November 2, 2011

Behind the Scenes at the WCC Media Day

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By: Gabe Taylor '12

Watch John Nash's Interviews!

Interview with Dave Rose

Interview with Randy Bennett

Interview with Marty Wilson

The scene was set on Thursday Oct. 27 at 11:30 am for me to attend my first WCC Media Day. Notebook and recorder in hand, I prepared to see what went on off camera.

11:30 am:

Coaches and media personnel slowly filed into the modern YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif. Meandering in the lobby, the coaches spent time greeting one another in preparation for the nearly four-hour event that lay ahead.

The fact that Google now owns Youtube was more than apparent. Everything had the Google touch. Massage chairs, a rotating rock wall and colorful modern furniture made up the interior décor. Mounted to the walls were eight plasma screen televisions. WCC sporting events or highlights displayed on YouTube represented the newly formed partnership between YouTube and the WCC that will see WCC games streamed live on the popular video site.

Directly outside the large glass doors leading to the outside dining area, was a basketball court; fitting the event to form.

Just after Media Relations Assistant John Nash and I had arrived, three YouTube employees rushed down the stairs and out to the dining area. Prior to exiting the building, one of the young woman spotted Santa Clara apparel. After turning to John and I to ask where the Santa Clara coach was, she declared "Go Broncos!" before hurriedly racing out the backdoor.

Shortly after, Media Relations Director Michelle Schmitt and Nash tracked down sportscaster Sean Farnham for an interview. Farnham tacked on "ESPN College Analyst" to his resume, when he joined the infamous sports broadcasting team in 2010. An outgoing personality contributed to his overall demeanor. The former UCLA forward was in no way shy on or off camera. Before Schmitt began rolling, Farnham shouted out a sentence to verify that the flip camera was picking up the sound. His voice rang across the empty basketball court, most likely shocking people who sat quietly on the outside terrace nearby.

"This is as deep as the WCC's been," commented Farnham, while Schmitt navigated the Flip camera to include both Farnham, Nash in the shot.

This statement seemed to echo throughout the press conference, as the addition of BYU to a competitive pack of WCC teams that includes Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, USF and Santa Clara, sparked excitement. It was the theme of the day.

12:00 pm:

By now, I had expected the events to begin, but instead, the wandering continued.

Mark Few approached Kerry Keating and the two began discussing the rapidly approaching season. At 6'6 Keating towered over the smaller Gonzaga coach.

12:30 pm:

Everyone was silent. As coaches and media personnel packed into the three-tiered conference room, their mouths remained shut, aware that WCC Commisioner Jamie Zaninovich was about to address them.

The Commissioner spoke briefly, highlighting the partnership with YouTube, the new eight-year partnership with ESPN and the competitiveness of the conference.

"That will offer great exposure for our conference," said Zaninovich with excitement.

Every now and again, a flash sprang out from a camera.

It was time to announce the WCC Preseason Coach's Poll, and the WCC All-Preseason Team. In the drivers seat were the No. 23 Bulldogs, with Saint Mary's riding along in shotgun with the second most votes. Squashed in the back middle seat, but still fitting in the car, was Santa Clara with the fifth position.

But with a competitive conference, the designated spots are far from stagnant. Movement is expected.

I listened to the Commissioner's speech before following the audience in turning my attention to the projection screen. A highlight compilation of the players to watch for in the upcoming season ran across the screen. Soon I saw a face that nearly every Santa Claran would recognize. Kevin Foster's highlight reel began. The video included footage of Foster draining two three-pointers, as a sportscaster proclaimed, "that's what Foster can do for you!" Given that Foster led the nation in three pointers made last season, I couldn't agree more.

Santa Clara will need to see that productivity from Foster once again in order to hurdle into the upper portion of the WCC standings.

1 pm:

Lunch was announced. Nash and I hurried down the stairs to catch up with our boss, who already was equipped with a plate and the necessary utensils. Luckily for us, our swift pace paid off, and we stood at the front of the line. Sandwiches in hand, we returned to our seats. But before I knew it, I was back on my feet, recorder in hand, attempting to utilize the perfect moment to catch Zaninovich's attention for an interview. Finding that 'perfect moment' proved harder than I thought, as the Commissioner was immersed in a lunchtime conversation with two of his colleagues. With pressure from Schmitt to just approach him, I wandered over shyly and poked my head into the conversation. Noticing my graceful entrance, Zaninvoich introduced himself to me, and I to him. I hit play on the recorder, and the interview was off and running.

"I'm seeing growth throughout the conference, and the stronger we are throughout, the stronger we'll be at the top, which will allow us more bids to the tournament, and more exposure for the conference," said Zaninovich at one-point during the interview.

His optimism regarding the direction and progression of the conference came across in his answers.

Student Assistants and media personnel from the nine schools bustled throughout the room in hopes of catching the coaches at a time when they were not already wrapped up in an interview. All the interviews were first come first serve. University of Portland's head coach Eric Reveno traveled around the room with his assistant – essentially acting as his bodyguard – tied to his hip. Every time I spotted Reveno, his assistant would appear in his footsteps less than a second later.  The two BYU assistants dressed in completely matching attire gave him a run for his money as the most interesting helpers.

When Nash introduced himself to Randy Bennett prior to an on-camera interview, Bennett joked about how "Nash" is a good last name to have at Santa Clara. After all, Steve Nash did lead the Broncos to three WCC titles.

Finally, Mark Few's schedule opened for an interview. The renowned coach stood by Nash, as the Schmitt prepared the flip video. "It's a face for the radio," joked Few seconds before the camera started filming.

The surrounding interviews that all took place in the one room were accompanied by the primary interview that was front and center. Because the 'main' interviews were documented by a three-camera tricaster setup, I assumed the media present at the event would be able to hear the questions and answers. I was wrong in this assumption. All I could make out were various words. I should've brought a portable television in order to stay in the loop.

2 pm:

Keating approached the front of the room, where Barry Tompkins sat patiently, awaiting the next interview to begin on WCCSports.com. Only a few minutes had passed in the interview, when Tompkins turned the questions over to the audience, allowing people to post questions online that would then be asked.

"How's big man Robert Garrett doing," a viewer asked. From Keating's point of view, he's doing well and on the right track.

When the interview concluded, Reveno clapped his hands, but was joined by not one person in doing so. Making loud noises was not something that had occurred on many occasions at the event.

The primary interviews had come to an end, and the event was wrapping up. I gathered my notebook and recorder and walked down the hall past nine WCC flags, all displaying the universities' logos.

At that point realized the optimism and excitement toward the upcoming season had truly set in. Everyone in the room was prepared to see if the WCC could live up to the hype.

As of Nov. 4, it will be for us to find out.