Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Steve Kirschner, Head of UNC Basketball PR

On Saturday at last year’s ACC tournament, my ride got a last-minute dinner invite, and I found myself up the creek. There was no bus from Greensboro back to Chapel Hill, and everyone I knew had already left. After the press conferences, out of sheer desperation, I approached Steve Kirschner. He’s the associate athletic director of communications at UNC, and he’s the chief PR rep for the men’s basketball team. He didn’t know me from Adam, but when I asked him if he knew where I could get a ride back to Chapel Hill, he offered without hesitation. We had a nice ride, and a nice chat, and he even refused to let me pay for a Cook-Out milkshake he bought on the way.

I emailed to thank him the next day, and he told me that he hadn’t known I was a Duke blogger, and that if I ever wanted to come in for an on-the-record interview, I could. I took him up on it last August, and now that basketball season is in full swing, I felt this would be a good time to run it. It was a fascinating hour-long chat, and we covered everything from the relationship between media and athletes to the the similarities between Psycho T and Harrison Barnes to the odyssey of keeping the major players around this year to Roy Williams’ method of dealing with the media to the changing nature of fan behavior. It’s long, but interesting enough, at least to me, to run in its entirety. I’ve split it into four loose segments if you want to skip around- the media, the players, the fans, and Psycho T. Enjoy. Continue reading

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with John Feinstein

When I was sent a galley of John Feinstein’s new book, One on One, my apartment complex failed to let me know it had arrived. A regular-sized book is too big for our tiny mailboxes, and we’re supposed to get a red notification slip when something larger comes. Didn’t happen. It sat in the main office for about two weeks before I went in to get another package and discovered it sitting on their shelf. “Crap,” I thought, “I’m going to have to read this book fast so he doesn’t think I’m an idiot.”

Lucky for me, that was the easy part. The harder might be explaining just how much it was to read One on One. I’ll start with this: it cost me about 14 hours of sleep over two nights. The book is not a memoir, per se, but it is an account of Feinstein’s first ten nonfiction books, starting with the incredible Season on the Brink and covering classics like The Last Amateurs (Patriot League basketball), A Civil War (the Army-Navy game), A Good Walk Spoiled (golf), and Hard Courts (tennis), among others. His idea is not only to tell the behind-the-scenes stories from the writing of these books, which would have been more than enough for me, but also to revisit the main characters to discover where their journey had taken them in the intervening years.

Feinstein’s vast experience and prodigious memory guarantee that One on One never suffers from a lack of stories. Triangle basketball fans will find plenty to read about Coach K, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and even Jimmy Valvano. One of my favorite parts in that department was Coach K’s reaction when he found out Feinstein would be spending a season with Bobby Knight in Indiana: “Are you out of your fucking mind?” In fact, some of the more revealing sections of the book shed light on details of Coach K’s complicated relationship with Knight that weren’t widely known and often get lost in the narrative of their recent reconciliation.

But as great as the basketball stuff can be, it’s just a part of the experience. Feinstein has stories to tell about his contentious relationship with Tiger Woods, locker room disagreements with the likes of Deion Sanders and Jim Palmer, access fights with organizers and PR people from the NCAA and professional tennis, the real reason Mary Carillo left ESPN, and even a dust-up with the Czechoslovakian secret police. Yeah, really. And of course, the whole thing begins and ends with that singular personality whose story threaded in and out of Feinstein’s entire career: Knight.

One on One works if you’re interested in sports, it works if you’re interested in sports journalism, and it works if you’re just interested in learning about real people who have been turned into inscrutable icons by television and fame. When I say that you won’t put this book down, I mean it literally.

But Feinstein’s strength, as always, is his treatment of people. The best journalists turn their eye outward, and despite the surplus of excellent stories, One on One never feels gossipy or vengeful. I can’t recommend it enough, either for yourself or as a Christmas gift. And now I’ll shut up and let Feinstein do the talking. He was kind enough to speak with me on the phone for an hour the day after Coach K broke Bobby Knight’s record, and it only cost me a $1,000 for something called a “listener’s fee.” (Just kidding- it was totally free, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience and Feinstein’s generosity.)

Continue reading

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | 8 Comments