Even Coaching Searches Aren't A Bad Gig

FAYETTEVILLE--Dear Diary: Imagine my surprise at seeing a parking lot full of cars outside Bud Walton Arena on Sunday. Was there a press conference and no one told me?

No, it turned out that Jean Nail was having tryouts for next year's Arkansas pom squads.

"We have 43 girls trying for 26 spots," Jean told me. "Twelve make 'pom red' (football and basketball) and 14 make 'pom white' (football and RBI Girls). Even if they're on the squads, they have to try out every year."

Did Mike Nail, Jean's husband and the Voice of the Razorbacks, know who the new UA basketball coach would be?

"No, he's gone fishing on Beaver Lake," Jean said. "He doesn't want to know, because people call him every few minutes."

Coaching searches can take a toll on you, and on your cell phone bill.

But they can also be fun. Take Saturday, for example. A few of us media types staked out Drake Field for several hours, just like old times. Finally, a UA plane ferrying Frank Broyles, Kevin Trainor and Jimmy Dykes landed at 4:39 p.m.

Broyles remained on the plane for eight minutes before walking into the hangar, creating a bit of suspense, but no coach followed him. Nobody was talking.

Except a pilot, who asked us, "How did you know what time we were landing?"

Enterprising people had told us.

A prominent Northwest Arkansas businessman had buzzed the airport parking lot a couple of times in his Porsche convertible, leading some to wonder if he was there to spirit the new coach away. Or simply to monitor the media presence.

Earlier Saturday, I did pick up a couple of nuggets while watching Arkansas' football scrimmage alongside several hundred others.

A guy I've known for years confided, "I found out where Frank Broyles' office will be next year when he's the athletic director emeritus and a consultant for the Razorback Foundation. It will be at the Foundation. Also, I've found out that (Clemson AD) Terry Don Phillips could be back in the running for the new (UA) athletic director. He could end up on the short list."

Back to basketball. Sunday, while walking on the UA campus, I agreed to sit down for an interview for three fellows who were putting together some type of documentary relating to UA sports.

Afterwards, one of them said he had heard that "Mr. (Dudley) Dawson" had said Billy Gillispie visited Arkansas the previous weekend. I said that didn't sound right.

I called Dudley, who was driving back from Saturday's Civil Rights game between the Indians and Cardinals in Memphis.

He said he couldn't have said Gillispie visited, because Gillispie didn't. But he added, "I appreciate the young man calling me 'Mr. Dawson.'"

Dudley and I chatted a bit longer about our beloved Cardinals, then hung up.

That reminds me to mention that I got to see Yankee Stadium for the first time 10 days ago, when my wife Audley and I were in New York. We spent two hours at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan, then bused to the Bronx, where the Yankees' offices were about to close for the day.

I talked the lone employee left on duty into letting us at least peer into center field from a tunnel inside the stadium. I got goose bumps, envisioning Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle patrolling that ground.

In grade school I once did a book report on DiMaggio's autobiography "Lucky To Be A Yankee." And Mantle was one of my childhood heroes, along with Stan Musial of the Cardinals.

In October, 1949, according to a plaque in the Yankees' office, DiMaggio said, "I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee."

This week I get to go to my 27th Masters in Augusta, Ga., where on Wednesday I'll get to see little Amanda Mickelson caddie for her dad in the Par 3 tournament.

I want to thank the good Lord for making me a sportswriter.


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