Commentary by David Yarger
If you all saw the story online, you noticed that I went to Cleveland on Tuesday to report on John Beilein’s introduction as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was the newsy side of things. I’m here to tell you in this column a little of what it’s like to cover a professional sports press conference.
Now I’ve covered plenty of fine press conferences locally and some not so locally, but this one, this was different.
The day John Beilein was hired as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, I immediately emailed the team to inquire about attending the introduction. The Cavs, on a hectic media day for the team, got back to me within 30 minutes in separate emails, and in no time I was put on the media list to receive a release regarding the event.
Monday morning, I received a release saying the event was less than 24 hours away the very next day. That didn’t matter – I was going.
A little background on your editor here. In addition to cheering on the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, I am a fan of the Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers. For Tuesday’s event, though, I was able to put all fandom aside and focus on what was important – that Western New York’s own John Beilein was being introduced as the coach of the Cavs.
Tuesday morning, I woke up at 5:15 a.m. and was on the road around 6:20 a.m. for Cleveland.
The event began at 11 a.m., but I arrived to the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio around 9:40 a.m.
Walking up to the facility was daunting, yet exciting. I knew I was going to be surrounded by reporters I had heard of being a Cleveland sports guy. What I didn’t know, is that I’d see much more than that, and this was no normal news conference.
When I walked in, I was greeted by security who checked out my equipment and after some small talk, he directed me into the media room.
In the room, I discovered a piece of paper that donned the Cavs logo, as well as “Reserved/David Yarger/Niagara Frontier.” Not going to lie, I was kind of blown away right from the start with that. But, this is far from over.
So after I get my stuff situated at my space, I walked out to the court where one half was blocked off for the introduction and another half for player workouts. It’s the offseason, so I really didn’t expect to see anyone. … Wrong.
I walk on to the court, and to my left, working on his jump shot is Cavs forward Larry Nance Jr., son of Cavs legend Larry Nance. Soon after watching Nance Jr. put up some shots, Beilein came out of an office to talk with him, and, like the coach he is, give him a few pointers and drills to run. As a basketball fan, it was intriguing just to see the offseason regime a player goes through, and it made me realize when they say “no days off,” that really means exactly that.
After I snapped a few photos and watched what was going, I went back into the media room to post on my social media.
So as I’m sitting by my laptop, I peep my eyes up for one moment and bam. Cavs legend Austin Carr, whose number is retired in the rafters at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse where Cleveland plays home games, walks right by me. Carr is also a color commentator for Cavs games on Fox Sports Ohio, which I watch constantly.
The story with Carr doesn’t end there, though. I will get to that later.
So as 11 a.m. was nearing closer, I walked back on to the court and one of my favorite rookies from this past season, Collin Sexton, had just gotten back from the Philippines to work out at the facility. Of course, me being me, I snapped a few action shots before I went and took a seat for the introduction.
So I’m sitting there, minding my own business and checking my social media, which was blowing up, because a lot of people were in awe I went for the event, and someone sits directly behind me.
If you were guessing Austin Carr, you’re absolutely correct.
It was kind of funny. Part of you is sitting there like “Talk to the guy, take a photo,” but my bigger half (my professional side) stayed relaxed and just focused on the task at hand.
As the event neared closer, Beilein’s family began to walk out and Carr was curious about some of the members. That’s where I chimed in and told him about his son, Patrick, who was recently named the head coach of men’s basketball at Niagara University. We briefly discussed the matter, but, hey, he now knows Beilein’s son is a coach at NU because of me.
As the conference began, I got to listen to Cavs Majority Owner Dan Gilbert, GM Koby Altman and Beilein speak. A lot of reporters had questions directed towards Beilein in regard to his plans with Cavs, what made the job intriguing, so on and so forth.
Mostly every reporter was from the Cleveland area and covered the Cavs, Indians and Browns.
Then, well … then there was me: 23-year-old editor from Niagara Falls who had a question regarding Beilein’s beginnings at Newfane High School.
As I introduced myself from Niagara County, Beilein lit up with a little smile and a point my way, which, in my eyes was almost like a sign of appreciation.
You can find his quote to this question in my story, but I asked: “You started your coaching career in Western New York at Newfane High School before you worked your way up the ranks. How surreal is it for you personally to rise from the small town guy up to an NBA coach, and how did your home play a role in your uprising as coach?”
Beilein’s response was quite funny, and showed how times have changed in the coaching world, but, in reality, I was just excited to ask my question and get an answer on that big of a stage.
Oddly enough, after the conference when I went back into the media room, a Cavs worker came up to me and introduced himself, because he heard I was from Niagara County. The guy was from Lockport. What a small world we live in.
After everything, I checked the Cavs social media accounts and saw the conference was broadcasted. Here I am thinking, “Oh, goodness. Please don’t tell me I stuttered or anything.”
I watched my part a few times over and over again, before I finally shared it on my social media where it blew up.
Many people were excited and maybe even stunned to see a small kid from WNY like me on the big stage. After I thought about it, though, Beilein was also once that small town guy from WNY, and deep down still is.
It was a day that was kind of full circle from me.
My day wrapped up having to explain where Newfane High School was and actually how to spell Newfane, which was kind of funny to me.
All in all, the day was a great one for my professional side, as I met and saw many different people. I honestly hope I do something like it again. The fan in me – the person that stayed on the inside for the four hours I was there – will never forget the sites I witnessed.