“The problem with that is that if you say yes to one guy and you go down there, you end up doing six or eight of them,” former Maryland coach Gary Williams said a few years ago after having been corralled. “You don’t want to be a bad guy and say no but if you say yes, you’re done for an hour — at least.”
Williams is one former coach not reveling in being here. In fact, on Thursday he wasn’t here; he was home playing golf. He was planning to fly down Friday to meet his obligations for the Big Ten Network and to do some work in his role as a fundraiser for Maryland.
“Honestly, if I didn’t have work to do I wouldn’t go,” he said. “I did it for a lot of years. After a while it feels like you’re seeing the same faces doing the same things and saying the same things to one another.
“Hey Coach, great year. Or, hey Coach, tough year.”
In fact, that is the universal greeting for those still winning and losing games. That’s followed by a story about getting a player or losing a player and, inevitably, the ritual exchange of rumors.
Thursday, there was very little on the rumor mill. Ohio University Coach John Groce was taking the Illinois job. Southern Illinois had surprised most people by not hiring former coach Bruce Weber and hiring ex-Missouri State coach Barry Hinson instead.
And then there was Larry Brown. The 71-year-old ex-everywhere coach had floated his own name a day earlier as a possible candidate for the vacant Southern Methodist job. Years ago, Brown often told friends that he thought his last job would be as a high school coach. While no one doubted Brown’s sincerity when he made the comment, few thought it likely that would be Brown’s last stop.
“There aren’t a lot of high school jobs that pay $10 million a year,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski joked when he first heard the story.
Krzyzewski wasn’t here on Thursday either. He will be arriving Friday afternoon for NABC meetings and a corporate speech. He will be gone by the time the ball goes into the air at the Superdome on Saturday evening.
His time spent in the lobby will be considerably lower than Thompson’s. When VCU Coach Shaka Smart walked by carrying his 6-month-old daughter in a baby carrier, Thompson waved a hand at him.
“Shaka, be careful,” he said. “You need to keep moving. There are too many reporters around here.”
Actually there weren’t many reporters around. There weren’t even that many coaches. Times have changed.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein. For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.