ATHENS — Kirby and I are just fine, thank you.
I offer that only because so many of you seem to be curious about our relationship. Some fans seemed to relish the fact that Smart got a little surly with me about a question I asked during his news conference on Monday. A few others thought Georgia’s new coach was rude and inconsiderate.
Me? It was just another day at the office.
Now I have to admit, it’s not often that I jump in my truck to drive somewhere and I hear the guys at 680 The Fan talking about me on the radio. That actually happened twice the last two days, on Monday afternoon with “Chuck & Chernoff” and again today on “Buck & Kincade.” First time I’ve ever had the urge to actually phone in with a comment.
But here’s the reality: Monday wasn’t the first time I’ve been singed by a coach and it won’t be the last.
If you’re doing your job as a journalist, you’re going to ask some questions from time-to-time that raise the ire of the coach you’re covering. In fact, Kirby’s salty replies on Monday were relatively tame compared to some of the confrontations I’ve had in the past.
I was sure Jim Donnan was going to take a swing at me one day on an elevator inside a Memphis hotel. We’ll just leave that there.
Ray Goff once warned me to stay a safe distance from him toward the end of his tenure. I did.
One day after a Monday Georgia practice, I asked Vince Dooley what I thought was a harmless personnel question. He glared at me with those steely eyes and said, “I don’t know, Coach Towers, what do YOU think I should do?” Turns out, he was none too pleased with a column I’d written over the weekend criticizing his rotation of quarterbacks and kickers in games.
But you know what? Today, I’m proud to call all three of those former Georgia coaches friends. I call on them often for stories or for general advice. Whatever skirmishes we had in years past were just that, little skirmishes. Then they were gone.
As for Monday’s little episode with Kirby, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I probably could’ve phrased my question about Lorenzo Carter a little better, but it was a premise that Carter himself had already validated. And the one about Julian Rochester’s status, that simply had to be asked. Technically, he remains charged with two felonies, and UGA’s handling of his situation had not been fully disclosed. The matter might have been resolved in Smart’s mind, but it hadn’t been publicly. And the public, as you’ve probably heard, has a right to know.
But never-minding all that, a coach or any public official answering questions rudely or discourteously is not going to prevent any good reporter from asking them. Smart wanted to make a point, either to me or to the press corps or to the team. I don’t know. But I’ll continue to ask whatever questions need to be asked regardless.
And Kirby knows that. He’s intense as it is, and especially on the eve of his first game as a head coach. He’ll continue to answer questions however he pleases.
So, yeah, Kirby and I are just fine. We’ve both got a long season to get through.