On the eve of tonight’s Valentine’s Day matchup with George Mason, I figured I’d share a little cautionary tale for all you student reporters out there.

The date is Feb. 14, 2000. I was a senior in college working for in the sports department for WOUB, the Ohio University-run, PBS affiliate. Ohio was scheduled to play Marshall that night in Huntington, W.Va. Myself and my roommate Jared, who also worked at the station, decided to carpool with our friend Jon, the school newspaper’s beat writer.

We also had an extra media pass. I have no earthly clue why we requested three TV passes for a game three hours away on a weeknight, but we did. Probably just because we could. I had been dating my future wife, Staica, for about six months at the time. She was in mass communications and was the producer for our football and baseball coaches shows. The guys knew Stacia well, so we told her to come along. This was our first Valentine’s Day together and she agreed to hop into a car and drive three hours through the mountains to watch a college basketball game. I should’ve proposed right there.

NOTE: I do not recommend giving your media pass to anyone. It’s stupid, and a great way to get your credential yanked, permanently. But for the purposes of this story, I’m going to pretend like I didn’t know any better.

Anyway, we drive to the game and I watch Ohio lose 78-72 with my future wife courtside. Earlier in the season in Athens, Ohio, the Bobcats routed the Thundering Herd 77-53. That game was marked by a bizarre, contentious exchange between fiery Marshall Coach Greg White and Ohio player – and all-around space cadet – Sanjay Adell. During a timeout late in the game, Adell stuck his head into the Marshall huddle and got an earful from White and Assistant Coach Jeff Boals (now at Ohio State). In the postgame press conference, White addressed the incident and referred to Adell as “an average player”.

Fast forward back to Feb. 14. We didn’t bring Stacia into the press room, which was probably our only good decision of the night. I don’t remember exactly how many points Adell had that night, but he did well, even though Ohio lost. Jared wanted to ask White about Adell’s performance, given the context of the previous incident and Adell’s pretty good game on this night. But, and this is where aspiring reporters need to pay attention, he didn’t present the question well.

A lot of people construct a thought in their head, but never consider how they’ll ask the question during the interview, resulting in a fumbled mess. This is kind of what happened to Jared. When White came in for the press conference, he asked the coach something to the effect of, “Coach, some people thought you personally attacked Sanjay Adell after the last game…”

Greg White coached at Marshall from 1996-2003.

White cut him off. “I didn’t personally attack anybody!” He bellowed. He continued his tirade for a couple of minutes before dispatching the whole thread with, “next question”. At this point, Jon, Jared and I all looked at each other from across the room with a sense of “did that just happen?” Jared and Jon shrug and smile at each other.

White sees the exchange and stops mid-sentence.  “Where’s my SID (sports information director)?” Now he wants to throw us out of the press conference. He rants for a few more minutes, and we’re assuming that we might actually get tossed. Finally, he decides to proceed again.

After the press conference, White begins to walk out and makes eye contact again with Jared and starts jawing at him. Eventually, the coach is ushered out of the room, and we pack up and scurry out before White has time to consider a public hanging. I haven’t been back to Huntington since, although we did get good use of that press conference footage for the rest of the year.

I’m not sure how many rules we broke that night (numerous), but it’s still the most memorable Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. I hope tonight’s game at George Mason is a little more memorable, for the right reasons.

As for the other guys in the story, they did just fine. Jared is now a media relations assistant with the Tennessee Titans, while Jon is now a columnist for ESPN Chicago. He even wrote this piece on Shaka Smart during the Rams’ Final Four run last season. Greg White is now a motivational speaker and apparently still conducts basketball camps. Sanjay Adell had a long pro career in France and Sweden. My wife, she still comes to basketball games, but she sits in the stands.

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