Gary Whaley was keeping official stats for Duke basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium 14 years ago when he was asked what it would take to get him to switch over to North Carolina.
“Ask me,” replied Whaley, a North Carolina graduate. So since the first season of the Matt Doherty era, Whaley and his crew have determined and tabulated all of the rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, points in the paint and everything else that goes into the box score.
For the past four years, that Smith Center crew has done the same for all 13 games of the ACC tournament: Whaley and Jerry Gambill calling out plays, one focusing on each side of the court, Jeremy Jones entering everything into a laptop running the same custom software as the Smith Center and Whaley’s wife Fran, who works women’s basketball games at UNC, operating the backup computer. They wear headsets to communicate above the din of the arena.
“One game a night’s fairly easy. Two’s doable,” Whaley said. “The first time we did four in a night, my wife, inputting, said, ‘I did great on that last game, I felt really good.’ I started laughing. I said, ‘I’m glad you did, because I don’t know what happened in that game.’ ”
All four of them are North Carolina graduates, as is the unofficial fifth member of the crew, Freddy Kiger, who replays statistics to the statisticians working alongside the TV broadcasters across the court and the graphics people in the production trucks at all of the Triangle arenas as well as the ACC tournament. His workload this week is doubled, with ESPN in one ear of his headset and Raycom in the other.
When we do a good job, nobody notices.
Jerry Gambill, a member of the Smith Center stats crew
Brian Morrison, the ACC’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball media relations, asked the Smith Center crew to work the ACC tournament in 2013 because he found UNC’s stat package more comprehensive than most. (It also required a full day of custom programming Monday to get it to interface correctly with the Verizon Center scoreboard.) The group also works smoothly enough together to handle the four-game daily load without flagging.
“You can’t just bring in some local stat crew,” Morrison said. “You need people who know these players.”
There’s competition for the job. With the ACC tournament in Brooklyn in 2017 or 2018, someone else might get a shot – Syracuse, maybe, or Louisville, whose stat crew has worked the Final Four for the NCAA for decades.
This week, draftees from Clemson and Duke and Wake Forest will operate the clock, the video-replay system and other duties at the scorers’ table in a show of conference unity.
“What I find so enjoyable is the camaraderie within the league,” said Trip Durham, the public-address announcer at Duke and for the afternoon session of the tournament on Wednesday. “There’s complete respect and almost an efficiency the way we all work together. I don’t know how that compares to other conferences or leagues, but it’s fun to be a part of.”
The Smith Center crew also does the official stats for football games at Kenan Stadium. No matter what they’re doing, whether it’s North Carolina football or basketball or the ACC tournament, there’s always the same goal.
“When we do a good job,” Gambill said, “nobody notices.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock