When you've been covering the Cavaliers less than a month, sometimes you have to go to the extreme to keep up with tremendous competitors who have been doing it much, much longer.
So it was Thursday, when my day started with a round of calls early in the morning to see if Tom Izzo really was coming to Cleveland. Around noon, after a quick blog post with what I knew, I drove out to the Cavs' facility in Independence to stake it out and wait for a limo, a car full of people... something. But since I was sitting across a busy street from the facility, in a parking space I created, it was difficult to see who was coming and going.
Through a few old connections, I figured out the tail number of Dan Gilbert's private charter from Michigan to Cleveland.
"Ah-ha!" I thought. "Got 'em now."
After about three hours of watching two guys mulch the landscaping at Cleveland Clinic Courts, I left for Burke searching for the plane with tail No. N941CE.
I asked a gentleman if a plane was leaving in 30 minutes, where would it be?
"Not here," he said.
"Go down to the next hangar," he said.
OK. I did. I drove along Marginal Rd. to the next hangar. Apparently a security gate that was supposed to be closed (I would find this out later) was still open from the last car to go through. So I drove in and parked and wandered up to the "visitors gate" near the runway. The sign said to ring the bell for assistance, and boy, did I need assistance.
A woman came over the speaker and asked if she could help me.
"I hope so," I said. "I'm looking for a plane leaving in about 20 minutes."
"OK," she said. "Come on back and we'll help you find it."
As I'm wandering back, I'm frantically searching for a plane with tail No. N941CE. I was just about to ask a guy wandering on the runway if he's seen it, sort of like you'd ask a stranger if he has spotted your white German Shepherd with black spots. Just as I said, "Excuse me," I spotted it.
There. In the back. With the door open and waiting for me to climb on.
Don't worry. I didn't.
It was 4:36 and the plane was scheduled to depart at 4:40. I was in position. The Beacon didn't have any photographers available to meet me, so I called my sister-in-law and begged her to meet me at Burke with a camera. Luckily, she was in town staying with us because my wife just gave birth to our second son on Friday. She dropped everything and came racing out.
I couldn't understand what she meant when she said the security gate was closed (remember, it was open when I drove through. I didn't even know it existed). But she followed another car through and eventually made it back to me.
So it's 4:36 p.m. and I'm in position. My boss texts me looking for a status report.
"Standing next to the plane," I said in all my triumphant glory.
We hid out inside a small room next to the tarmac. A little after 5, a passenger van pulls up next to the plane. Here it is, our big moment. What I've waited all day to see.
Tom Izzo is going to step out of the van, I'm going to ask him if he has accepted a deal to be the new Cavs' coach, he's going to say "Who are you?" and decline comment and I'm going to go home.
Only he didn't get out of the van. Dan Gilbert did.
Curses! Foiled again!
Turns out those sneaky Cavs are sneakier than me. They had two planes. The ol' bait and switch. I was tracking the wrong plane.
Dejected, defeated and feeling defoolish, I sat in rush hour traffic heading up E. 9th St. to go home when I got a phone call from an old colleague in Michigan.
"They're holding a pep rally here at 9 p.m.," he said. "If you leave now, you can make it."
There was a shot I was going to get time with Izzo. I couldn't pass it up.
I looked at the clock. It was about 5:40 and I was in bumper to bumper traffic. It's about three hours to East Lansing. Suddenly I was looking for another plane with a tail number on it.
I headed west on I-90, passing the exit for home. I called my wife, who had just given birth a week ago, and told her I wouldn't be home for dinner.
"I'm going to East Lansing," I said. "I'll be home around 3 a.m."
Tears, instantly. I was hoping my clothes weren't going to be thrown all over the front yard when I got home.
My editor, Ron Ledgard, told me I had to have the story filed by 10 p.m. It was about 6:30 and I hadn't written one word yet. The rally didn't start til 9. That would leave me an hour to observe the rally, talk to people, find an Internet connection, type and file a story.
"No problem," I gulped. "It'll be there."
By 8:40, I was about 15 miles outside campus. Smoke was pouring off the tires and I heard my car pleading "Why are you doing this to me?!"
I finished up dictating part of the story to Beacon columnist Marla Ridenour. The bottom half of the story would be everything that unfolded in Cleveland. The top half would be the rally.
By 9:30, I had everything I needed, except Izzo. He wasn't at the rally. Turns out, he was STILL in Cleveland. I called Marla back, finished up the story, and went with my Michigan buddy to a spot around the corner to grab a salad and watch some of the NBA Finals.
Then we learn that Izzo's plane is to land in Lansing in 17 minutes.
"How far is it to the airport?" I asked.
"About 15 minutes," he said.
I was driving on roads I'd never seen before, chasing the tail lights on my buddy's car. We made it to the airport just as Izzo's plane was touching down.
I had chased this man since early in the morning. I had chased him from Independence to Burke to campus on East Lansing to, finally, Lansing Capital Region International Airport.
He walked into the concourse, exhausted, with his entire family.
"Oh guys," he said after seeing the small gathering of about 10-12 media members. "I'm sorry you came all the way out here. You know I can't say anything. I wish I could."
This is the dance we play. All day, I was chasing a man I knew wouldn't talk to me. But you still have to go. You still have to show up. You still have to try.
"It won't go on forever," he said. "I'm glad I did what I had to do."
That's exactly how I feel.
I call the desk and rewrite the lead to the story. Izzo was back in Michigan. He's exhausted. So is his family. The Cavaliers still don't have a head coach.
I followed my buddy back to I-96, which would eventually lead me home. I called my wife and told her I'd be home around 3.
At 3:15, I pulled into my driveway. Luckily, the key still worked and all my clothes were in the closet. I fell into bed, mentally preparing to get up and do it all again today.