Steve Tebbs paraded visitors around the arena with the glee of a child showing off a new bicycle on Christmas.
Before teams hit the floor for first-round games of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, everything at Golden 1 Center sparkled and glistened, and the scent of freshly applied lacquer permeated throughout the arena.
Tebbs is the arena’s operations manager after spending years as the director of athletic facilities at Sacramento State, and he appreciates a hearty challenge.
The only indication Friday’s games were played in Sacramento in the Kings home venue was the retired player uniforms hanging from the rafters. Logos or signs featuring “Kings” or “Golden 1 Center” within view of a TV camera were covered. This is an NCAA event, reflected by every ounce and inch of the building – from the scoreboard to the walls and drinking cups – a complete makeover. Even the trash bins are wrapped in black to cover Kings and Golden 1 Center logos.
The theme goes right on down to the playing floor. A crew of 21 employees worked until dawn Tuesday to remove the Kings’ regular playing floor and replace it with an NCAA-issued one.
“Love it,” Tebbs said, grinning. “This was pretty cool because it’s different than anything we do. Our general manager, Juan Rodriguez, says this is our Super Bowl.”
The floor is put together like a puzzle, more than 20 pieces in all, and each panel weighing 200 pounds. On Sunday night, after the final game, the floor will be taken apart and shipped to another location.
Who knows. It might wind up back here someday. Kings president Chris Granger said bids have been put in to secure the NCAA Tournament in 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’21.
Stingers up! – Sacramento State was included among the many NCAA logos splashed throughout Golden 1 Center. That’s because Sac State is the host school for the tournament, and an energized cast of Hornets staffers has ensured that things run smoothly.
Included is Hornets sports information directors Brian Berger and Ryan Bjork and a host of others. Berger, the on-site media coordinator, said he managed three hours sleep on Wednesday and a whopping feel-good six on Thursday, saying, “I doubled it. Nine in two days. I’m good!”
Berger helped credential 320 media members, not including the 90 working for CBS.
Another staffer, hustling to and from for myriad roles, has been Will Schilling.
“I walked 9 miles in this place (Thursday), all over, a workout,” Schilling said with a laugh, assuring the mileage was accurate, according to his walk-tracker device.
Sac State athletics administrator Bill Macriss has been the liaison for Turner and CBS. Connor Sutton, an Elk Grove High graduate who works in sports information at Simpson University in Redding, might have been the most dapper fellow on location with his suit and tie. Among his duties: locker-room steward. Steve Shaff, an athletic administrator at St. Francis High School, was the media-table coordinator.
Kelly green – And there’s Doug Kelly. The longtime radio analyst for UC Davis has dabbled in quite a few NCAA events over the decades. This weekend Kelly is the press conference moderator.
On Thursday, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin ribbed Kelly before fielding questions, saying, “being a good Irishman like yourself, did you want me to start it off? Let’s do it. You going to partake (St. Patrick’s Day drinking) at all?”
Replied Kelly, “once the games are over.”
Shooting whiz – NCAA Tournament sites across the country feature shooting contests for fans, and Eric Headley heard his name called Friday at Golden 1 Center.
The senior basketball player at De La Salle High School in Concord, whose season ended last week with a loss to Woodcreek in the NorCal boys playoffs, made seven 3-pointers during halftime of the Cincinnati-Kansas State game to set the early national lead with 39 points.
Headley has a vested interest in Kansas State, where his parents graduated from and where his sister, Jenna, is attending as a business major.
Headley has been accepted to the school.