Gazette: Hoop Coach, Players Make Special Delivery
Nov. 2, 2010
A day after trick-or-treating was done, the UMass basketball team reversed roles. Head coach Derek Kellogg, his staff and players hand-delivered season tickets to fans throughout the Pioneer Valley on Monday night. The Daily Hampshire Gazette's Matt Vautour has a feature story on the unique distribution that is helping fans connect with the Minutemen.
By MATT VAUTOUR
On Tuesday night, the University of Massachusetts coaching staff and players split up into seven small groups and drove around the Pioneer Valley for a few hours, personally delivering tickets to unsuspecting season ticket holders in hopes of making their fans feel more connected to the program.
Kellogg, his 2-year-old son Max, junior big man Sean Carter and freshman point guard Daryl Traynham, did a route through Amherst and Pelham, exchanging tickets and posters for a lot of surprised expressions.
"My granddaughter's husband told me the coach was here," said Mike Sullivan, a 73-year-old former controller and director of finance at UMass who estimated he'd had season tickets for over 40 years. "I thought he was joking. ... It was very nice."
The next stop was the home of former team physician James Ralph, whose wife Edie was wearing a UMass T-shirt and invited the group inside.
"It was totally unexpected. We've had season tickets since 1963. Nobody has ever done that," Edie Ralph said. "It was wonderful. It makes you feel kind of special."
James Ralph has been retired since 1997, but is still a regular in the stands at quite a few UMass sports.
"It was kind of a shocker," said James Ralph, who was actually reading a newspaper article on UMass when the doorbell rang. "I think it's wonderful. I was very pleased to see and hear that they were going to all those places."
At one house a fan thought the delivery was the result of his call to the ticket office wondering why his tickets hadn't arrived yet. At another, the players opted to stay in Kellogg's SUV with the Basketball Hall of Fame plates when they saw the "Beware of Dog" sign threatening visitors.
"A couple houses were in secluded wooded areas," Kellogg said. "I think they thought there were burglars coming in."
But at most places, they found fans that were happily amused the coach and players were taking the time to reach out. Kellogg said the credit for the idea went to Andy Allison, UMass' director of basketball operations.
"It was a great idea," Kellogg said. "It was a great thing to see. I think everybody realizes that we're making an effort to reach out to the community. We're try to do everything possible to have a connection with the fans and people we want to become fans. We're trying to make it as much of a family atmosphere as we can. I, and my team, really appreciate the people that come to the game. For them to buy season tickets that takes a dedicated fan. We need fans in the Mullins Center and we appreciate it when they come."
It was Kellogg's second straight night of ringing doorbells after bringing Max, dressed at Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear, trick-or-treating the night before. Even then the coach was reaching out to potential fans.
"When they gave us candy we gave them schedules," he said laughing.
Kellogg said they picked who to visit largely by location, trying to get as many as they could in close proximity to each other. He wasn't sure how many houses the seven mini-groups had visited. He planned to hit a few more on Tuesday.
"I still have a few more I plan to deliver to houses myself," Kellogg said. "We had to stop because Max was getting a little cranky."
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