An Interview with Mike Hutton

An Interview with Mike Hutton

An Interview with Mike Hutton

“Mostly it’s my introspection about coaching my daughter’s team. I didn’t have to make a bunch of phone calls – I just wanted to connect with different types of readers…You want to be read and for people to tune in.”

“I don’t cover Indiana day-to-day like the Indianapolis Star and the Bloomington Herald Times. I get down there 10 times a year…I also cover Notre Dame football and usually write two columns a week. I cover high schools as well. There’s no way I can sit here and go toe-to-toe…”

Mike Hutton: Interviewed on April 3, 2008

Position: Indiana and Notre Dame beat reporter and columnist, Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana

Born: 1966, Valparaiso, IND

Education: Marquette, 1989, B.A.; Purdue-Calumet, 1993, M.A., English

Career: Times of Northwest Indiana; Chicago Tribune 1995; Post-Tribune 1997 –

Personal: married, three children

Favorite restaurant (home): Bistro 157, Valparaiso, “an upscale place where my wife and like to go to get away for the night”

Favorite restaurant (road): Grazie, Scottsdale, AZ., “New York pizza – great wine bar – outside the Hotel Valley Ho”

Favorite hotel: Valley Ho, Scottsdale; Westin, Indianapolis

Posted by Mike Hutton on post-trib.com, January 14, 2008, 11:44 a.m.:

Game slippage.

I figured that was the best way to introduce my new blog about coaching my daughter’s 5th grade basketball team.

I’ve never coached basketball, she hasn’t played. Neither have the majority of the 16 players we have split up into two teams for the Northwest Indiana CYO League.

Her name is Sara Hutton, my name is Mike Hutton. You can call me Mike. Or coach if you like though I’m probably barely qualified. I have to admit, though, I like the title. It’s Sara without an H by the way. That’s exactly what my wife told the nurse her name was about a minute after she was born. Neither of us had a clear idea of what we’d call her.

“What’s her name,” the nurse asked.

“Sara,” my wife said.

“With or without an H ?” she asked.

“Without,” she said.

So there you have. Our running 11-year inside joke.

Anyway, I like the term game slippage, introduced to me by Greg Kirby, assistant women’s coach at Valparaiso. On December 31st of all days, I had a slight panic attack. We had our first game in six days, just two practices under our belt and no real offense and no real idea of executing the most basic concepts: how to inbounds the ball, shoot a free throw, line up for a jump ball, etc. I called VU coach Keith Freeman in the middle of the day who referred me to Kirby for an extended practice plan. He gave me all these great drills for practice and then at the end of the conversation, he told me it probably wasn’t going to make a difference.

“Game slippage,” he said.

“What’s that,” I asked

“The idea that most everything they learn in practice they forget when they actually play,” he said.

Kirby was right. Our first game was nothing like our last practice, where I had them run one play about 20 times to make sure they knew something.

St. Mary’s from Crown Point beat us 25-0. They had some girl that looked like she was 8 feet tall on the team. They actually lined up before the game and shot lay-ups, like college teams do.

We had to scurry to make sure our girls left the lockerroom in time for the second half.

Game slippage, I figured. It’ll get better.

Q. Why write about your daughter?

A. I just thought it would be interesting. It’s different than the standard inside stuff on Indiana or Notre Dame – that’s great too. I knew I couldn’t do it all the time – just because I didn’t have the time – but I will pick it up again next year.

You get some non-traditional readers, not just sports readers. You get mothers and fathers who have kids participating in sports or who coach sports. I kind of feel like a real coach – there were things that happened that I thought about including in the blog but I just didn’t go there. I was afraid some parent would read it and get pissed off. We had roster changes that caused consternation – some of those little issues you sort of hear about as a reporter but never really experience until you become a coach. I weighed whether I should write about a couple things – at the end there were two things I didn’t blog about.

Q. How did it come about?

A. I wanted to do something different. We just kicked off the blog at the Post-Tribune this year – we’re a bit technically challenged – and I thought it would be a way to do something different. There’s freedom on the Internet – you have the space and you’re not constricted by whatever conventions a typical section has accumulated over the years. There’s a kind of freshness – at least for me.

Mostly it’s my introspection about coaching my daughter’s team. I didn’t have to make a bunch of phone calls – I just wanted to connect with different types of readers. The whole blogging thing is really interesting. We’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Will people care about it and read it? You want to be read and for people to tune in. I try to be unconventional in some of my story approaches.

I have to wrap it up – probably with one more.

Q. What’s been the response?

A. It’s been good from the people who see me. They say they really like it, and they like that it’s not controversial.

Q. How does your daughter like it?

A. She doesn’t know about it – I haven’t told her. The only thing she knows on the web is a game fifth graders play. I’m debating whether to tell her – I’m afraid it might make her self-conscious. Maybe I’m being over-protective. Maybe I should tell her to read it and see what she thinks.

Nobody I coach with has said anything about it. I haven’t publicized it. Most of the people I work with or are on the team read the hard copy of the paper.

Q. Is your blog edited?

A. No. It goes straight in. In the first one there were two typos and I had to correct it. I self-edit. The first few were raw because I wasn’t thinking about it. Now I remember that I have to edit as well as write. I treat it like it was hard copy for the paper.

Q. Do you mind the additional work?

A. It’s something I wanted to do and everybody on the staff wanted to do for about a year. Nobody is cracking a whip and saying you have to do x number of blogs per week – it’s left up to us. Generally they like us to do two or three a week. I haven’t because I’m just so busy.

I read Joe Posnanski’s blog (KC Star) – it’s so long – I wonder how he has the time to do that. It shows he’s pretty talented. I read him any time I need to get in the mood to write.

Q. Who else do you read?

A. Bob Kravitz (Indianapolis Star). I’m from Indiana and I have to see what he has to say. I grew up reading Bernie Lincicome (Rocky Mountain News) and I still tune in to him. I liked Skip Bayless (ESPN) when he was a newspaper columnist as opposed to a personality. TJ Simers (LA Times). All the Chicago guys – Jay Mariotti (Sun-Times), Greg Couch (Sun-Times), Rick Morrissey (Tribune). Dan LeBatard (Miami Herald). My reading is probably more topical than anything – or if something is in front of me. Some topics interest me, and if I know LeBatard has weighed in I’ll go see. But always the Chicago folks and Kravitz.

Q. Any blogs on Indiana?

A. Terry Hutchens (Hoosiers Insider) has a great blog. He’s the beat writer for the Star.

Q. Non-mainstream media?

A. Notre Dame has great independent freestanding site called ndnation.com – it’s got links from everywhere. There’s a guy called The Rock who writes a pretty darn good column. Whoever does the site does it on their own time – it’s pretty well done. It isn’t a Rivals site where people get paid – it’s a site fans put together. The nice thing is they have links to every story written in every newspaper, with the exception of the South Bend Tribune. Apparently they got into some sort of tussle over linking.

Q. Do sites like that hurt your outlet?

A. Not specifically. We’re torn between acknowledging they exist and admitting we have to check them all the time and follow up on stuff. There are so many crazy and ludicrous posts on there it’s bothersome. Obviously people have legitimate tips and know things. It’s really for hard-core fans. Such a small percentage of people have a Rivals account where they can get Notre Dame stuff – at least where we circulate I can’t imagine many of them go to Rivals. I think a lot of our readers know about ndnation.com but I don’t know if they really keep up with it. I just don’t see that it affects what we do in the daily paper. Maybe some day it might but I’m not sure how or when that might be.

Q. How much did you do on the Tom Crean story?

A. For us it’s a little different. We’re in the northwest corner of the state. I don’t cover Indiana day-to-day like the Indianapolis Star and the Bloomington Herald Times. I get down there 10 times a year. My approach is different. We’re a 65,000 daily – I do more broad strokes and more analysis and less reporting, frankly, than what the bigger papers do. I’m trying to get hold of (interim head basketball coach Dan) Dakich – he was born in Gary. There are two papers here and one of us will get him first. We used to be the Gary Post-Tribune but the Gary was dropped 40 years ago. He went to Andrean High School in Merrillville – everybody knows him around here and he’s a popular figure.

I also cover Notre Dame football and usually write two columns a week. I cover high schools as well. There’s no way I can sit here and go toe-to-toe with the Star or the Herald Times – it’s not feasible. We’re geared toward the Chicago market – our pro coverage is all Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Sox. Purdue basketball turned out to be big for us – three of their freshmen were local kids who turned out to be a big part of the team.

Q. Is Tom Crean worth $2.3 million per season?

A. I think so. Full disclosure – I’m a Marquette grad. I thought they should have hired him two years ago. I suspect the president, Adam Herbert, at the time wanted Kelvin – that’s just my instinct, I don’t know for sure. At the press conference Crean hit a home run – he just connected with the fans and alumni and administrators in ways they seem to be starved for. He’s got a great record of recruiting players – Milwaukee is not a basketball Mecca – it’s colder than Chicago and it’s windy. They don’t really have a strong program despite winning the national championship 30 years ago – their play has been uneven with the exception of when Crean and Kevin O’Neill were there. He got a lot of under-the-radar kids to go there. Players improve under him and really like to play for him. If things break right, he could be one of the great coaches. We’ll see.

Q. Play the role of shrink. Why couldn’t Kelvin Sampson follow the rules?

A. Great question. In his own mind I don’t think he thought he was doing anything wrong. When he was hired he got up there and said ‘I made a mistake and this would never happen again’ – it all seems so insincere now. He staff did exactly the same things he did at Oklahoma that he said he wouldn’t do. There’s no way to rationalize it or describe it, except to say that he just didn’t think making the extra call was really making the call in his mind. Or not being able to monitor his staff adequately, or whatever he did – we’re not quite sure at this point.

I did read the NCAA report – it detailed calls to some kids from assistants that shouldn’t have been made. I have to believe he knew about them. He had said earlier to Bob Kravitz, “Everybody does it and I will too”. We have no choice but to think that, since he hasn’t said anything on the matter. We try to make sense of these things any way we can – even though it’s not life and death.

Posted by Mike Hutton, on post-trib.com, February 18, 2008, 9:41 a.m.:

My daughter rang me on my cell phone last week in Indianapolis to tell me she had made a foul. I was down there covering the state swim meet.

“I don’t know what I did, dad,” she said. “The referee said I pushed her.”

She was excited. I was excited for her. Just wish I could’ve been there to see it in person. So far, the St. Paul Panthers have learned about five plays, (blue, panther, stack one and stack two and one other I can’t recall the name of ) endured a somewhat disruptive midseason player switch and won a couple of games (one by forfeit) since we last visited.

Sara (without an H) has had one shot in a game, made a basket in practice, learned how to make a lay-up and tied up a couple of players for a jump ball. She also has developed an interest in actually watching basketball on television with me. Sunday, we huddled around the television and watched Luke Harangody and Notre Dame play Rutgers. We play our last game Saturday and then it’s tournament time. I’ll get back to you then.

(SMG thanks Mike Hutton for his cooperation)

Eugene and the Phone

By Mike Hutton on February 2, 2008 8:25 AM | Permalink
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Eugene Wilson failed to do a phone interview I requested of him via the Patriot’s media relations staff. The public relations staff had no reason to believe he wasn’t going to call back during designated media time for athletes last week.

That wasn’t surprising. My experience is that Wilson just doesn’t return phone calls for interviews to writers of his hometown paper unless his dad, Eugene Sr. helps out. (His dad, by the way, is unfailingly cooperative in these matters). Once, after multiple calls to both the Patriots and his parents, I got him briefly on the phone for an interview the first time the Pats played in the Superbowl.

Doing a story on him for Sunday’s paper would’ve been a nice compliment to the story we had on Bob Kuechenberg.

I don’t expect readers to have sympathy for me because someone didn’t return a call. Happens all the time in journalism. That’s part of the job. However, we’ve fawned over Wilson, helping him publicize his summer football camp (that he no longer does) one year and we put a story in the paper about Eugene Wilson night at a Merrillville basketball game a couple of years ago. I hoped he would see fit to return the favors, not for me but for our readers, who certainly would like to hear from him about what it means to play on a team that is going for a perfect season. This brings me to a larger issue: Do athletes owe their hometown anything ? Should they return our phone calls ? Do you want to hear from them in the newspaper ? Glenn Robinson has been criticized for not giving back enough to the community ? To be fair to Wilson, he’s not the only athlete who selectively chooses who he wants to talk with and it’s not fair to say that just because an athlete doesn’t return a phone call that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t in some way giving back to the place they grew up in.

mhutton@post-trib.com

he Post-Tribune had its beginnings in 1907, when The Gary Weekly was established to serve the brand-new steel industry rising on the shores of Lake Michigan.

On Labor Day, 1908, the Gary Weekly became a daily. The Gary Tribune was located on the corner of 5th and Washington in downtown Gary.

On March 9, 1910, J.R. and H.B. Snyder purchased another daily paper from the mayor of Gary, Thomas Knotts. That was the Gary evening Post. They merged with the original Gary paper in July 1921, starting the Post-Tribune as a newspaper.

In August 1966, the Snyder heirs sold the paper to Northwest Publications, Inc., part of a brand-new nationwide newspaper company, Ridder Publications. The “Gary” was dropped from the masthead as a regional newspaper flourished. In 1974, The Post-Tribune became part of the former Knight-Ridder chain.

In June, 1986, the publishing cycle changed to a seven-day morning edition, from a weekday evening and weekend morning edition.

On Feb. 2, 1998, American Publishing took over and has become the chain which is now the Sun-Times News Group.

About the Sun-Times News Group

Sun-Times News Group (“STNG”) is dedicated to being the premier source of local news and information for the greater Chicago area. Its media properties include the Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com as well as newspapers and websites serving 120 communities across Chicago. STNG’s parent company is Sun-Times Media Group, Inc. (NYSE: SVN) (www.thesuntimesgroup.com
).

Mike Hutton, named best sports columnist in the state by the Hoosier State Press Assoiciation in 2007, has worked at the Post-Tribune for 11 years. He covers Notre Dame football, Indiana basketball, local golf and high school sports. Check out Mike’s blog to see what’s on his mind.

Crean touts tradition in first day on job

April 3, 2008

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BY MIKE HUTTON
Post-Tribune staff writer

Shaking hands, cracking jokes and preaching about the value of family, Tom Crean was officially introduced as the Indiana basketball coach Wednesday in an upbeat 40-minute press conference in the bowels of Memorial Stadium.

Crean was swayed away from Marquette after nine successful years where his team made the Final Four in 2003 and the NCAA Tournament five times. He left because he believes IU is one of the premier programs in the country.

“Maybe some people rank Indiana in the top three, some in the top five and some in the top 10,” he said. “I rank it No. 1.”

The program might be the best in his mind but it’s definitely not that good in its current state.

Letters of allegations by the NCAA were sent to IU officials in February, outlining recruiting violations, some of them major, against former coach Kelvin Sampson. IU censured itself by eliminating a scholarship and firing Sampson.

It’s possible that more sanctions could follow this summer after IU answers the allegations.

Aside from an appearance in the NCAA championship game in 2002, the Hoosiers have endured a rocky 15-year ride that started with the end of Bob Knight’s tenure and went through runs by Mike Davis and Sampson as head coach.

To be certain that Crean has plenty of time to fix the problems, he agreed to an eight-year $18.24 million contract. That averages out to $2.3 million per season.

Crean said the reason for the move wasn’t a business decision.

“This was a heart decision,” he said. “I walked away from an incredible job to take another incredible job.”

Crean said that he received a call from Eddie Fogler, the former South Carolina coach, on Sunday gauging his interest in the job after Tony Bennett, the Washington State coach, had rebuffed overtures from IU. Fogler was hired by the search committee as a consultant.

“When Mr. Fogler calls, you’d better listen,” he said. “I listened and I thought, ‘It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana.’ That’s the premise I worked with (in making my decision).”

Crean will have plenty of personnel issues to deal with.

Eric Gordon, the Big Ten freshman of the Year, has a news conference scheduled for Monday to say whether he is going to declare for the NBA draft.

D.J. White, the Big Ten player of the year, will be gone.

Two other starters — Jamarcus Ellis and Armon Bassett — were kicked off the team on Monday by interim coach Dan Dakich after they missed a mandatory meeting, according to the Indianapolis Star.

The departure of all four of those players would leave IU without any returning starters from a team that went 25-8 and lost to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite all the immediate obstacles, Crean said he promises to work hard to make IU basketball consistently great again.

“I have no timetables, no immediate goals,” he said. “We’re going to work hard to build the program the right way.”

Contact Mike Hutton at 648-3139 or mhutton@post-trib.com
or go to his blog at: blogs.post-trib.com/hutton.

Thanks for thinking of me. I read the interviews you put up on the site regularly. It’s well done. Wasn’t sure if that was the same site I was thinking of when you initially e-mailed. Anyway, I’m back. My phone numbers are (219)477-4531 (H), (219)613-0141 and (219)648-3139. Let me know how you want to proceed.

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