Before the second weekend of this year’s NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson, and “The Google Boys,” as Raftery calls the research team, were causing a bit of a ruckus in their hotel conference room. Nothing too crazy, mind you. Everyone was having a “lemonade or two,” Raftery says (more accurately the group was sharing a couple bottles of The Calling, Nantz’s wine he makes with wine mogul Peter Deutsch), and preparing for the Sweet Sixteen games — Clemson vs. Kansas and Syracuse vs. Duke — the crew was calling on Friday.
“It’s like being in college,” Nantz remarked about the atmosphere, mentioning a game everyone played where they passed a pepper shaker around the table after every point that was scored as they watched that Thursday evening’s matchups.
The laughs and chatter got louder, and they could be heard from the next conference room over, where the Jayhawks staff was preparing for their game against the Tigers. So naturally, Kansas head coach Bill Self had to stop by to see what was going on after they broke for the night and were done watching film.
“I guess he has trouble sleeping during these things,” Raftery says. “I remember teasing him. Saying something about would you like a glass of wine? He said, ‘No, no, no I got stuff to do upstairs.’ I think he was going to look at more tape. So I joked, ‘Yeah, I saw your last game. You should take a glass of wine.’ I actually felt bad then when he left. Like I didn’t mean it, I meant it as humor, and I’m thinking, ‘Gee, I hope he doesn’t interpret it as he did a lousy job in that game.’ It was great. He was open about his team and about who they were playing. It was really a great little get together.”
If Self did take offense, he didn’t show it, and he certainly didn’t internalize it – his team knocked off Clemson and then Duke en route to a Final Four berth. But it was impossible for him not to notice how much fun everyone was having.