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Story contributed by: Christine LaPaille
Affiliation with GMU: faculty/staff
Contributed on: 28 April 2006

Story Text

What single moment stands out to you the most from the 2005-06 season?
For me it was the UConn victory. I took my son Sam (13). He didn't get to go to the South Carolina game (his older brother went) so this was a consolation prize: He would get to go to see a tournament game, but probably wouldn't see a victory. In the 4th quarter, when Mason went ahead we just started looking at each other in amazement and he kept yelling "Oh my God, oh my God!!" We couldn't believe it. When it went into overtime it was the most screaming I have ever done in my life. It was such a special moment to share with my son too. Just wonderful! (We were on the front page of the New York Times sports section the next day hugging everyone!)

Tell about your experiences during the Kryptonite Kids' magical run through the tournament:
Being George Mason's Vice President for University Relations during this amazing time is something I will always remember and treasure as a high point, in terms of sheer excitement and what it meant to my job at the time. In my 25 years of public relations experience I have never experienced sustained positive publicity as I did during the Final Four run.

I tell people that the only sustained press most of us in the business get to experience is a crisis, where the strategy is designed to make it go away! Here, the strategy was designed to keep it going--and to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to educate America about George Mason University.

I loved going to Indianapolis to be with the team. I stayed on the same floor, and was so impressed with them, as was my husband who stayed with me. They were polite, gentlemanly, friendly and I think felt so privileged to be there. Even though they earned it, I think the boys felt like being at the Final Four was a privilege and it showed in how they acted.

The people in Indianapolis were all behind George Mason. When I went jogging in Mason gear along the river path that runs through the city, people were high-fiving me and giving me the thumbs up. Really cool! The guys we bought merchandise from on the corner outside of the arena said they couldn't keep Mason stuff in stock--it was totally outselling all the other schools.

The game against Florida was disappointing, but when it was all over I still felt exhilerated--like when you finish a wild roller coaster ride.

I didn't tear up about the loss until we got back to campus that Sunday. We flew back with the team and there were fans waiting outside the Patriot center when the bus pulled up. The cheers of the fans when the players came off the bus and began shaking hands made me cry for some reason. I was glad I had a staff person there to help with the media--I had to leave.

What do you think this moment means for George Mason University?
From a professional standpoint I feel like I have been given a tremendous gift. We no longer have to spend time or energy figuring out how to make George Mason University more well known on a national level. When I was interviewed for the position that was the question everyone, including folks from Athletics, asked me. Going to the Final Four is now off the to-do list!

Seriously, my media relations staff is already seeing the benefits. We can pitch an expert to the Today Show and the call will be returned. No time spent explaining what and where George Mason University is. We can just pitch. We are using the "Habit if Excellence" tag line that emerged during the Final Four run--thanks to Coach Larranaga, on all of our materials to promote the academic excellence that "extends throughout the university.

George Mason is an excellent place--now we have the platform we needed to tell the world. That, I think, will be the legacy of this unique moment. When people look back on a turning point in Mason's history, they will see that the Final Four run allowed the university to leap forward in terms of reputation and prestige, not because of basketball, but because Mason was ready for the spotlight.

Thank you Coach Larranaga and the wonderful young men on Mason's Final Four basketball team.

Cite as:

Christine LaPaille, Object #192, George Mason University Digital Memory Bank, 28 April 2006, <http://hoops.gmu.edu/detail_story.php?id=192>

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