Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Davidson stiffed me, but then I messed up

I wrote a column published Tuesday about Keith Hornsby, the son of musician Bruce Hornsby and a fine player for UNC Asheville. Not only is Hornsby averaging 16 points per game, but he also is second in the nation with a 93.0 free-throw percentage. His father, who had a string of hits in the 1980s like "The Way It Is," is also a basketball nut who helped change his son's FT style at the line for the better.

That Hornsby is No.2, of course, begs the question as to who is No.1? The answer is Davidson guard Nik Cochran, who is shooting a ridiculously good 95.5 percent. And here's where we at The Observer messed up in Tuesday's newspaper -- as pointed out in a very good reader email that I excerpt later in this blog post.

In the interest of transparency, this is how it happened.

My original idea was to write a column about both Hornsby and Cochran and the oddity of the fact that these two N.C. guards were 1-2 out of of 347 Division I-A teams in free throw shooting. UNC Asheville was fine with this idea, as schools almost always are about "positive publicity" types of stories.

Davidson, somewhat amazingly, was not. Coach Bob McKillop would not let me interview Cochran about his free-throw shooting. (I get the feeling that he believes it would be something like jinxing a no-hitter, but that's just a guess -- McKillop did not relay his reasoning when he had one of his "people" tell me no).

So perhaps you think I didn't mention Cochran's name in the story out of spite, because I was angry at McKillop -- who I have generally found smart, interesting and a great "quote" -- for not allowing this interview. Not so.

I actually wrote a short box about Cochran that would go along with the Hornsby story, thus at least giving Cochran his own headline (although in a shorter story, since I couldn't interview him). That box did run in the online version of the story. It pointed out Cochran had only missed five free throws all year (he's gone 105 out of 110 -- try doing that sometime) and that Davidson also led the nation in team free-throw shooting (at slightly over 80 percent).

Then, as a newspaper, we messed up. Somehow, the Hornsby story got into the paper and the Cochran box was left out of the print version. Not sure where the mistake in communication was, but I'm taking the blame for it. That omission generated this excerpted email from an alert reader named Ron Munse who I agree with completely:

I really think you missed the mark by NOT indicating who the No.1 rated free throw shooting college player is this year. And why you wouldn’t mention this is beyond me. It’s would be the first question anyone would ask: Wow, Hornsby shoots at 93 percent - amazing. Who could do better? .... Nik Cochran at over 95 percent. Now, I think it’s amazing to shoot over an entire year at 93 percent, but I also think it’s unbelievable to shoot at 95 percent-plus.

And when you can brag about these two top young players from schools within our own state of North Carolina…………Well, why won’t you?

Absolutely true. Mr. Munse is right. We messed that one up, and I apologize. But I am covering the Southern Conference tournament this weekend in Asheville, watching Davidson, and rest assured Cochran's free-throw shooting will get in the newspaper several times during that coverage.


so sad said...

Another blow for the loss of all the copy editors ...

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be too upset, you are not the only one who didn't get that interview (check with your favorite local AP writer).

I don't think you are being stiffed by anyone on purpose. The story has been covered nationally (see ESPN) and I think Coach McKillop is simply making sure his boys are focusing on the main prize this weekend. I'm pretty confident that if Davidson wins the SoCon tourney and senior Nik Cochran's free throws are a part of that success, you will have all the quotes you will need :)

Anonymous said...

Not surprising Davidson and Nik Cochran lead the NCAA in free throw shootingt. I believe the CO did an article once on the free throw instructor McKillop brings in each season to teach his team the art of free throw shooting.

Anonymous said...

I on the other hand think McKillop has a huge ego and tries to control all things as he remains the big fish in a small pond at Davidson. Not sure how this interview could have been such a big distraction, lol.. His ego kept him from recruiting Seth Curry a few years ago and will as a result keep him out of the elite 8 forever :) Davidson missed the boat on Curry and McKillop has since been back to the Elite 8 how many times? For goodness sake Bob, let the kid get his coverage!

Anonymous said...

Just don't jinx Cochran, Scott.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification! We wondered the same thing, but didn't comment. I do think Coach McKillop has his team focused on the upcoming weekend. Write some good stories from Asheville! Thanks.