Directionless in Seattle

So here’s my #CoachK story.

In 1989 Duke was in Seattle for the Final Four. I had just graduated from WSU with my shiny new Broadcast Production degree and was hired for the week by CBS-TV as a runner – the lowliest of all broadcast jobs. But it was network TV right?

Coach K’s Blue Devils lost in the semifinals on Saturday so Sunday he was free to participate in a CBS coach’s roundtable show back at the Kingdom. The CBS producer I was working for handed me the keys to a rental car and sent me to the coach’s airport hotel to pick him up.

The car in question was the world’s largest baby blue Cadillac. It was epic, easily the largest car I had ever seen, let alone driven. So off to the hotel I went. I made it to SeaTac in no time and the coach climbed into the back seat.

Driving the enormous Cadillac down I-5 had been no problem. Exiting the hotel parking lot was another thing altogether.

I carefully maneuvered the land yacht backwards…until I hooked its front bumper onto the airport van. The van’s industrial bumper was fine. The Cadillac did not fare as well. One of the two connection points between bumper and car was completely separated. Still, the bumper stayed attached and we headed back north on the freeway.

I had grown up in West Seattle and had driven up I-5 before, but never made the exit to the Kingdome. No navigation or printed directions in those days. Flustered as I was by the near catastrophe, I took the wrong exit heading now east towards Mercer Island. Back then there was one last exit from I-90 right at the edge of Lake Washington. I steered the barge-like, bumper bouncing beast off the freeway and…into nowhere.

No way to get back headed west and no clue where we were. Lost in one of Seattle’s rougher neighborhoods with someone who would become a college basketball legend. He was never flustered, but I could tell he was furious at me and the situation I had placed him in. We rolled thru the residential streets aimlessly, stopping to ask two Japanese grandmothers for directions. Their response, in their native language, was sincere but of no use.

Finally the monstrous grey mushroom that was the Kingdome came into view. I rolled up to the TV compound and stopped. Without a word, Coach K left the backseat and walked inside.I was a wreck. The Cadillac was broken. The greatest basketball mind in the country was almost a missing person. And my career in TV was surely over.

To my amazement, the CBS producer waved off any concern about the Caddy. “I put it on my Amex card” he said. “No problem.” Several weeks later I received a CBS Final Four polo and a note thanking me for my hard work. The shirt? It was baby blue.

Good luck Coach K.