Vol. 47, No. 3 March 2010 .pdf version
INSIDE THIS ISSUE ...
Steve Carp: USBWA led to more than imagined
Joe Mitch: Breakfasts to be a Final Four highlight
John Bohnenkamp: A head-spinning two days
John Akers: Got a beef? Calm down and make the call
Byers, Myslenski, Withers enter USBWA's Hall of Fame
NIT's Chris Fallon wins prestigious Katha Quinn Award
Putting on a 'Full Court Press'

NIT's Chris Fallon wins prestigious Katha Quinn Award

By JIM O'CONNELL / The Associated Press
USBWA Past President
jimoconnell@ap.org

Go to any college basketball game at Madison Square Garden, and in addition to "Down in front" and "Hey, hot dog guy," the one thing you'll hear over and over again is, "Chris, can you help me?"

Chris would be Chris Fallon, this year's winner of the Katha Quinn Award and for the past three decades the person who has done more for media covering games there than the guy who installed the wireless in the building.

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Chris is the media coordinator for the National Invitation Tournament, for the last 30 postseason events and every one of the 25 preseason editions. She has run the press room for the Garden for its college basketball games during that time.

That means she has seen the best of teams in November as the NIT Season Tip-Off has become one of the best early season tournaments, the gamut of college teams from the top of the polls to Division III matchups during the regular season, the always sold-out and power-packed Big East Conference tournament and the best of the rest in the NIT.

"This has been a continual highlight for me," she said when asked for a special moment in her career. "If it wasn't, I wouldn't have been able to do it all these years. The people have been great. and there have only been a handful I wouldn't want to see again."

When Steve Kirschner, North Carolina's outstanding SID, received the Katha Quinn Award in 2005, he said his only regret was that he never met Katha, the SID at St. John's who died in 1989 after a long, courageous fight with cancer.

Chris, who started her career serving the media as the SID at S t. Francis, N.Y. in 1979 for a year-and-a-half, met her and got to know and respect her.

"I met her for the first time at a St. Francis-St. John's baseball game and we chatted a little bit, and I was in awe because she was so good and I was so green," Chris said. "She told me not to put up with any bull (anybody who knew Katha knows what she really said here, but Tipoff is a family newspaper). Then I saw her at the Garden a lot, and even if you didn't know her well, you felt like you knew her well because she didn't hold back and she wasn't a fake."

Chris left St. Francis for a quick stint in marketing before Jack Powers, the longtime coach and athletic director at Manhattan College Chris' alma mater called and suggested she apply for the position at the NIT.

"The night before my interview with (NIT director) Pete Carlesimo, I saw him in a Ragu commercial," she said. "He was the only person always later than me, so when he walked in I told him I saw him in a Ragu commercial and he said, 'Make sure you add olive oil.' Then he told me I had the job."

Chris was able to handle her jobs while raising a family. She and her husband Gerry, a partner in a construction law firm, have four children: Michael, a Fordham graduate who works in the merchandising arm of the NBA; Mariel, a Maryland alum who is a graduate assistant SID at St. John's; Sinead, a student at Boston College; and Kiera, a high school senior.

"My job has been great for my kids, to be around all this they have met some great people," she said. They also got tickets to see some pretty good games, but Chris is quick to add, "They have all worked at games if I was shorthanded."

They have all learned from one of the best in the business and the 2010 Katha Quinn Award winner.

"I have a great deal of respect for what the media does and anything I can do to help them, I'll do," she said, including that a rule or two might have been broken along the way so a local television station would be treated the same as a major network. "People have a right to do their job, and my job is to make sure they have that chance."

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