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A job fair bustles within Final Four
Networking and schmoozing abound behind the scenes.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 30, 2007
ATLANTA - It's a safe bet that South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard has, or will have before too long, the main number for the Hilton programmed into his cell phone.
That's the National Association of Basketball Coaches' headquarters during Final Four weekend, which means Woolard could find just about any college coach in America he would like to talk to about the vacancy at USF staying there.
Well, the Final Four is more than just three basketball games. For the 3,000 or so coaches head and assistant looking to move up and the athletic director in need of a coach or even a coach in need of a staff, the Final Four and the annual NABC convention is a giant job fair.
"There's no question there's a lot of networking and reaching out going on there," ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said.
"For years and years, that has been a stage where interviews take place and coaches who may be seeking jobs have the opportunity to visit with people who may be interested in them," Florida State athletic director Dave Hart said. "It only makes sense; most everybody is housed there. So, it can be a very productive time, and it can save a lot of travel from city to city."
Back in the day, the day before 24-hour news stations and Internet sites such as YouTube were omnipresent, coaches looking for work (freshly printed resumes might be in their briefcase or suitcase upstairs) and an athletic director looking to make a hire would mingle and chat - at least initially - in the lobby of the NABC's main hotel.
On Thursday, the lobby of the Hilton sure seemed like a Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve. It was teeming with coaches wearing their school's warmups, schmoozing with brethren they haven't seen in awhile or AAU contacts who might share some recruiting tidbits, fans looking for autographs and some media members.
But an administrator such as Woolard or his counterpart at say Kentucky or Michigan or Arkansas or Iowa wasn't in that slow-moving mass of multicolored polyester. These days, administrators have to be more covert and were likely back in their room in another hotel working the phone.
"The process has become more structured," NABC executive director Jim Haney said. "A lot of the meetings now taking place are set up ahead of time and they're in a room as compared to being in the lobby or a (nearby) restaurant, although some of that still happens."
A more stealthlike approach was how it worked for Paul Hewitt seven years ago when he was presumed to be a candidate to leave Siena for Georgia Tech. A friend who was close to then Georgia Tech athletic director Dave Braine called Hewitt in mid February to tell him as much. Hewitt just didn't hear much until the Friday of the Final Four when ACC associate commissioner Fred Barakat called Hewitt so he could pass along a number to Braine.
"I had a couple conversations with Dave and then we met at the Indianapolis airport on Sunday after the semifinals. We met at the USAir Club for about 2-3 hours," Hewitt said.
By Monday evening, he was back home, but Braine called him and said he wanted to fly up to meet again. The next day, Hewitt had a job offer, and the news conference to introduce him as Bobby Cremins' successor was Thursday in Atlanta.
"The Final Four is like going to Las Vegas in the summer for the AAU tournament: All the best players in the country are there," Hewitt said. "If you're an athletic director, you go to the Final Four and the chances are, anybody you want to talk to will be there and will be more than willing to talk to you. It's one-stop shopping."