Life on the Road in Denver

To the lighter side of my trip to Denver, here are some of the sights and sounds from being embedded with Pump N Run during the trip. I was given full access to the team and coaches during the trip without any restrictions imposed on what I could write.

10:15 AM: Interesting see what it takes to get an entire team checked on to a flight. Yes I need 35 boarding passes, yes they're all standing here. Guys get over here, COME HERE! Yes YOU! All kidding aside, its surprisingly smooth. Just be prepared for the long line at security.

11:00 AM: Being the fool I am, I leave my laptop on top of my jacket and shoes and send it thru security. Send it back and now the line is at a dead halt. Wanna Get Away?

11:20 AM: The players are making a run for food before the plane boards. I really should have done Burger King but 1 lost meal won't hurt me any. I think the rest of the food on the trip will sustain the waistline.

12:30 PM: Take off. I'm stuck in the middle of 3 across in cattle class. Miserable. At least they had drink service so I get my caffeine fix. The team is scattered all over the plane. 100 minutes in the air, almost that long in taxi time and wait time. All the bags in the overheads and my feet are cramped with my bag and jacket taking up my leg room.

2:20 PM (MT). Arrival in Denver. One of the players was a 1st time flyer and it was a bouncy flight. But no sickness bags required. Thinking in terms of the MSP airport, the rent a car places are all in Eden Prairie or Victoria. Good grief. The 15 passenger vans may hold 9 real people comfortably. A very cozy ride thru the blizzard to the hotel.

3:30 PM: Arrival at the hotel. We've got food nearby, I've got internet access in the room. The kids are 2, sometimes 3 to a room. We're all glad to be out of those vans.

4:00 PM. Supper with the 17s at Red Robin, a surprising choice considering game 1 is at 6:10. Nothing like bottomless fries. I wanted to go with the 15s and 16s since they played back to back but we didn't get back in time.

6:10 PM I'm keeping the official PNR book for the 1st round pool game (as I did for all of the 17s games that I covered). Somewhere during the night I get another introduction to Jim Harrick.

8:30 PM Back at the hotel and while we're figuring out what to do, I have time to write my Friday night post. Off to a neighboring Holiday Inn where we've got a banquet room. Pizza and wings for everybody. Eventually I'm one of only 5 people left as we close up shop after exchanging stories of summer basketball.

9:30 AM: Ouch, that has to be an altitude headache. Nothing like the free continental breakfast. mmmm. There are few better things in life than free food. I sneak in a quick trip back to the room to put up the pools for the Pump N Run tourney. The snow is still out there and now there's just rain.

10:45 AM: Arrival at the Gold Crown Fieldhouse for a long day. The setup is 3 courts long with 2 rows. The spectators are on the outside with the benches between the courts. The scoreboards are behind the spectators which makes it hard to watch. I skip the PNR 17s game to watch Net Gain's 1st game of the day but PNR is on the adjacent court so I have a better view of the score of that game than the game I'm actually paying attention to. Before the game I take in a good chunk of Rivals #29 prospect Daniel Alexander of the Texas D1 Ambassadors vs the DoublePump 2011 squad.

2:30 PM: All the teams I think are gone as the PNR 16s just won. As this is my best break of the day I grab a quick hot dog and Coke. Then what, I sit down and wait for the 4 PM Net Gain game. There are 4 17U games going on, but I'm watching a 14U game as I want to have a spot on this court. I look over and there's Steve Kerr, GM of the Phoenix Suns watching. After another look, I realize he's talking to New Mexico Head Coach Steve Alford. Wait a minute, D1 coaches can't be here. So I look at my program and realize I'm watching Alford's son play. Kerr's son also plays (not in this game) explaining his attendance.

4:00 PM: Now the zoo begins. This game, then the PNR 17s, followed by the 16s, then a session off followed by the 15s. After the 16s played, Team Odom played the top DoublePump team coached by Jim Harrick. We all stuck around just to watch warmups and the first few minutes and most of us were wowed by it (me included).

10:00 PM: During the PNR 15U game, the scorer's table isn't paying attention. Here's my conversation with the referee.

Czar: Hey Ref, the scoreboard is wrong, black (PNR colors) is short 2 points (which they were)
Ref: What do you want me to do about it?
Czar (dumbfounded): Tell the scorer's table.
Ref: They'll catch up eventually.

That was just funny enough to temper my frustrations. The scoreboard eventually dies and we end up using a little portable one for a good chunk of the game.

11:15 PM: Back at the hotel, tonight's campfire session will be in the lobby. Mention a team that a coach had years ago and they can go on for hours about it.

1 AM: After an earlier McDonald's run, this session ends early as the 15s and 16s both play at 8:30. And I haven't written anything yet or packed for the trip home.

1:30 AM: Bolshevik! My internet access code in the room doesn't work anymore. So I make quick run to the business center downstairs for the Saturday night post.

6:45 AM: Ooof, that wakeup call came early. I'm drinking orange juice just to have the physical motion of doing something so I don't fall asleep on my feet.

9:45 AM: After watching the 16s win their quarterfinal game, I took in a bit of the other 17U semifinal between Team Odom and DoublePump 2011. Team Odom comes from behind in the 2nd half after being down 10. 4 minutes left and a 4 point game but its time to run over to the PNR 17s semifinal game on the other end of the building.

3 PM: The 17s are in the championship game, but a 4 PM start and a 6:50 flight on the other end of town don't work. So the game gets moved up to 3:30. Where is Kevin Noreen? Nothing like a communication mix up to not have him at the tip (he showed up shortly after).

5 PM: Move it, move it, move it. 13 of us in the van to the airport, I'm half on the back wheel well, 10% on the seat and 40% wedged between the seat and the side. Just like on the way over we think we're cramped and we've got to fit 5-6 more people in vehicles and figure out who's taking who. I wasn't a hood ornament for either so it was OK by me. We're trying to map each player on the 17s to a player on the Cleveland Cavs as I asked for NBA references for next year (Bonzi Wells is done). Aaron Anderson = CP3 anyone?

6:35 PM: All the rush and the plane is delayed an hour. Kids run for food and chat. We take in some of the Atlanta/Miami playoff game. I can't get an internet connection to work for some dumb reason and the battery on my laptop is disappearing rapidly. Others read or try to catch up on some homework while some of the freshman parents watch the huge stack of bags at the gate.

8:30 PM Finally on the plane and stuck in the middle again. Why did it take me this long to see the flight attendants and think of Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies"? Cole Stefan is also on the plane and he's tired out. We finally arrive about 11:30 Central time.

Final Thoughts
  • Very often we think of on the court chemistry between players. But its amazing what chemistry within a program will do from the parents to the coaches to the players. And the parents are a bigger part of it than I thought. One of the parents bought pizzas for the teams and the next morning (without any prompting), the kids had a typed up thank you note all signed by the team for that parent.
  • It was amazing to see the conduct of some of the big city (read Chicago and LA) coaches. Language that would have gotten immediate ejection in a just world was not an uncommon site. In the late game Saturday for the PNR 17s, there were 7 technicals on their opponent in the 2nd half.
  • Along the same lines, you could see the attitude in those teams. They'd see Minnesota and already have a win in mind. This was particularly true of Team Chandler in the 16U quarters.
  • The talent level at this tournament compared to the Comets tourney or the Sabes or the Pump N Run tourneys was at a whole different level. July should be very entertaining when many of those teams are here with the D1 coaches also allowed to watch.
  • This tournament did it right by having the refs do a couple of games at a time and then getting them out of there. 4-6 games in a row is way too many.


  1. Czar,

    Been there, done that, now do it several more times over the next few months. A real experience! Thanks for the recap of your trip!

    New Warrior

  2. "Life on the Road in Denver"

    Nice post...with personal experience.

    Passenger Van Rentals


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