerce site than that.

    • July 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm
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      A teaching moment, Larry. Hopefully they learn from this experience. Maker’s Mark will be back.

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