It was a day of torn loyalties — hometown vs. alma mater — for Scott Ghertner, director of public relations for MGM Resorts International.
He grew up in Tucson, Ariz., and, as a 10-year-old, attended the basketball camp of University of Arizona coach Lute Olson.
Ghertner clearly recalls hanging on every word from U of A great Steve Kerr at a camp. “He was a pure shooter, and that’s all 10-year-olds do.”
Kerr’s advice: “Keep your elbow in.”
After high school, Ghertner enrolled at the University of Colorado, where he worked in the sports information office.
Things got complicated a year ago when CU joined the Pac-12 Conference, and Ghertner’s favorite schools became rivals. Then came Thursday’s Arizona-Colorado matchup in the Pac-12’s first year of a three-year deal at the MGM Grand Garden arena.
“I’m torn because half my heart is with my hometown and the other half is with my alma mater,” Ghertner said before the game
His heart and nervous system got full-court pressure in Arizona’s 79-69 win, after Colorado narrowed the gap to two points in the final minutes.
Seeing college basketball played in the MGM venue was a surreal sight for Ghertner, who has been working events in the arena for 17 years.
Dressing rooms used over the years by Mike Tyson, Britney Spears and the biggest names in entertainment were turned over to the Pac-12 teams.
At midcourt, a Pac-12 logo sits on the spot where fighters slug it out in boxing rings and UFC octagons surrounded by high rollers and VIPs.
Afterward, Ghertner wrapped up his trying day diplomatically, saying, “I was excited for my ’Cats and disappointed for my Buffs.”
Spotted at the Pac-12 tournament: Miami Heat President Pat Riley, ex-NBA stars and Oregon State alumni Gary Payton and A.C. Green, former UCLA star Bill Walton, former Arizona State basketball coach Bill Frieder, and baseball Hall of Fame member Joe Morgan. In the MGM Grand lobby Thursday in front of the MGM lion and a replica basketball court: Faye Muhammad, mother of UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad, taking a photo of her daughter, Asia, and son Rashad, a senior standout at Bishop Gorman High. A busload of University of Colorado students, posing in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign Wednesday shortly after arriving in town for the Pac-12 tournament. Stratosphere headliner Claire Sinclair, with United Way CEO Cass Palmer, at downtown’s Commonwealth for a recruitment mixer for young professionals. ... Chicago Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, dining Thursday at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab (Forum Shops at Caesars).
THE PUNCH LINE
The new pope “will be Pope Francis. Historically, the last Pope Francis was Frank Sinatra. Am I right about that?” — David Letterman
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at email@example.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.