Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Elena Is On Her Way
A year ago, the East Carolina at Old Dominion men's basketball game would have meant nothing to Princeton's assistant event operations director and its marketing/videostreaming guy.
Last night, they were there together, the two Princeton expatriates, one (Steve Kanaby) now the director of championships for the Colonial Athletic Association and the other (Scott Jurgens) the marketing director at ECU.
This morning, TigerBlog arrived to find a picture of the two in his inbox, sent from Jurgens. Kanaby would never have done so, since he would never want to be the center of attention.
Jurgens is all smiles, dressed in his Pirate purple with the swoosh. In a short time at ECU, Jurgens has consumed gallons of purple Kool-Aid, to the point where TB already has an East Carolina t-shirt, cup and other stuff, not to mention multiple pictures of Barnaby the dog in his own purple dress.
Kanaby is his usual I'm-just-happy-to-be-around-an-old-friend self as well, with his understated smile and his neutral dress and his look that suggests he's uncomfortable facing a camera, especially if there's something, anything in the building that he should be doing instead of smiling for a picture.
Next up for ECU is a game against Charlotte, which in addition to being a matchup of two teams who are currently 4-2 is also a game between Princeton's two most recent marketing directors, Jurgens and Charlotte's Nick Konawalik, who has been in North Carolina for a few years now.
As an aside, Konawalik must have about 18 kids by now, TB surmises, since he and his wife seemed to have another one every 3-6 months that he worked here.
The upcoming ECU-Charlotte game started a bunch of emails back and forth yesterday, originating with Jurgens.
The distribution list included maybe five people who work here, as well as others who used to work here but are now spread around the country.
Michael Cross, the Director of Athletics at Bradley, was on the list. So was Jamie Zaninovich, the commissioner of the West Coast Conference.
It's the nature of college athletics, where the staff is a mix of lifers with others who are passing through on their way to moving up the food chain.
One question TB would ask to the two former marketing gentlemen, or to anyone in particular, is what do you do in the name of marketing tomorrow night's women's basketball game?
The Tigers host Delaware tomorrow night at 7 on Carril Court at Jadwin Gym (the men host Lafayette tonight at 7) in a game that when first scheduled figured to be a nice early-season matchup between teams that play more years than they don't.
It's gotten a bit bigger. Delaware is playing for the first time since moving into the national rankings (at No. 24) for the first time in school history.
Princeton is ranked 33rd essentially, if you count how many spaces down from the Top 25 the Tigers are in the "others receiving votes" category. The Tigers have never been ranked in the Top 25 and have never beaten a team that was.
Delaware is 4-0. Princeton is 6-0. Both have looked very, very impressive in the early season.
ESPN.com's Graham Hays called it "the best game of the week" in women's college basketball.
Princeton and Delaware both beat Villanova, while Princeton has also beaten Marist. Delaware has the best win, an 80-71 defeat of Penn State, which is ranked 15th in one poll and 16th in the other this week.
It's as big as any non-league game that has ever been played at Jadwin Gym.
And yet the marketing question that TigerBlog has been wrestling with all week is this: Does Princeton need to play up the fact that Delaware's best player, Elene Delle Donne, is as good as any women's basketball player in the country, or does the game speak for itself?
In other words, is it Princeton's responsibility to say "come see Elena Delle Donne?"
The answer? TB's not sure.
Delle Donne, certainly, is worth coming to see even without the significance of the game. The 6-5 junior's story is by now familiar - she committed to UConn, decided she didn't want to play college basketball, went to Delaware to play volleyball instead, returned to basketball as a sophomore and now leads the nation in scoring at 30.3 points per game.
She scored 40 in the win over Penn State. She had 35 in her first game at Jadwin, two years ago.
Still, does Princeton have to say "come see Elene Delle Donne," in the way that an NBA team might have said "come see Michael Jordan?"
TB has resisted pumping up the Delle Donne angle, instead focusing on how good both teams are.
And hey, Princeton isn't exactly without its own superstar, Niveen Rasheed, who herself is worth coming to see.
Anyway, whether you come to see Delle Donne alone or the game, show up tomorrow night.
You know who will be here?
Sports Illustrated. The AP's national college basketball writer. The New York Post. Mel Greenberg, the foremost women's college basketball writer ever.
And why wouldn't they be?
It's the best game of the week.