April 6, 2013-ATLANTA: Sports artist Opie Otterstad, center, joins past NCAA winning coaches at a private reception hosted by Werner Co. for the specially created 75th anniversary ladder that this year's winning coach will ascend to cut down the net when March Madness comes to an end. The coaches, from left: Steve Fisher, Lute Olson, Denny Crum, Rollie Massimino, Jim Calhoun, Bill Self, Tubby Smith, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Gary Williams and Roy Williams
Atlanta's a town full of social climbers, and we never met a red carpet we didn't love.
So how perfect that there was an exclusive, invite-only party for a ladder on Saturday? That's right, a ladder. But not just any ladder.
Standing 9 feet tall and capable of bearing 375 pounds, this extra-special item is the very one that the winning NCAA coach will ascend to snip the net when March Madness comes to an end. A custom-built beauty with a special backboard bearing all of the past champs' names and winning schools, it was unveiled at a private reception Saturday for past winning coaches and select invited guests.
“Only 47 men have climbed the ladder and cut down the nets,” said Rick Jones, CEO of FishBait Marketing, an agency that works with the NCAA, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and other sports organizations. “Twenty-three of them have passed away. A couple of them are a little busy today.”
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Louisville’s Rick Pitino, whose teams came to town for the Final Four, couldn’t make it, but John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Gary Williams, Tom Izzo, Tubby Smith, Bill Self, Denny Crum, Jim Harrick, Lute Olson, Rollie Massimino, Steve Fisher and Roy Williams stopped by. There was time for a few photos and some autographs, and then the coaches were hustled off to another, even more exclusive event.
The ladder similar to the one each of the winning coaches had climbed in years past took four weeks to build, explained Chris Filardi, senior vice president of marketing for Werner Co., the Pennsylvania company tasked with creating the piece.
“We make 20,000 ladders a day,” Filardi said. “This is handmade.”
This ladder, made of fiberglass, travels by truck and got to town last week. Once the final game is over, Filardi will be watching closely to ensure it’s set up correctly and perfectly positioned under the net.