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Reporter's tale with the big boys

By By Will Bradwell / staff writer
Oct. 30, 2003
BIRMINGHAM Anytime you find yourself sitting across the table from a guy wearing a national championship ring, you feel pretty inadequate.
That was the situation in which I found myself at the Southeastern Conference's basketball Media Day on Wednesday. There I was, sitting down and talking to Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith. The guy's ring was as big as my knee.
What is my life worth? Nothing. We're talking about the defending National Coach of the Year.
What have I done with my pitiful existence? Nothing. We're talking about a guy who won a national championship in his first year! Unbelievable.
And yet, there he was, along with every other SEC head coach and a couple dozen of the league's high-profile hardwood superstars.
SEC Media Day is what you might call a giant peace summit before an annual four-month nuclear holocaust known as basketball season. By mid-February, these same guys will be doing everything physically possible to out-run, out-bump and out-jump each other.
On Wednesday, though, everybody was happy. Media Day is the one day of the year when the mighty SEC coaches descend from Mount Olympus to converge in Birmingham for a day of hyping their respective team (sometimes deservedly so, oftentimes not).
That's all good and well, except for the fact that coaches and players get an entire hour with the press. There are only so many ways a person can paraphrase the line, "I hope we win."
Inevitably, the conversation turns to topics somewhat unrelated to basketball. Take Kentucky guard Gerald Fitch, who underwent surgery to repair a hernia over the summer. His mother came up to Lexington to take care of him while he was bedridden and he took more than a couple of jokes from his teammates.
And although he's back to 100 percent, Mom is still not leaving him alone.
That sounds familiar.
Media Day is also a great opportunity to compare the personalities of different coaches. Sure, just about everybody gets wild-eyed and red in the face out on the court. Off the court, though, some of them are quite placid and polite while some are lunatics.
Rod Barnes is one of the nicest guys alive, basketball coach or not. The Ole Miss head coach is polite, soft spoken, and never loses his cool. He's really quite a pleasure to visit with.
So I spent several minutes sitting down with Barnes, talking about everything from Justin Reed to Nintendo.
Barnes is the kind of guy who can make you feel good about the future of the world. As long as there are guys like Rod, you think, things are going to be all right.
And then you've got John Brady.
Mere seconds after finishing up with Barnes, I wandered over to the LSU coach's table at the same time as another sports writer was returning to the Brady posse. John, either very excited or very disappointed in the writer's return, greeted him with a barrage of profanity.
Four S-bombs in two sentences. Gee, I haven't heard monologue that cool since junior high.
Incidentally, it was LSU and Kentucky picked by the media to win the SEC West and East divisions respectively.
The Tigers and Wildcats may yet prove themselves the cream of the conference, but I'm counting the days until that determination is reached on the hardwood.
Here's hoping Brady learns two or three more dirty words along the way.