Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ugly Shirts

I woke up early this morning and flicked on the television. As I searched the channels I stopped at one of those biography shows called "Beyond the Glory," which was featuring Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Even though I'm a Carolina fan, it brought back memories of my days as a sports photographer when February and March meant covering college basketball in hoops crazy North Carolina.
The Burlington Times News hired me as their Director of Photography in the early 90s and I found myself smack in the thick of "Tobacco Road." Covering the likes of Duke, Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest on a regular basis was a unique and special opportunity.
Fast forward a few years and many ACC Tournaments later and I had joined the staff of The Charlotte Observer and I got many opportunities to cover the NCAA Regionals and several Final Fours.
Duke was making another run at the national championship in 2001. We had a close-knit group of photographers from the state who were picked to cover whichever of the Big Four schools had a dog in the hunt that particular year. For some reason I can't remember, the North Carolina contingent covering Duke's run in the Final Four all decided to wear Hawaiian shirts - the uglier the better. We even made a special trip to the Mall of America in Minneapolis to make sure everyone had them.
Now Coach K had picked up on the trend and got a kick out of it. After Duke defeated Arizona, 82-72, for its third national title, Krzyzewski was surrounded by photographers sporting these extremely loud, tacky shirts. It was pretty funny.
The game was over and Coach K had finished most of his interviews as we spotted him walking through one of the tunnels in the Metrodome. Somebody asked him if we could get a quick snapshot. He laughed about the shirts and was gracious as we got a nice memento minutes after his historic win.
Pictured with K are, from left, Bob Jordan, the legendary Associated Press photographer who retired but keeps on working, me, K, former Observer photographer Patrick Schneider, and Raleigh News & Observer photographer Chuck Liddy.
Even though I sometimes hate Coach K when he beats Carolina (not so much this year), I must admit he is a great coach and give him his due as a leader.
A quote from Krzyzewski: "When you are passionate, you always have your destination in sight and you are not distracted by obstacles. Because you love what you are pursuing, things like rejection and setbacks will not hinder you in your pursuit. You believe that nothing can stop you!"
I threw in another photo from the 2000 Final Four in Indianapolis. That's me on the upper left with Charlotte Observer photographer Jeff Siner and Patrick Schneider in the front. Michigan State won that year.
Even though Duke had beaten Carolina, 77-75, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the last photo, I still love the moment. Steve Wojohowski, now an assistant coach, had helped the Blue Devils to the win and he rushed down the court to find Coach K. I happened to be in the right place with a wide angle lens to catch the moment.
So here's to March, college basketball and ugly shirts - and go Heels!!!

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