UW Health Sports Medicine 

When things go wrong on the road

Special blog by UW's Director of Basketball Operations Joe Robinson.

I've been with the Wisconsin basketball program since the 1999-2000 season, and over the 11 years, I've been privileged to work with a lot of great coaches, staff and student athletes. I've also gotten to ride shotgun on every men's basketball road trip since 2001.

One of my jobs as Director of Basketball Operations is to make sure that everything goes seamlessly on our road trips.

For the most part we've been lucky and things have gone smoothly, but those trips don't make for good story-telling. Every once in awhile an issue pops up on a trip and those are usually the ones people like to hear about.

I have the responsibility of setting the itinerary for our trips, arranging our flight with the charter company, arranging a bus in Madison and at our road destination, setting up the hotel logistics and rooming list and working with my counterpart on the opposing team to arrange practice times in the visiting arena.

For the most part we've been lucky and things have gone smoothly, but those trips don't make for good story-telling. Every once in awhile an issue pops up on a trip and those are usually the ones people like to hear about.

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While playing at Michigan a few years ago we had an incident at the Courtyard Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels we've stayed at in Michigan and we're actually heading back there later this season, but our relationship with that hotel got off to an inauspicious start.

The first night at the hotel everything was great. It was clean, nice rooms, good food, everybody was happy with their room location, etc.

Coach Ryan - as is typical with many head coaches - prefers to have a room separate from the staff and players while on the road. At this hotel in Ann Arbor he was the only one from our team on his assigned floor. Well, the next morning at breakfast Coach Ryan is clearly upset about something. It turns out not only was he the only person from UW on that floor... he was the only person on that floor, period.

The reason? They were starting a major reconstruction project on that entire floor in that morning.

Coach Ryan was woken by drilling and hammering in the hallway outside his room. The entire hallway was covered in plastic tarps and the workers were wearing masks over their faces. It sounds funny now, but we were not amused at the time.

The hotel was so apologetic and immediately moved Coach to another room. Apparently, someone at the hotel staff had seen instructions to put Coach Ryan in a location by himself and what better location than an entirely empty floor? Not quite what we had in mind.

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Last year we had a flight delay on our way to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam Tournament. We bused to Chicago and then flew from there to Miami then to St. Thomas.

Because our flight to Miami was delayed, we were dangerously close to missing our connecting flight to St. Thomas. There aren't a ton of flights going there every day, so missing that flight might have been a major problem.

Our plane touched down in Miami roughly five minutes before our flight to St. Thomas was supposed to depart. I dashed off the plane ahead of the people in front of me and literally sprinted to the gate to see if they could hold the plane.

The rest of the team came running through the terminal like in the movie "Home Alone" and we were so thankful that they held the plane for us. As we boarded we found out that two other teams playing in the tournament - the Univ. of Miami and the Univ. of San Diego - were on that flight also. They probably weren't too excited that they held the plane for us.

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One of our most interesting trips each year is to Penn State where we stay at a golf resort named the Toftrees in State College, Pa. As a team, we are creatures of habit and we tend to stay at the same hotel if win there the previous season. So, in the first two years that we won the Big Ten title under Coach Ryan we lost both road trips to Penn State. There aren't too many hotels to cycle through in State College, so after losing while staying at the two most common hotels in town, we decided to try what was described as a luxurious golf resort and conference center named the Toftrees.

The hotel is nice and takes good care of us, but it is certainly unique. Our team meal rooms are in libraries with old books on the walls. The somewhat antiquated rooms have radiators that have been known to play tricks on us and a bursting pipe dropped ceiling tiles and water onto trainer Henry Perez-Guerra's room one year.

However, we keep winning at Penn State (this season was the sixth-straight win in Happy Valley) so we keep staying - and enjoying - the Toftrees.

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Part two of Robinson's tales from the road including a story about landing at a deserted airport in the middle of the night coming soon.
ON WISCONSIN