Sunday, June 24, 2007

So long Buzz

He won a national championship at North Carolina. His college roommate was Michael Jordan. He climbed the coaching ladder all the way to the SEC. Everything about Buzz Peterson's resume is "big time". But it didn't take long for me to find out that Buzz had the furthest thing from a big time attitude. Thanks to David Bennett telling Buzz that he should do his coaches show with us, we got an opportunity to do a CCU basketball coaches show for the first time. I have to admit I was a little bit nervous heading into the first season. After all, Buzz was used to ESPN and a coaches show that had a huge staff and plenty of resources. It didn't take long for all of us to realize that coach Peterson was just like one of us. Sure, I'd be a little bit embarassed when I'm setting up the tripod in Radford, Virginia or High Point, North Carolina to tape our coaches show segment, but Buzz never looked down on us. I can recall about four or five times where a tape or microphone wouldn't be working and we'd have to reshoot. As a matter of fact, I always got the feeling he enjoyed the challenges we faced in putting a show on the air each and every Sunday.
It was amazing to see the switch that was turned on in the middle of his first season at CCU. The team really struggled in December and early January, but all of the suddent the Chants bought in to Peterson's attitude towards playing winning basketball and what ensued was a magical run that led CCU to within nine seconds of an NCAA Tournament berth. That wasn't the most impressive thing I witnessed in the Buzz Peterson era. I remember being on the road and Coastal was on their way to a double digit loss. Jack Leasure hit the floor hustling after a loose ball and his body was sprawled on the ground. All four of his teammates on the floor rushed over to help their teammate up. That particular moment, which happened probably hundreds of times over the past two seasons, really to me defines the Buzz Peterson era at Coastal Carolina.
When the first Buzz leaving Coastal rumors started following the 2005/06 season, I learned an important lesson. When stories broke that Peterson was packing his bags for the College of Charleston and that "the deal was done", I was worried that I was missing the scoop. All along, Buzz had kept in contact with me and was up front about everything that was going on. The temptation was there to go with unreliable sources and hope you get the big story, but during the entire four week span that story developed, I only had one source - Buzz Peterson. As he was in the midst of major decisions that impacted not only his career, but his entire family, he always made it a point to keep me in the loops - something he didn't have to do.
It's a bittersweet feeling for me. On the one hand, I'm thrilled that Buzz has an opportunity to be on the ground level of building a winning franchise in the NBA in his home state of North Carolina and to work alongside his close friend Michael Jordan. Trust me on this - Buzz has a great basketball mind. If you spent time in the edit bay watching game film, you would pick up on this in a hurry. On the other side, I am saying goodbye to one of the true highlights of my career (thank goodness I am still getting to spend Sunday's talking Coastal football with David Bennett!) I hope that we get the opportunity to continue to promote CCU basketball through our coaches show no matter who the new coach is, but I will always be grateful to Buzz for giving me a chance to sit by his side and talk CCU hoops. It's the same thing with Coach Bennett - when you sit next to a tremendous coach, great motivator and an outstanding communicator, you get that little extra boost of adrenaline to bring your "A" game even if you are working on three hours sleep on a Sunday morning.
I really think that Buzz could still be at Coastal Carolina. If there was a shovel in the ground in the proposed CCU arena, things might be different. I don't know if certain people on campus appreciated the impact that Buzz had on taking Chanticleer basketball to the next level. If I could use one word to sum up Buzz Peterson it would be class. Even though he's back in the big time, I know that if I set up that tripod at Bobcats Arena by myself and do an interview with him sometime soon, he'll have a big smile and we'll laugh about the old coaches shows and talk some more basketball.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Teeing it up for the kids

It's 10:00 am on Monday morning and my phone keeps ringing. Every time I pick it up, there's bad news on the other line. This team has to drop out, this celebrity won't be coming to play....I start to feel real despair as it seems that our charity golf tournament is on the verge of disaster. We get to play in so many of these kinds of events throughout the year, and all we're looking to do is give the people who are coming out to support our cause a great day of golf and fun. The stress level gets right to the point of overwhelming and you ask yourself, "Why I am I putting myself through all of this?!"
Sometimes when you get an idea, the hardest thing to do is to stick with your vision and see it through to the end. During my first year at WPDE, I was so moved by the genuine sense of community the high school sports circle has in the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand, I decided to give something back to them by creating a scholarship fund. One thing you'll learn about putting on an event is that you'll find a long list of people who are more than willing to come out and have a good time, but not too many who want to put in the work and effort to make that event happen. The first WPDE golf tournament was held at Wild Wing and we raised a little over $5,000. It was a great start, but it was a real basic nuts and bolts golf outing. Ed Piotrowski was there and told me that he wanted to help me out to make the tournament even better. It was that moment that gave the scholarship fund life and many years down the road will be the most significant thing that happened to the WPDE Scholarship fund. Ed was able to get Steve and Bonnie Hughes from Conway Chrysler Dodge on board. In all honesty, they should name a street after Steve and Bonnie in Conway. They give back in so many different ways, yet always keep a low profile about it. Over the past seven years, we've had so many different things thrown in our direction, but we can always count on Steve and Bonnie's support.
Fast forward seven years and we've raised over $100,000 for high school seniors. I had two good friends who came to play in our first event and I really want them to come back to see how the tournament has evolved. The restaurants on the par 3 have become a staple. Your focus on golf goes away when you have a big plate of Damon's Ribs in the golf cart. We really need to personally thank over 100 businesses along the Grand Strand who don't hesitate to give us a hole sponsorship or a free round of golf.
Most charitable foundations or organizations are structured and have a committee to do just about anything. As I said at the end of the tournament, Ed and I take all the money we raise and put it in the bank and hope we have enough money to promise what we raised. We received over 70 applications for this year's scholarship and we had the unenviable task of picking just three. There were honestly about a dozen who totally deserved a $5,000 scholarship and the WPDE on-air team and our boss, Victoria Spechko, get into a passionate discussion about who wins the three spots. This year, Julian McLain of Dillon, Meridith Lien of Saint James and Myrtle Beach's Mac Sanders won the $5,000 scholarships. Their stories will be airing June 13th to the 15th and be on to watch through web video. When you read the essays and see the genuine reaction of shock and joy when we announced at the tournament they won the scholarship, it's all worth it.
My goal is to raise $1,000,000 in scholarships and we're only 10 percent of the way there. Seeing that number on a computer screen is intimidating, but I know that down the road it could happen. I hope that one day, the WPDE Scholarship Board of Directors expands beyond Ed and myself to the athletes that star in the NFL, NBA and MLB from our backyard in the future. With their support, the WPDE Scholarship fund can be providing high school seniors with a big boost for many years to come. Until then, Ed and I will hold down the fort.