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Vol. 58, No. 1 December 2020 .pdf version
To many, Jernstedt was the Architect of March Madness'
By MALCOLM MORAN
On a Sunday in Indianapolis in 2002, the morning after the United States lost a dreary fifthplace game in the World Championships, Tom Jernstedt, then president of USA Basketball, walked into the media area and stayed as long as anyone needed him.
A decade had passed since the Barcelona Olympics, when the Dream Team seemed to have restored U.S. dominance. When a morning-after explanation of the freefall was required, it was not so much what Jernstedt said as how he said it. A thoughtful, complete evaluation had begun.
When Jernstedt died on Sept. 5 at the age of 75, basketball lost one of its most influential, understated leaders and journalists lost an unfailingly honest, humble, appreciative voice.
A headline in The New York Times called Jernstedt "an Architect of March Madness."
One could make a strong case that he was the architect.
Those of us fortunate enough to benefit from his generosity of spirit and institutional memory understand that Jernstedt would attempt to correct that statement. But the evidence suggests otherwise.
In a series of roles over 38 years at the National Collegiate Athletic Association that led to him becoming executive vice president, Jernstedt guided the Division I men's basketball tournament from a 25- team event with limited national television exposure to an annual spectacle in the middle of a football stadium.
His imprint is all over the modern history of the game. Jernstedt played an essential role when CBS gained the rights to the tournament with a three-year, $50 million deal in 1982. He climbed the steps of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, to the top of the upper deck, so he could see the view from the last row.
Jernstedt would smile at the awkward memory of being dispatched to a convention of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to inform the membership that the NCAA was contemplating the creation of championships for women. His memory included the sight of angry administrators racing to pay phones to register their complaints well before his remarks were complete.
When professionals became eligible for Olympic play, Dave Gavitt, then president of USA Basketball, introduced Jernstedt to NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik. "(He) said, 'You're both reasonable people,'" Granik remembered. "'I need you to help me get the NCAA and NBA working together.'"
Jernstedt consistently explained complex issues when things were not going well and passed the credit to others when they were. For that reason, among others, he received the USBWA Katha Quinn Award for exceptional service to the media in 2015.
"When one thinks of the Final Four, one name immediately comes to mind, and that is Tom Jernstedt," former Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke told USBWA Hall of Famer Jim O'Connell.
And when USA Basketball went through its challenging self-evaluation, Jernstedt sat in the office of then-NBA commissioner David Stern. He said he thought C.M. Newton asked the question: Could Stern ever envision an Olympic team being coached by a collegiate representative?
They were surprised to hear Stern say yes.
Many years and three gold medals later, Duke and Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski learned of Jernstedt's quiet advocacy.
"That doesn't surprise me, that I don't know that," Krzyzewski said.
Lodge Notes: COVID-19 creates a flurry of activity
Several USBWA members or college basketball writers lost or changed jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent Rising Star award winner Chris Heady left the Omaha World-Herald to join The William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. Fellow past Rising Star winner David Gardner was among 10 employees laid off by Bleacher Report.
Jonathan Alexander left the Raleigh News & Observer to cover the Panthers for the Charlotte Observer. Shannon Russell, formerly of The Athletic, became the Louisville beat writer for the Courier Journal. Danielle Lerner, also formerly of The Athletic, became the Memphis beat writer for the Commercial Appeal.
Teddy Greenstein left the Chicago Tribune after 24 years to become senior editor at @PointsBetUSA.
Kevin McNamara, who left the Providence Journal after 30 years, started his own website, kevinmcsports.com.
Rob Dauster, formerly of NBC Sports.com, also created his own site, The Rebound. Dauster and Jeff Goodman of Stadium have partnered to launch the podcast network Field of 68.
Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report joined The Ringer, where she'll write long-form stories on basketball.
Among writers caught in COVID-related layoffs: John Bohnenkamp of HawkeyeMaven and Ed Hardin and Conor O'Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal.
Phil Kasiecky announced that his website, Hoopville, is being shuttered after 20 years.
Dave Hirsch resigned after 25 seasons in the Pacific 12 Conference's media relations department.
Steve Shutt announced his retirement after 40 years in athletics media relations, the past 13 at Wake Forest.
Evan Daniels moved from 247Sports, where he was the national recruiting director, to CAA Sports. Corey Evans of Rivals was hired by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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