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Vol. 54, No. 3 • March 2017 • .pdf version
Passing the gavel for more shining moments
By ED GRANEY / Las Vegas Review-Journal
I'm not sure it was at the split second a ball fell through net for what is arguably the biggest shot in the history of an NCAA Tournament championship game, the one that allowed Villanova's basketball team to do the impossible and top the wonderment of 1985 and the fairy tale that was born from it, when I realized my fate.
Maybe it hit me the following day: This is what poor ol' Gene Bartow must have felt like.
It was enough to follow in the hightops of those terrific past presidents of the United States Basketball Writers Association, but for my year-long tenure to begin with Kris Jenkins going all historic on North Carolina, well, that's one pretty massive enchilada to consume.
How to top it?
I won't make any promises in terms of the upcoming Final Four in Arizona producing such a magical ending, that this year's national championship will also turn One Shining Moment into One Legendary Shot.
Of course, by the time Monday's final begins, my friend Vahé Gregorian will have assumed his role as your new president, so any stinker of a game should be summarily attached to his resume.
And should his reign begin with another incredible finish, I'll just accuse him of spreading fake news.
But while which four teams will advance to college basketball's final weekend and how the narrative will play out once there remains unknown, this doesn't: It has been my absolute privilege and honor to serve as president of an organization that means so much to so many, that has over the years represented thousands who love the game while dutifully promoting and valuing their work.
The last year also reiterated one point that anyone who has ever had contact with the USBWA understands: You know that line about leadership being for the benefit of the followers and not the enrichment of the leader?
That's every bit of Joe Mitch.
Think for a second all you believe our executive director does for the membership and immediately times that by 1,000. Joe is the engine, the captain, the person for whom without his tireless effort and commitment to keeping our ship afloat, there wouldn't be a USBWA. I knew how much work he put in before being handed the gavel.
It's more. A lot more. More than myself or anyone realizes. It's also important to continue searching for ways to help each other do our jobs and improve those working conditions critical to that end, and for this we all owe John Akers a deep sense of thanks and gratitude for implementing several ad-hoc committees this year aimed at that goal.
Whether it be for things like seating or diversity or social media or dealing with the selection committee, John began a process by recruiting some of our most talented members to lead the way on making things better for all of us. The work of these committees as the summer arrives and we head toward another season should prove invaluable.
This is why we work as an organization, because of the continued commitment of people like Joe and John and the annual arrival of new faces willing to step forward and make a difference.
This is also why we work: We are all inclusive, a place where the spectrum of those deservedly honored stretches far and wide. I will always feel a great sense of pride that the Hall of Fame class enshrined in my year as president defines this sense of embracement, that we will honor in the same manner a national figure such as Sports Illustrated senior writer/novelist Frank Deford alongside community stalwarts Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, David Teel of the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., and Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News in Ohio.
Enjoy the impending March Madness. It's nearly that time of year. Our time. The best time. It's beyond encouraging to know the rising talents we have within the USBWA. Our home is in good hands, and the person who will lead us next year is as good as our business knows.
Vahé will do a wonderful job. I have sat with him in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night in Beijing as he filed an Olympics story to the Kansas City Star under the dimness of a street lamp.
He will be just as proficient and impressive as your president as he was turning out copy in such a unique and challenging setting.
And he will, undoubtedly, be as appreciative of the time and opportunity as I have been.
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