P.T. Barnum and Buzz

LOUISVILLE — He knows.

Don’t ask me how or where Buzz Williams learned it, he just does.

He knows when the red light comes on. He knows when the spotlight is brightest. He knows exactly how to get the people going.

Earlier last week Buzz referred to his seniors — Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder — as lion chasers, but Buzz has a bit of circus in him as well. Not a lion chaser, per se, but more a lion tamer.

Speaking in front of national pundits is no easy feat, and greater men than him have crumbled under their glare. Not Buzz.

Like all ringmasters, he lives for these moments.

Step back to last year when he dazzled the national media during the NCAA Tournament in answering the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan’s simple question with a nine minute dissertation on his ascent into prominence. From taking emergency loans for funds to staking out a potential employer for days, he immediately became a national figure.

There’s a reason he hadn’t told anyone his story before then. Let’s say someone at the Marquette Tribune had asked him that same question after a 30-point victory over Presbyterian, you think it would have made a splash in the national media? Not a chance.

He knows this and was waiting for just the right time to unleash this bombshell, astounding Bob Ryan into writing a glowing two-page column.

For all his country boy charm and humble traits, the man is a genius at playing the press.

Wednesday’s press event was my first chance to see Buzz live in his element, and he didn’t disappoint, rattling off an enticing ditty about how Colorado State was his fourth favorite school of all time.

Speaking about building his house in Mequon, Wisconsin, Buzz told his wife to get the true colors of Colorado State and to get their logo as well to put on the garage.

“As soon as I pull in to the garage, there’s a Colorado State Ram as big as that scoreboard as soon as I pull in,” Buzz said. “The entire garage … is the green and gold of Colorado State.

“Because when I drive in every day, no matter what’s happened in my life that day, it takes me back to 18 days before I got married … It reminds me of my growth as a coach and as a husband and as a father by the example that coach Layer set for me when I was there.”

Who pulls out stuff like this? It’s a phenomenal back-story that is tailor made for the NCAA Tournament. Had Murray State fallen to the Rams on Thursday, you know every single lead to every single story would reference this. It’s perfect.

Not to mention the adulation of BYU’s coach Dave Rose from Buzz. Saying he stands at attention for a man of Rose’s character, Buzz immediately set up a storyline, which he again reinforced with his half-time interview with CBS.

Compare that to the way national player of the year candidate Anthony Davis and his cronies addressed the press. Adorned in matching straight-brimmed, throwback Kentucky hats, they were curt with reporters and laughed at each others’ inside jokes throughout.

Even an experienced coach like Jim Calhoun seemed a bit testy prior to the game, and downright hostile after the loss to Iowa State. These are the things that endear you to the media and make life a whole heck of a lot easier for the team’s spin doctors.

Buzz knows what will sell and has the charisma to not only sell it, but make you believe you need it. I hate to harp on this point over and over again but there is no denying the similarities Buzz possesses to Al McGuire in this regard. You feel the need to go to every single media availability because you just never know what he’s going to say.

Like the old Cialis commercials boasted, when the time is right, Buzz Williams is most definitely ready.

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