Last week’s NCAA basketball clinic at Plant City High School was good, but could have been better with proper scheduling.
Last Friday’s Special Olympics basketball clinic at Plant City High School was so awesome to cover. Seeing top-tier athletes having such a good time coaching up and playing with the athletes made my whole day, and I wish Tampa could host more women’s NCAA Final Four tournaments so they could get this experience more than once or twice a decade.
I just wish the powers that put it together — most definitely the NCAA, probably not the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and absolutely not Special Olympics of Florida — were better with time management.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a conflict of interest between Father Time and something related to college. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. It’s just a way worse look when it’s the NCAA botching its own schedule than a 21-year-old J-school student who spent too much time at Uptown Larry’s the night before a pop quiz.
We had four All-Americans come to PCHS for the clinic: first-teamers Megan Gustafson and Teaira McCowan, and second-teamers Alanna Smith and Bridget Carleton. Within maybe 10 minutes of the athletes getting there, two were already walking out of the gym for the day. It didn’t ruin the athletes’ experience by any means whatsoever but it was still kind of a bummer to see that, especially since it was the first-teamers leaving and one (Gustafson) also happened to be the winner of the Citizen Naismith Trophy for Player of the Year. They were able to introduce themselves with the rest of the group, go to their stations with groups of athletes and not do a whole lot else but ask them to start performing drills before the two walked out together to head to a press conference.
I’m not trying to blame Gustafson and McCowan for this at all, nor am I using them as an example to gas up Smith and Carleton for sticking around. That’s all on the people who set their schedules.
The All-Americans and the WBCA/NCAA folks with them were late getting to the clinic, which did Gustafson and McCowan no favors, but that’s understandable. The drive from Tampa to Plant City can be a real drag if you’ve never done it before and don’t know about the back roads you can take to get here without ever setting tires on I-4. But based on their departure time from PCHS to the conference, it seems like they wouldn’t have been able to stay very long even if they arrived on time while Smith and Carleton still would have gotten to be there for the whole thing.
Clinics like these happen every year in every city in which the women’s Final Four is held. It’s not like this was a completely new concept or experiment. With that in mind, who thought it was a good idea to schedule a press conference during the clinic the players are supposed to put on? In the grand scheme of things, I’d say the clinic is of greater importance than a presser for the All-Americans, especially since none of the hoopers who went to PCHS were playing in that night’s Final Four round. I’m sure the athletes would have loved to meet Gustafson and McCowan afterward for photos and autographs together, but they couldn’t because someone thought a presser was more important. It wouldn’t have been hard at all to schedule the presser for a later time so that all of the All-Americans could attend and no one would have to rush to get there.
All I’m hoping for is that the NCAA will start to consider that maybe, just maybe, letting its top athletes go out into the community to make a positive impact is more valuable than herding them all together to be questioned in front of TV cameras and folks with recording devices. Maybe they could even let the coaches get in on that, too. I’m pretty sure Muffet McGraw would rather do something fun for the Final Four’s host community than field stupid hypothetical questions about marrying Geno Auriemma.