Reporter’s Notebook – Ivy League Tournament day two

Empty media room seat in memory of Grant Wahl (Photo by Rob Browne)

The morning of day two of Ivy Madness had more people in the media room and arena as the men’s teams took the stage for their interview sessions.

It’s certainly worth noting the empty media room seat left unoccupied as a tribute to Grant Wahl, the award-winning college basketball and soccer journalist who died a few months ago due to complications associated with Marfan syndrome.  Wahl attended Princeton from 1992 to 1996 and began his career as a reporter for the Daily Princetonian.  A very nice touch by everyone at the Ivy League office and Princeton Athletics.

Some more observations from the pre-semifinal part of the day:

  • More great journalists arrived this morning, including the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald, The Next’s Jenn Hatfield, Guarden State Newsletter’s Adam Zielonka, The Trentonian’s Kyle Franco, as well as Ivy Hoops Online’s George Clark, Steve Silverman and Palestra Pete.
  • Mel Greenberg made it for the women’s doubleheader in the afternoon. (I swear I tried to give Mel a ride to Jadwin, but the front-desk person said no one by that name was registered at the hotel.  I can understand that a Basketball Hall of Fame member may have to use an alias on the road to keep the fans from showing up for autographs.)
  • If you want to get an idea of why Princeton has such a home court advantage at Jadwin,  watch Jenn’s video for The Next.
  • There are also a lot of wonderful student journalists like Ben Rabb of the Yale Daily News and Walker Carnathan of the Daily Pennsylvanian and Diego Uribe of the Daily Princetonian.  It’s never easy asking questions to coaches and players in these controlled environments, but they all did an exceptional job.
  • Pandemic-wise, there are no additional COVID-19 rules in place and there are only a small number of people joining me in wearing masks.  Thankfully, things have moved forward from 2020 and 2021.  (However, with the New York Times tracker still listing deaths between the high 300s and low 500s a day over the last few weeks, I’m going to stick with wearing a mask for my safety and the health of others.)
  • Maybe it was due to the 3 p.m. start time Thursday, the smaller number of reporters or the lack of actual games, but I don’t remember any sandwiches being made available for the media.  With the earlier 10 a.m. start time today, there were more offerings for the free-food obsessed reporters and photographers (like me).
  • Yale’s James Jones told the reporters that Matt Knowling is ready to play and his program’s success over the years at Jadwin has a lot to do with the strong teams he’s had and the culture that has been developed over time.  When asked if he considers his team the favorites, the coach laughed and said, “by virtue of our being the number one seed, yes.”  With that said, he knows his team is confident in their ability but so are the other teams and they will need to go out there and prove it.
  • The first and only question on the Ivy League athletic scholarship lawsuit came up during the Yale session.  Jones tactfully sidestepped it, while the athletes didn’t say a word.
  • While I continue to be impressed with Jones and all his accomplishments, to me he will only be the second-best graduate of Half Hollow Hills West High School in Long Island.  The top spot, as usual, will go to my spouse.
  • Speaking of the lawsuits, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Tamenang Choh and or Grace Kirk found their way to Princeton to talk to reporters, but so far, I have not seen or heard about their presence.
  • The second media session featured Cornell, led by coach Brian Earl.  The coach was his usual introspective and thoughtful self.  He said he understood that his team tied for fourth and wished they could have had a playoff game with Brown, but he understands that rules are in place and glad to be at the tournament. 
  • Earl said that he and other coaches have talked about changes to the tournament structure, but he did not go into any specific ideas.
  • When asked if there was less personal pressure playing Yale, as opposed to playing longtime friend Mitch Henderson and Princeton last year, Earl reported he didn’t feel any difference and seemed to be more objective in the potential matchup with his former teammate and boss.
  • Earl’s talk coincided with the arrival of Jeremy Hartigan of Cornell Athletics’ communications staff.  Jeremy is one of the friendliest people in the league and always has a huge greeting for everyone in the room.  (If Jeremy’s out there – If I’m one of the lucky few to get a ticket to the Dead and Company’s benefit concert at Cornell, I’ll stop by to talk some Big Red hoops before the show.)
  • Princeton’s Mitch Henderson and his players came by for the third media session.  I know I mentioned this last year, but the parent in me always freaks out a bit when an athlete shows up with untied shoelaces.  Just remember, Matt Allocco, be careful out there …
  • Another repeat from last year – It’s always great to hear Tosan Evbuomwan answer questions in his British accent.  I do think, however, that living in New Jersey is starting to have an effect on his accent.  By the way, last year, the Columbia women had Kitty Henderson from Australia at the press conference, but yesterday she only spoke with Derek and Maren.  For the U.S. members of the eight teams at the media sessions, I thought Jordan Dingle had the best vocal skills.
  • During Earl’s press conference, the former Princeton star and assistant coach said he was glad to be at Jadwin, since he knows where all the bathrooms are located. Henderson followed by stating that the tournament has led to him showing his team places in the arena they have not yet discovered.
  • When asked if he considers themselves the favorite, Henderson was more measured than Coach Jones before admitting that, yes, the Tigers are the favorite.
  • Some questions to Penn coach Steve Donahue and his players focused on trying to beat Princeton after last week’s second-half collapse.  Kudos to all of them for being honest with their answers, but it’s hard to know if they’ve really moved on or used it as a motivating factor for their semifinal game.  We’ll know the answer for sure by late Saturday afternoon.
  • Speaking of Penn, the women’s team passed under the media area as they headed courtside for their Friday semifinal against the Tigers and sound ready to battle the No. 1 seed and get back to the finals for the first time since 2019.
  • Now that the games are getting closer, there are even more security personnel than yesterday.   Between the large number of human officers and one K-9 official, they have things covered.  One (me) does wonder if they will go into action on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon if fans attempt to storm the court after the two championships.
  • With the larger arena, there are more spots for reporters, which is a big change from the times at Yale and Harvard, where the seats were at the top of the arenas.  The seats are incredibly close to the action and all the writers should be prepared to have a ball come their way.
  • While I did feel things were a bit impersonal in Jadwin during the shootarounds, there is definitely a festive and warm atmosphere now that the teams are practicing, and fans are entering the arena.

Well, it’s almost time for the real stories to unfold.  As I head north from Jadwin, I want to thank everyone in the league for all the help and leave our readers in the incredibly capable hands of our Ivy Hoops Online experts, George, Steve, Pete, Ian, Richard and Mike.

1 thought on “Reporter’s Notebook – Ivy League Tournament day two”

  1. Thanks for sharing these insightful observations, Rob. It was fun to see everyone light up when they encountered you yesterday. That says a lot about you and how much you are respected by your colleagues.

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