Editor’s note: In this final part of a series, IHSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament Director Kevin Horrigan provides a behind-the-scenes look at the tourney.
I always believe in backup plans, but sometimes you just get lucky.
One year, I was in the control room that my workers and myself operate out of at Bankers Life. Player introductions for one of the games had taken place and TV had gone to commercial. When TV came back, we were about ready for the tip-off when something didn’t seem right to me. Looking at the TV screen, I realized what it was: There was no time on the clock. It was on 0:00.
I ran as fast as I could towards the floor, where the center official was about ready to move in for the toss. I yelled at him to hold up and, fortunately, one of the other officials heard me and ran out to stop the toss. I made a bee-line towards the timekeeper, yelling “clock, clock clock” the whole way over to him. He looked up, saw the 0:00, threw his hands in the air and immediately changed it to 8:00 and apologized profusely.
What is unusual to me is that none of the officials on the floor, nor the alternate official who sits there, the assistant timekeeper, the scorebook people, the coaches, the players, any of my workers, the IHSAA, and, for all I know, any of the fans, even noticed that there was no time on the clock as we were about to start the game. That should tell you how focused an entire arena of 18,000 people were.
In 2007, only a very few people got to witness the following event. East Chicago Central was playing Indianapolis North Central for the 4A state title. East Chicago was coached by Pete Trgovich, who as a high school player helped lead his team to the 1971 state championship while playing for East Chicago Washington. He went on to play for UCLA, where they won two NCAA Titles. In 2007, North Central had Eric Gordon, who went on to be named Mr. Basketball. It was an interesting, high-scoring game with East Chicago winning 87-83.
When that game ended, we had the various awards presentations and pictures and cutting down the nets and a lot of media interviews. Normally, when coaches and teams head off for the interviews, their fans start to leave. So, too, do the respective bands and cheer squads. And, on this night, the same rule of thumb held true, with one exception.
The East Chicago Central band did not leave. They sat back down and waited. They were a small band of 20 or so, but played well. As part of my job as tournament director, I meet and greet all of the bands and cheer squads and go through the do’s and dont’s. Then, myself or one of my assistants escorts them into and eventually back out of the arena. When I saw them sitting there well after the game and most people had left, I went and talked with their band director. They wanted to wait on the team. I told them that was fine.
Now, understand, some of these news conferences and interviews can go on for an hour or hour-and-a-half. And their trip back to East Chicago was about a three-hour drive. When I told my assistants and the Bankers Life people what the band was doing, they were all intrigued as this had never happened before.
Eventually, the coach and team were ready to come out of the locker room. I informed the band director, and he told his students to get ready, and they all stood up at attention. Then he gave his signal and the band began to play in a New Orleans style and they proceeded very slowly to literally snake their way across the floor towards the tunnel to where the bus was waiting.
Trgovich and his team came out with all of their hardware and medals and joined in the procession. Even the Bakers Life workers and my people got a kick out of this and joined in a rhythmic clapping to the music.
When the band got to the ramp that led to the buses, the director had them line up on both sides of the ramp and continually play their school song until coach and players were on the bus and starting to leave.
He then had his band get on their bus. I asked him why he did this, and he said he wanted the coach and team to know how proud they were of them, and he didn’t feel like they should have to walk out by themselves on one of the greatest nights of their lives.
Last year, Indianapolis Tech played for the 4A state championship, and I had the opportunity to bring things full-circle. Earlier in this series of columns, I mentioned that one of my mentors was Howard Catt, long-time athletic director at Tech High School.
After the Tech game, I went to the Tech locker room and explained who Howard Catt was and that he had been a mentor to me. I was surprised, but most of them knew Howard.
Even though he is in his 90s, he still attended as many Tech athletic events as his health permitted and sometimes just dropped in for the occasional visit.
I asked if they would mind signing a game ball for him and they very graciously did so, each and every one of them.
A couple of weeks later, I was able to visit with Howard and give him the autographed game ball as a very small token of my appreciation for all he has done for me.
March (and a little bit of April) — a basketball junkies dream come true. I can’t wait to see what will happen this year.
Kevin Horrigan is a former Greenfield-Central, Brebeuf and Lawrence Central athletics director. In addition to his work with the IHSAA, he is an organizer for the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, chairperson for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Endowment Committee and a mentor for new athletic directors for the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA). Contact him at email@example.com.
105th Annual IHSAA Boys Basketball State Finals
Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis
Admission: $15 per session
Television: Live on Fox Sports Indiana
Class A: Marquette Catholic (24-6) vs. Barr-Reeve (26-2), 10:30 a.m
Class 2A: Frankton (26-2) vs. Park Tudor (25-2), 12:45 p.m.
Class 3A: Griffith (19-10) vs. Guerin Catholic (21-8), 6 p.m.
Class 4A: Homestead (28-2) vs. Evansville Reitz (29-1), 8:15 p.m.