If you watch college basketball regularly or even semi-regularly, every now and then you are bound to find a game played on a court named after a current or former coach. Duke University has the Mike Krzyzewski Court, Syracuse University has the Jim Boeheim Court, Georgia Tech has the Bobby Cremmins Court and, well, you get the idea, right? It's been all the rage in the last ten to 15 years or so.
The NBA has generally not adopted this practice. The only arena I am aware of with a court named after a former head coach is in Boston where the hardwood is named after legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach. This is probably because head coaches at the NBA level tend to stick for shorter stints than they do in college, especially in today's "win now" culture. The longest tenured head coach in the NBA right now is San Antonio's Gregg Popovich; he's coached the Spurs since December of 1996. The second longest tenured coach is Eric Spoelstra, who was handed the head job for the Miami Heat more than a decade after Pop took the reins in Texas. Of the remaining 28 NBA head coaches, only two others have been at their job more than five years.
I don't think the Wizards are going to be inaugurating the Dick Motta or Eddie Jordan or Randy Wittman Memorial Court any time soon but they have put a whole lot of names onto the court this season. About 3,000 to be somewhat precise. Last week I found out what the deal was here and yesterday after a 16 point trouncing of the Orlando Magic, I got a lot closer look.
I don't get a chance to get down onto the court at Wizards games much but I've been fortunate enough to grab a pair of VIP wristbands on an occasion or two this year and have been able to walk along the north side of the court (the side opposite the players' benches) to get between the Dewar's Coaches Club on the east side of the arena and the Courtside Club on the west. On my first trip along the court this season in November, I noticed the Wizards added a "dcRISING" and a "@WASHWIZARDS" in the space between the edges of the court. Twitter handles and hashtags like dcrising have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years; I figured this was a way to get more people to engage in social media exchanges by seeing the on court phrases on TV broadcasts.
On one of my trips across the court earlier this season, likely with an ice cold Budweiser (king of beers, in case you were wondering) in my hand, I happened to look down at either the dcRISING or @WASHWIZARDS letters and noticed blue names on the white background. My immediate thought was that they put the names of the VIP season ticket holders in the letters. I mean they are the only people who can regularly see their names anyway, right? I didn't stop to read the names because (a) I don't know any VIP season ticket holders and (b) I didn't want to get wrecked by whoever was walking behind me and spill my beer. We all know how that worked for Mason Plumlee during Saturday night's game.
Well, as it turns out, the names are not those of VIP season ticket holders but instead are the names of every season ticket holder and so that's pretty cool. Every so often the Wizards do something that really hits home and makes a deposit in my emotional bank. This is one of those and I like it. I think it shows a real appreciation for fans' support. They don't have to do this and it works for me. I feel more appreciated with this gesture than I do about having my name on the wall of Verizon Center for being a 10 year plus season ticket holder. This one feels special.
While I'd love to end on my note of thanks to the team, I'm not going to do that. The names on the court are arranged first by tenure and then alphabetically. There are a total of 20 characters populated with names. All characters do not hold the same number of names because some of the characters are just bigger than others. The class of 2000, so to speak, which includes me, starts on the first line of text within the R of the dcRISING. That means that every season ticket holder that purchased seats prior to the year 2000 and still has them fits within the dc.
The class of 2014, or rookie year ticket holders, by contrast, occupy the final nine characters (or the SHWIZARDS) plus part of the A before those nine. I knew I'd endured some punishment lasting through two 19-63 seasons, the frustration of the Michael Jordan years and the complete collapse brought about by the Gilbert Arenas - Javaris Crittenton showdown. I just didn't realize I'd been through all that with so few people. By my count, only 287 season ticket holders have longer tenure than me. I feel like I'm part of a more exclusive club now. I never would have felt this way without the Wizards adding my name to the court this year.