Six Final Fours down, but this one was special in many different ways. At this point, I’m no longer a newbie and a giddy little ranger when it comes to going to the Final Four, I am familiar with many situations and have seen and heard just about everything that goes on. This 2015 Final Four also marked more changes in many more ways than one. I was there for new reasons (to hand out cards for scouting service and upcoming pro basketball expo) and found that this was the first time I actually hadn’t run into as many people I was expecting to run into because of the evolution of technology. Either way, my 2nd go around in Indianapolis for a Final Four weekend bought many new sets of experiences.
Was just glad to make it to Indianapolis. Allegiant’s pilots had planned to go on strike so there was no telling what was going to happen. Fortunately, the flight went without a hitch, even though I mentioned to my mom and dad if Allegiant’s pilot decided to pull a Berlin or a 9/11 that it had been real (I only say this half exaggeratingly, jokingly, whatever you want to call it; more on this later). Anyways, I get to the lobby of the Crown Plaza hotel by the airport in Indianapolis after running into a few people at the airport, and see that there are THREE high major Division I head coaches that are staying at my hotel. In Indy, which was the most organized and logistically convenient Final Four I have ever been to, it kind of struck me as odd because all of the big swinging dicks were supposed to be downtown in the mix, and the airport hotels were reserved for GA’s, high school and JUCO coaches and the rest of the other schmucks. Anyway, I spend three hours getting work accomplished, which is something I am very proud of before the crew of people I am staying with. This year it consisted of only my high school coach and his assistant coach, which is a record low number of people. My first final four, we went 9 to a room in the Radisson across the street. Here I am in 2015 getting an own king bed to myself with the only price I have to pay for it is making sure I do some legwork on tickets and research (more on this later). The crew leaves to go downtown and I stay behind the hotel and watch the first 3 games of the High school national tournament, which featured Montverde, Huntington Prep, Findlay Prep, Ely and Oak Hill Academy, as well as three other teams. After some exercise, and a nap (marathon, not a sprint), I finally head downtown around 7:30 PM. I spend the rest of the night watching the games at OTB (which is the famed horse-racing joint most of the people I make a habit of hanging down at the Final Four frequent while in Indy, working a couple of hotel lobbies and socializing. As Thursday night turns into Friday morning, I end up driving the extended crew (a mixture of college assistants, college head coaches and high school coaches) back to the hotel, which included a $97 tab at WhiteCastle (which I consumed exactly $0 of. When being the only sober person, if you’re giving the option of uncontrollable hunger for 24 hours or Whitecastle, don’t choose the latter. You’ll regret it), pissing into the street off the third floor of parking garages and leaving the van like it was a fraternity house.
Friday morning, my HS coach and I made our way down to the convention, where I spent about five hours. Took a picture with the legendary Bill Walton, ran into some old friends, made some new contacts and watched Ed Cooley speak about the Providence transition offense. Overall, it was a good experience. It’s really the reason to come out here, and it’s good to show your face. Because everyone texts now (even the old coaches, the importance of face to face interaction isn’t what it used to be, and there are a lot of people I don’t even see or realize are in town because of it) and working a lobby isn’t what it used to be either. In 2010 and 2011, you would see EVERYONE in the lobby. I can count the number of people I ran into in the lobby on one hand this year that I actually knew. Everyone else I ran into was on the street or in unintentional places. After the convention, I head back to the hotel and pound another nap while the extended crew was courtside at the Pacers game. Nap turned out to be much needed. After downtown, I head to the Hyatt lobby, talk to a few people, go get something to eat and then head over to Broad Ripple, about 15 minutes from downtown, where the crew ends up at a restaurant. I drive the van, and everyone in that extended crew, which has a couple of changes and additions. A portion of that extended crew, which includes 2 gazilionaires, a high school coach, 2 HS assistant coaches and a college assistant all head to Rick’s Cabaret for awhile. I’m not a fan of titty bars because 1. It was Good Friday and 2. They’re the biggest dry-sucking tease. When you wake up the morning after, what benefit did the strip club give you? You got some titties in your face? Well they win, they got $1000 of your money. Case closed.
The night only gets one of the gazillionaires gets bounced early from the establishment and proceeds to make his way to the car. He has no idea where he is staying, so I immediately had to go into problem solving mode during the Taco Bell drive thru. After he orders 1000 tacos (The Taco Bell attendant and I settled on 17 as a good number), I go thru his phone and figure out the address. After 45 minutes, I basically pull him out of the car and he forces his way to the door. 17 seconds later after decompressing from that last two hours of craziness, I hear a gunshot headed in my direction…….
Fortunately it wasn’t a gunshot. It was the gazillionaire breaking a window to get into where he was staying. I pull off like I’m the perpetrator of the drive by and head back to Rick’s. Half of the remaining crew gets picked up, and the other 2 head back to where they are staying with a couple of the entertainers from the establishment, where I heard they crashed in a room full of broken glass. In the meantime, I ended up at a completely different hotel and was so exhausted at 4:30 AM that I ended up crashing there. Two of the crew members were so hung over from a combination of debauchery, Whitecastle and titties, that they couldn’t even leave the hotel room the next day.
I wake up around 10 and head back to the hotel. You couldn’t beat the first two nights from an entertainment perspective. It included more debauchery that would have made girls looking to give blowjobs on Spring Break jealous (for first-time readers, there goes my mandatory blowjob reference). After getting back to the hotel, I had one job, get rid of tickets. For fear of having some of my comrades losing their NABC licenses, I won’t disclose any further details on how tickets were sold. All I will say is that it was an adventure, but if you could pull of what I did, there’s a place for you in the Street Mafia. I’ll call the actual transaction paying rent. I head downtown about an hour before the semifinals begin after getting some food. I headed down there with only one of the crew members. Everyone else from the crew was so hungover from the debauchery that most of them didn’t leave their hotel rooms/hostels for the remainder of the day. If that’s not your PSA to not indulge yourself in too much alcohol (or stay away completely) or to stay away from Whitecastle or any other fast food joints after 1 AM, you’re asking a part of yourself to risk early death. After paying rent, I head over to OTB again and watch the rest of the first game (side note: A part of me is doing something right, because they asked me for ID almost everywhere I went in Indiana. I usually mean mug and give people the “Bitch do I look underage face, and that normally suffices, but that wasn’t the case this time, or any time in Indiana) After OTB, I head back to the hotel for the 2nd game and reconvene with the crew for part of the game, and then meet another crew consisting of young college assistant coaches and watch the Kentucky game. After watching Wisconsin pull the shocker, we head back downtown for the Saturday night activities. While leaving, since the hotel I was staying at was the UK “fan hotel,” I saw the exodus beginning from the UK fans. Downtown was an adventure. We hit some different bars, saw more than a few happy Wisconsin fans, spent 30 minutes in an incompetent Steak and Shake drive thru and called it a night around 4 AM.
10 AM on Easter Sunday came early, and for the first time the whole trip I got into a semblance of a routine. I felt really bad about not being with my mom and dad and going to church, but this post wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been in Indy. After a workout, and after watching most of the crew leave, it was just Matt Hixenbaugh and I. We head downtown, go to Kilroy’s where I indulge in Indiana’s greatest breadsticks (Thanks Trip, that was the only meal I ate all day, and it was soooooo good.), and sweet tea (gave it up for Lent). After doing some walking around Indy, I head to the Hyatt and lobby it up for awhile. At 5:30 I meet Hagerty assistant, friend of the blog and greatest Kentucky fan alive, Wes Below. His cousin, him and I go to the Pacers vs. Miami game which features the return of Paul George. I have always liked Paul George since his days at Fresno State, and is one of my 5 favorite non Pedro’s Posse players in the league (For the record Rondo, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Marc Gasol, Lillard) and was excited, yet scared about his return. With about 5 minutes left, Paul checks in, and it’s like he never left. He hits his first shot, an off balance runner against the shot clock and scores 6 more points in the first half. He comes back in the 2nd half and finished the game with 13 points. The Pacers ran away with a 112-85 win over a Miami team that was playing its second game in less than 24 hours. They never made much of an effort in the 2nd half, and you couldn’t tell they were fighting for their playoff lives. Wade played well, but showed fatigue for much of the 2nd half, and you could tell they clearly missed Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh. I don’t expect Miami to put up much of a fight in the playoffs (Wade will lead them to 1, maybe 2 wins against Atlanta if they make it there, but they just can’t score it consistently and don’t have much of an interior offensive threat) I would like to see this Indiana team make it to the 8th spot and see if they could challenge Atlanta. After the game, we head to a bar for about an hour, where things quickly get out of control with drinks (theme of this trip). After the bar, I head back to the hotel, where I spend the rest of the night in peace for the first time this trip.
Championship Monday is one of those proverbial calm before the storm type of days. After working out and switching hotels, I meet Tom Klusman, the Roliins head coach at Subway along with former Rollins player Caleb Springer. We talk about the state of the program, and then walk around the streets of Indianapolis. I break off at about 4 PM and head to the Fan Fest, which is a family event where people participate in all sorts of activities. It’s like the NCAA version of a theme park for the Final Four, and it’s just fun to walk around, people watch and maybe get an autograph or 2. At about 6 PM, I walk around Indy to solicit a ticket for the game, since everyone I know sold their tickets. Tickets are going for around $400, which isn’t surprising given the number of Wisconsin fans in the streets. Indianapolis might as well have been Madison south for the day, as it was literally covered in a sea of red. After parting to the mall, I go eat and then run into 2 UCF GA’s who have tickets to the game, and mentioned that someone else is trying to sell their Flash Ticket. I immediately agree to but it for what turned out to be the best deal in Indianapolis and I chill at the Hyatt before heading to the stadium for the game. I get to Lucas Oil at about 9:05 PM, 13 minutes before tip-off and settle into my seat. It is about 80-20 Wisconsin fans, and I have really good seats in back of the basket, just over the stanchion where you have a clear view of all the action. The game turned out to be one of those games you will remember you were at in 60 years, as Duke took their first national title in five years with a 68-63 over Wisconsin. The Duke celebration was witnessed by about 20% of the stadium, and I stick around to watch One Shining Moment, which is the greatest 3 minute video compilation in the World. I also was happy for Jacksonville’s Grayson Allen, who was the MVP of the game, as he represented Florida well. Another interesting part came in the 2nd media timeout of the 2nd half, where the Hall of Fame class of 2015 was introduced. Kentucky coach John Calipari was hastily booed in embarrassing fashion. I’m not a big Calipari fan, I think he is a great salesman, a very average coach who can only succeed in college, but I respect what he has done for the game of basketball. There is a saying that says “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” and the Calipari situation to me is just an example of that. I’m not a fan of the 1 and Done rule from college to the NBA, but at least he is transparent and uses the system for what it is. I am a huge fan of Bo Ryan, I think he is a great coach and does the most with the least every year, but his comments about “renting a player” rubbed me the wrong way, because college basketball is “renting a player,” whether it’s for one year, two years or four. It’s cyclical and nature and I just thought it was a salty way to go about losing what turned out to be an epic national championship game.
Flight was delayed for three hours, and got back to Orlando around 5 PM. Overall, Indianapolis was a solid experience. I have learned to never take these experiences for granted. Every year from now on will likely be a repeat experience of what I have already experienced. Next year it will be Houston, and 2019 it will be in Indianapolis again. In between will be new and exciting experiences, 2017 in Phoenix and 2018 in San Antonio. Looking forward to it, and hope you enjoyed this Final Four blog version of debauchery and analysis.