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Vol. 46, No. 4 • May 2009 • .pdf version
Detroit was place to be for annual awards breakfast
By JOE MITCH / Executive Director
Detroit might not have been the most popular choice for the men's Final Four for fans and maybe even the media, but it turned out to be a good one for this year's U.S. Basketball Writers Association college basketball awards breakfast.
The annual event attracted a sold-out crowd of more than 300 people to see presentation of the USBWA's player and coach of the year awards at the downtown Detroit Athletic Club.
It was one of the USBWA's most successful and entertaining Final Four breakfasts, where fans have a chance to see up close and personal some of the top names in college basketball.
Oscar Robertson was there to help present the player of the year trophy named after him to Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.
"You raised a great young man," Oscar told Griffin's parents who were in attendance at the breakfast.
Robertson even went so far as to comment on the NCAA's new seating configuration for a Final Four where the court was placed in the center of the football field at Ford Field.
"I see why they're doing it for financial reasons," Robertson said. "But when I played in a big building like this, I didn't like it. The shooting background was not good. All I can say to fans coming to the games is: Bring your binoculars."
Bill Self, whose Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA championship last season, was present to receive the Henry Iba Award from Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star.
Self charmed the crowd with his down-home humor and Oklahoma drawl. He talked about how much the award meant to him, being that he is a graduate of Oklahoma State (formerly Oklahoma A&M) and is a huge fan the school's most famous coach, Henry Iba.
Andy Katz, past president of the USBWA and ESPN's top college-basketball reporter, was at his best as emcee for the breakfast, providing quips and insight on each of the award recipients and keeping the program moving along at a fairly quick pace.
The morning, however, belonged to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and the many Spartans fans who helped fill the room to capacity. They were there to see the man who had led MSU to the Final Four for the fifth time in the last 10 years.
A standing ovation greeted Izzo when he first came into the room. Several times, the crowd broke out in chants of "Go, Green!"
Izzo received the Good Guy Award from the USBWA because of his honesty and willingness to work with the media.
"He's a guy who's great for college basketball," said Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal who presented Izzo with the award.
The breakfast began with the introduction of several members from MSU's 1979 national championship team. They received plaques commemorating the 30th anniversary of their NCAA title.
Seth Davis of CBS and Sports Illustrated set the stage for the occasion with a look back at the championship game with Indian State and the match up between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
"It was a game that transformed basketball," said Davis, who has written a new book on the subject called "When March Went Mad."
The USBWA hopes to continue these breakfasts at future Final Fours, thanks in large part to the help of the NCAA in securing a site to host the event.
The breakfast helps raise awareness of the organization's player and coach of the year awards and generates funds for the USBWA's scholarship program. The USBWA also makes a contribution to the National Kidney Foundation on behalf of Oscar Robertson, who donated a kidney to his daughter, Tia.
Next year, plans call to honor the 1980 Louisville national championship team on the 30th anniversary of the Cardinals' NCAA title at the first Final Four ever held in Indianapolis.
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