Editor’s note: Patrick Kinas, the voice of the Wolfpack women’s basketball team, provides his third entry as our guest blogger for our ongoing series, “A Coach’s First Season.” In this entry, which comes just a couple of days after the team fell to Georgetown 67-66 Tuesday night in D.C., Patrick provides a behind-the-scenes account of their travel miscues and pains to Washington, D.C., which culminated in a 67-66 loss to Georgetown Tuesday night — a loss that first-year NC State head coach Kellie Harper described as “a hard one to swallow.”
Traveling during the holiday season is never an easy process. Millions of Americans going every which way — by car, by bus, by train, by plane. So while it’s certainly nice to travel to places like historic Washington, D.C., sometimes you wonder if it’s worth the hassle.
I’m certainly not a morning person, so the prospect of getting up between 3 and 6 a.m. any given day isn’t my idea of a relaxing holiday season. However, with this trip to D.C., and our upcoming trip next week to Los Angeles, Calif., I’m quickly hitting my millennium quota of days where the bird AND the worm are still sleeping while I’m moving around. Our trip to D.C. started harmlessly enough, with the bus loading up at Reynolds for an early morning trip to RDU for our flight to Reagan National Airport. The bus was right on time, as was the flight, which was more than a bit uncertain with the two feet of snow dumped on George, Abe, Thomas and the gang to the north. But when we landed, things began to slowly fall apart.
The plan was to pick up lunch in the airport before heading to baggage claim, grabbing our bags and busing straight to practice at Georgetown’s student rec center. So we all grabbed our sandwiches, grabbed our bags and filed outside the terminal to wait on the bus that was circling the airport to pick us up. L’Tona Lamonte, the director of basketball operations, was on the phone with the driver as we were gathering. The conversation was taking a little too long to make me comfortable, and you could hear a few words here or there about which airline station he was at, what side of the airport, etc. So maybe 10 minutes have passed, and some of us couldn’t help but break into our lunch while we waited. Now most of us were outside the terminal, where the temperature was somewhere in the 30s, but as the minutes ticked off the clock, more and more people went back inside. After about 15 minutes had gone by with L’Tona still on the phone away from earshot, I chimed in to my friends on the staff that wouldn’t it be funny if the driver went to the wrong airport. Well, two minutes later as we debated this proposition, L’Tona was off the phone and informed Coach Kellie Harper and the c rew that the bus was indeed at the airport. Dulles Airport. Grand.
With Dulles about 45 minutes away, we all grinded our teeth and pulled the bags back inside and joined the rest of the floor of baggage claim for lunch. Finally, the bus arrived and we were off.
We held our breath more than a few times during the trip hoping the bus would be where it needed to be for all of our various engagements — whether it be leaving for practice, leaving for dinner, etc. If you’ve ever been to the Georgetown area of D.C., you’ll find narrow streets, barricaded roads near the Capitol and White House, tight turns, high-end shops and lots of stoplights. It’s a beautiful area; however, if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere or worse yet, late to arrive, this is not the neighborhood to be in to make up a little time. Which brings us to our final episode of pre-holiday grinchdom.
On game day, our pre-game meal was scheduled a few miles away from the hotel in the heart of D.C. — as a matter of fact, right across the street from the Verizon Center, the home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s the Capitals. Loads of people roaming the streets shopping, sightseeing or grabbing a late lunch. Well, as we arrived on another typically chilly D.C. afternoon, the bus unloads next to a snow drift adjacent to the restaurant. This restaurant seats 211 as its occupancy sign reads, but as we’re waiting to seat around 30 of us, the waiting area was clearly built to handle about seven, maybe 10 if you have an eating disorder. So as we somehow pack into the lobby, we begin that fun waiting game. There appear to be enough booths, tables, seating at the bar, etc., to accommodate our group — even with the late lunchers already with forks in hand. Two problems then arise. Issue number one: they have only two cooks on duty. The second issue involves the restaurant not having any record of our reservation for 30 for our pre-game meal. Grand.
Cue L’Tona. So this conversation with the restaurant’s manager lasts a good 15 minutes while the rest of the party remains sardined together waiting. At the end of the discussion, the group basically is cut in half and some head out the restaurant to other spots aro und the area, while the rest remain — to be served by — count ’em — two cooks. Turns out, either the bus dropped off the team at the wrong restaurant, which is a distinct possibility considering multiple locations of stores was very common in this area (3 CVS stores within a one mile radius — I guess when you work in the federal government, you need quick access to over-the-counter helpers), or the lunch reservation wasn’t logged by the manager when the initial call was made.
So yes, as you can see, big-party travel certainly has its perks, but plenty of behind-the-scenes drawbacks, slowdowns and hassles.
In the end, a very tough one-point loss for the Wolfpack that night against the Hoyas, a game that a few months from now could be targeted as the one that really hurt post-season chances. Stealing a win at Southern Cal on Thursday will go a long way to recovering this defeat.
The following morning, the bus was indeed perched outside the hotel at 3:30 a.m. for our departure to the right airport, and the team split up for the holidays. After Christmas at home, they’ll reconvene over the weekend in preparation for Seton Hall on Monday night.
So I suppose “Hurry Up and Wait” is a phrase useful not just for this road trip, but in the spirit of Christmas, kids couldn’t wait for Christmas, wanting Christmas to hurry up and get here, and then when it did, then tell Santa to WAIT – don’t go so fast? — Patrick Kinas