Spending time with good people makes even a very long day a very good day. Wednesday started with an early trip to Kansas City for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Media Day in the Sprint Center. It ended past midnight after the work involved in covering the No. 21 Jayhawks’ victory over No. 14 Kansas State in volleyball.
The first event would actually be quite boring if not for the time spent with KU’s coach Bill Self. The final event was exciting and hard-fought throughout. The joy of the players, and especially KU coach Ray Bechard, made it even better. I owe both these men my thanks for yesterday and much more.
Ray Bechard became KU’s volleyball coach in my second year at KU. Bechard immediately appreciated my photography. Bechard and then football coach Terry Allen gave me free rein with their programs and encouraged other coaches to embrace my efforts. Both proved instrumental in KU making my position full-time, which at that time was a very rare position in college athletics.
Without Bill Self, that full-time position at KU might have vanished. When Lew Perkins became Director of Athletics in 2003, he and his staff did not know what to think of me or my position. It was clear they were uncertain of the need for a full-time photographer.
It took time to win them over, but Bill Self made it easier. Coming to KU after the popular Roy Williams, Self not only kept the men’s basketball program rolling along, he has helped it steamroll through the conference now for eight straight years. In the 60s the new space program faced this reality, “Without the bucks, there would be no Buck Rogers.” Without the KU basketball bucks, there likely would be no position for me to photograph all the KU sports.
At yesterday’s media day, Self was at his best. Totally relaxed and filled with his Oklahoma charm, he cruised through the back halls of the Sprint Center chatting with other coaches, like West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, who all know he is the cock of the walk in the Big 12. On the court, the media mob surrounding him so far exceeds the other coaches, it is almost embarrassing to see.
Everyone feels Self’s team will pick up another Big 12 trophy this season, and Bechard’s team seems headed to a high seed in the NCAA Championship. Both are quick to deflect credit from themselves to the players. Yet, seeing Self in his basketball environment or seeing Bechard joyously celebrate last night’s victory with his team was deserving of the thanks I gave to both of them yesterday. They allow me to document wonderful moments and help me make great photographs just by being themselves. Just another of the many blessings the Lord bestows on me.
Friend Gene Cassell deserves my thanks today as well. The Washburn University do-it-all media relations director, and a good photographer, informed me earlier this season that he was able to mount a remote camera on a volleyball standard. With a fisheye lens, Cassell made some very nice photographs. There was the proper hint of deserved pride in his message knowing he beat me to that shot.
Big 12 officials stymied my efforts to mount such a remote for years. Asking again this season, I made sure to mention that officials in the MIAA Conference were fine with Cassell’s remote. That finally cleared the way. Since KU out blocked KSU 18-5 last night, the photograph of a Catherine Carmichael block worked perfectly for me.
My thanks to all for making a very long day a very good day.