February 10, 2010
28th Blog - Dedicated fans turn out for the Coach Blaine Taylor radio show
By Brendan O'Hallarn
The radio coach's show is almost a throwback. They've been happening for decades with college radio and basketball coaches. You can almost hear Knute Rockne or John Wooden or Woody Hayes (OK, maybe not Woody Hayes) broadcasting their shows out to fans who can't get enough of their team.
ODU's basketball coaches Blaine Taylor and Wendy Larry, as well as football coach Bobby Wilder, do their shows live in a public location. Taylor broadcasts his show from University Pizza on Colley Avenue with radio play-by-play man Ted Alexander.
I went to the broadcast on Monday night. It's a weekly outing for ODU Athletics staff, who I've gotten to know doing "Living Like a Monarch" this season, but also draws a crowd of dedicated ODU hoops fans as well.
Alexander says there's a reason coach's shows have endured. "It's the best opportunity for fans to get their question answered by the coach. It's kind of empowering." Alexander says each of the ODU coaches who do radio shows understand the medium, and are able to connect with fans when they chat with him or answer questions. "This is where you get to see if your coach has it, and if they get it," he says. "Bobby Wilder gets it, Wendy Larry gets it and Blaine Taylor gets it. With these three, you can tell from listening for five minutes that they understand their role with the team."
Monday's broadcast featured a tiny bit of logistical struggles. Taylor got stuck in traffic on the way over to University Pizza, so Director of Basketball Operations Joel Hines went to work. Blaine called into the show from his cell phone, but just in case the connection didn't work, associate head coach Jim Corrigan was standing by, waiting to pinch hit.
Alexander played the role of team play-by-play guy, making sure to mention last week's win over William and Mary before Saturday's disappointing loss at Virginia Commonwealth. But Taylor (on his cell phone) didn't shy away from talking about the one that got away.
"I'm a little disappointed that later in the game we didn't attack as aggressively," Taylor said. "We just didn't make enough plays to do something special, and winning there would have been doing something special. We were right in that game, ready to make a run, and we didn't get it done."
But Taylor pointed out that when he moved to Virginia from out west (he was an assistant at Stanford just prior to taking over at ODU) he was struck by how teams here don't fixate on a single rival. "I tried to figure out when I arrived here, 'Are we Oregon or Oregon State?' Then I realized we have about five rivals. Each of these Virginia schools has so much history with each other over the years, it's a rivalry game every week."
The coach also said that the top six teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, us, VCU, George Mason, Northeastern, William and Mary and Drexel "can play with anyone in the country."
During commercials, Alexander worked the room like a seasoned emcee. He handed out tickets for trivia winners. "Yes! I was going to be in the doghouse with my girlfriend if I didn't get tickets," fan Chris Decker said after winning a pair of ducats to the sold out George Mason game on Saturday.
Glen McClure, one of his companions at the table-full of fans, said the group wanted to come out and hear with the fun was all about at University Pizza. "I like listening on the radio, and it seems like people at the show have a good time," he said.
It was a little different this time, though, a coach's show without the coach. Finally, during the final commercial break, Coach Taylor walked in, to applause from the crowd. He and Alexander went on as if he'd been sitting there the entire time, answering questions about Marsharee Neely and Kent Bazemore ("You're talking about two really nice kids, who are so proud to be part of this program") and Wednesday's opponent, James Madison University.
"They're a really good team, sort of a representation of what our league's all about," Taylor said about JMU. "They've had a tough year, they've battled some injuries, had some tough losses, but they came into the Ted and gave us everything we could handle."
A caller asked about the team's chances of earning its way into the NCAA Tournament. Taylor stressed that the Monarchs aren't taking any opponent lightly, starting with the JMU Dukes. In the end, he could offer only a single guarantee.
"I tell you what, when all is said and done, you're going to be proud of this team. I know I will."
Brendan O'Hallarn is an employee of the ODU University Relations staff.
Brendan's Blog 46