Talking a good game
Kevin Nickelberry and Larry Hunter both say they were hired by their respective colleges -- Hampton University and Western Carolina --to build up the program and establish a basketball tradition.
It's too early to say if they're succeeding. Nickelberry is entering his third year with the Pirates, and Hunter is entering his fourth with the Catamounts. But both men can deliver when it comes to talking a good game.
Nickelberry and Hunter were the stars of Wednesday's annual Shootout luncheon that features meat and potatoes for the main dish and comedy for dessert. Each of the men's coaches say a few words, hopefully funny ones, and no one came through like Nickelberry and Hunter.
Nickelberry on his first impressions of Alaska -- and a bracket that put Hampton in a first-round game against host UAA:
"I figured out what you're doing with us. You're gonna feed us a lot, you're gonna confuse us with the daylight and you're gonna hope I'll oversleep and miss the game."
Hunter on a referee he has a history with:
"At the end of halftime, I asked (two) players to stay in the locker room. I told them, when we go back out there, at the 30-second mark I want you to go over to this official -- make sure you don't touch him -- but get in a defensive stance like you're guarding him. Don't talk to him, just stand by him."
With 30 seconds left before the second half tipoff, the players did as told, and the referee turned red, out of embarrassment, anger or both.
"He starts walking to the bench, and they're still guarding him. The closer he gets to me, the redder in the face he gets. He says, what the $#@& are you doing? And I say, I had a wise mentor tell me once to make sure you always double-team an opponent's best player."
The ref hit Hunter with a technical foul.
Nickelberry, again, on checking into the Hotel Captain Cook on Sunday night:
"It's 6 or 7 o'clock, and I check into my hotel room, and it's a suite. On one side there's a nice bed and big pillows, on the other side there's a big couch, a big TV and snacks. I feel like the man in charge. The guy.
"Then at 12:53, my wife and kids come. And now I'm on the little side, on the little couch, with a bag of Cheetos."
Steve Fisher of San Diego State referred to the big hotel downtown some teams are staying in as the Captain Hook.
Ricardo Patton of Northern Illinois said his team spent Tuesday afternoon in Girkwood.
And another coach made a reference to all the "Nerlanders" who support the Shootout.
It goes both ways, of course. Earlier, UAA booster Steve Nerland made a similar slip, calling the Louisiana Tech coach Kevin Rupp instead of Kerry Rupp. "I've been called worse," Rupp said.
And a week ago, when Colorado Christian was in town to play the UAA women, the PA announcer at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex had the kind of pronunciation slip only an Alaskan could make. The team has a player named Holly Valdez, whose name on at least one occasion was announced Val-DEEZ, as in the Prince William Sound town.