Page 5: My Kevin Harlan Story
In the spring of 2014, the months in my life that forever changed me, Dayton hosted the NCAA First Four. It's an event that transitioned from a pair of play-in games to a two-day tournament-kick-starting event. TV cameras, press conferences, a brand new court, etc. The networks sent their best play-by-players.
On Tuesday of the tournament, Day 1 basically, I was hanging out upstairs eating the press meal, looking down at the court of UD Arena a few hours before the first game. By the way, I was able to finagle Flyer Radio to get not only a press credential but a pair of courtside seats to broadcast the games on local radio. Doug Hauschild is the kindest man I've ever met.
As I was munching on whatever free meal they were serving, I looked down to see the TV booth courtside. Kevin Harlan was down there setting up his perch. As young me normally did, I thought immediately "How can I talk to him?" and "What's my opening line?"
I thought of it and brought down my compadre, Jon Kostoff, down to talk to him.
We meandered over to the area at midcourt. It was intimidating. Production people were setting up lights, headsets, com boxes, etc.
I usually have the courage to talk to anybody, so long as I have an opening line like they've never heard before or at least an angle. The thought is, and always is, that people in high places don't give a shit about you. You have their attention for three seconds. Grab it and don't stay long.
"Hey, Kevin. We're student broadcasters at UD...we wanted to know...you're the broadcaster for NBA 2K...how does that work?"
That was my angle. Ask him about something that he might not be asked about: play-by-play for a video game.
So he began to respond and we started a little back and forth. The first thing that hit me was his voice. Unreal pipes. To this day Kevin Harlan has a top five voice in my opinion. The second thing that I realized was that he was a really great guy who didn't mind entertaining us for a few minutes. I have to admit, I've always had that touch and feel with people. I know immediately when you, the botherance, are taking up too much time and need to give this person space. In this case, he let us jump into his world and chat for a while.
The nugget I stole from his preparation stories was a timely nugget during that moment. He had to call tons of games in one day for the NCAA Tournament. It's impossible to know every single thing about the players. One person could only prep for so long. He told us that he writes down at least one "thing/note" for every single player on the roster. I'm paraphrasing, but basically his message was "to have one nugget for each player because you have to be prepared that he will have the greatest performance of his life. You have to be ready for that."
We said our thank yous and moseyed along. Walking back to the press area fucking pinching ourselves and ogling that Kevin Harlan just entertained us.
Little did we know that we'd see more of Kevin Harlan.
Later than night when both games were finished, we were walking up the big ramp in the bowels of UD Arena, rolling our equipment out to the parking lot. Falling it line with everyone else, it turns out that Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, and Len Elmore were 20 feet ahead of us heading to the lot as well.
Flash (Jon Kostoff) and I looked at each other. Amazing!
Kevin Harlan turned to Reggie Miller and said: Reg, what do you say...let's get a pizza!
Fast forward a bit (with some background).
That year Dayton made the tournament, scheduled to play in Buffalo on Thursday (two days after the First Four started). The Flyers beat Ohio State on Thursday, beat Syracuse on Saturday, and made its way to Memphis for the Sweet 16. The Sweet Fucking 16. Are you kidding?
So the band of Flyer Radio and Flyer News made its way to Memphis, Tennessee.
The first day down there, we were able to attend the press conferences. Dayton, Florida, UCLA, and Stanford were there. Some big bruisers. It was clear that Sweet 16/Elite 8 time was the time when the entire nation is watching these games. By this time, Dayton had secured a place in the nation's hearts as that year's Cinderella.
As we listened to Devin Oliver, Matt Kavanaugh, and Archie Miller in the presser, I turned around and surveyed the scene a little bit. In the back row with a yellow note pad, Kevin Harlan sat, glasses sitting on the end of his nose, taking notes. He also sported a small smile that said: these players must be so pumped to be here. That was his vibe.
Seeing him was awesome. He wasn't in Buffalo calling the games so we were thrilled to see him again in Memphis. After the press conferences were over, we went up to him at his courtside area. At this point, about 10 days or so after first meeting him, we went up to him again to say hello. This time he was in work mode, getting some stuff done. We exchanged pleasantries, he recognized us, but my antenna went up. He was busy. Not rude, but he had to scurry us away a little bit.
"Well, we just wanted to say hello." And off we went. My opinion of him was unchanged. But I obviously wanted more good broadcasting info haha. A fruitless venture.
The next day was game day. No. 11 Dayton facing No. 10 Stanford who had just upset Andrew Wiggins and Kansas the weekend before. 7 p.m. game, the entire nation was watching. Dayton's campus was losing its mind, Dr. Dan Curran was crowd-surfing his way into the national conversation. It was big time.
Meanwhile, Jon and I were getting ready. We set up our equipment in our spot, got some food, and grabbed some more prep time in the media area. About a half hour to tip, the FedEx Forum was filled with Flyers fans. They had flooded Beale Street and made their way in. NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in full force. Jon went up to our perch earlier than I did(we were in the rafters basically, the overflow media section...such as life for student radio).
I left the media area, took the elevator to court level, and had to walk from one end of the court to the other and then up the steps. I decided to walk behind the broadcast table that stretched end to end because the area behind the players' benches was clogged. I walked past Larry Hansgen, voice of the Flyers on WHIO, and went past other big time media members. As I continued to make my way past the TV people, I felt a tug at the back of my shirt. I'm thinking, is this Steven Wright of FlyerNews? Turns out, it was Kevin Harlan.
I turned around to look at him. He looked up from his seat, met me with a massive smile and said "how amazing is this?"
And then he turned back toward his TV monitor.
Kevin Harlan doesn't know who I am, Kevin Harlan doesn't give a shit about me. But the truth is, at that moment he did. And I'll never forget him for literally going out of his way, unprompted, to stop me and say that to me. I was floored. And still to this day, six years later as I write this, I can't believe he did that. He remembered me. What a classy move.
Kevin, if you're out there reading -- you showed me that you were different than the rest. And I'll never forget your kindness.
I will always pass it along and always pay it forward.
And that's my Kevin Harlan story.