I'm a naturally curious person. I've had a lot of questions that have turned into interesting stories. Why aren't there female coaches in men's college basketball? How do coaches spend the 90 minutes of so before a game, often in solitude? Or, on a much more serious note -- what's it like to lose your daughter -- a promising young sports reporter -- in a mass shooting, and how do you wake up every day after? Here are some stories I'm particularly proud of:


ENTERPRISE:

Photo: Erich Schlegal, USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Erich Schlegal, USA TODAY Sports

Remembering an aspiring sports journalist a year after Aurora shooting

For Sandy and her husband, Lonnie Phillips, life is measured in before and after — the moment that phone call came from a friend of Jessica Ghawi from a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

"In that one phone call, one part of my life was gone; everything that I knew, everything that I had been was gone," Sandy says. "You have to redefine who you are, how you are, why you are, all of it. ... Your hopes and your dreams for that child. Thinking about them getting married. ... How will you prioritize what's important? Because the one thing that was your priority is gone.


Photo: Mark L. Baer for USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Mark L. Baer for USA TODAY Sports

To the relief of NCAA coaches, the wait is almost over

Anxiety builds as the minutes tick away entirely too slowly.

Game days are undeniably stressful for head college basketball coaches. But no part of the day is more painful than the hour-and-a-half stretch between arrival at the arena and tip-off. To put it simply, there's really not much to do, and no one really wants to talk to you.

"It's the worst 90 minutes of your day — the worst," Butler coach Chris Holtmann says. "Your stomach is in knots."

Ten Division I men's head coaches detailed their pre-game rituals (and, for some, superstitions) to USA TODAY Sports, pulling back the curtain on otherwise private moments and explaining the sense of isolation they feel.


Photo: Guy Rhodes, USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Guy Rhodes, USA TODAY Sports

Glass ceiling: Why women aren't coaching men's D-I hoops

Women work in the realm of men's college basketball in various ways — some in administrative roles, some as athletic trainers, for example — but so few as coaches. From 2003 to 2011, the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis database lists six full-time female assistants on Division I men's basketball staffs. But queries to the schools listed as their employers uncover the real number: 0.

There have been no female head coaches in Division I men's basketball, either.

"I remember Bernadette working for Rick, and the incredible fanfare," Big East commissioner Val Ackerman says. "That was thought to be the turning point. Many of us had a great sense of anticipation that it was going to create this new avenue, and it sort of ended. It's like it died on the vine."

Full story here


Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports

Under pressure: NCAA tournament officiating is a whole new ballgame

John Adams has the best — and most stressful — seat in the house during the first two days of the NCAA tournament.

He'll sit in a control room in Atlanta, planted firmly in the host city of the Final Four. He'll watch every game simultaneously, keeping tabs on calls officials make and miss. If he wants to see a specific clip, he can holler for a producer to cue it up.

Access to all the games, all the time, sounds like the ideal setup for March Madness. But when you're the NCAA coordinator of officials, every moment is also a nanosecond away from controversy. One missed call, and the chorus of boos and criticism begins. And, for the first time all season, there's one target.

Full story here


Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports

Butler's biggest star? Its mascot

Yes, Butler Blue II (better known as "Blue" or "Blue II") is a celebrity. A main attraction. There's no way else to describe the cult-like following Butler's mascot has. Blue II has more than 11,000 followers on Twitter as well as his own blog and a special wardrobe.

"We do black tie galas so much so that Blue has his own custom tuxedo," says Michael Kaltenmark, Butler's director of web marketing and the proud owner of Blue.

Full story here

 

OLYMPICS:

Photo: Jim Dedmon, USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Jim Dedmon, USA TODAY Sports

New, more mature Ryan Lochte dives back into hard work, competition

In many ways, it's been one of the most challenging stretches of his life. He's moved away from home and family for the first time, leaving the college-town lifestyle and its temptations. He's changed coaches and, with that, his training regimen. He's suffered multiple injury setbacks, including a significant knee injury that kept him out of the pool for months and had him contemplating quitting the sport.
But he's still here. He's still swimming. He has his eye on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he's hoping to add to the 11 Olympic medals he already owns.

Full story here


Photo: Al Bello, Getty Images

Photo: Al Bello, Getty Images

As U.S. nationals near, Katie Ledecky sounds better than ever

When Katie Ledecky is swimming her best — and her best tends to set world records — her coach can tell. But not in the normal way, not only by watching. He can hear it.

"It's almost a metronome that gets going," coach Bruce Gemmell said Tuesday, a day before the 2014 U.S. national championships begin here. "More so, I can listen to the swims and really understand whether it's being swum well or not. Maybe that's just spending too much time on lonely pool decks, but you can hear the rhythm, the cadence, the metronome, and you know what to expect out of the individual swimmers as far as that goes."

Full story here


Missy Franklin wins first London Olympics gold in 100 back

An hour after the medal ceremony, someone asked Missy Franklin where she was keeping her brand-new Olympic gold medal.

"In my pocket," she answered, pulling the medal out. "Isn't it pretty?"

Full story here


May-Treanor, Walsh win third gold in style

It's hard to script the perfect ending to a legendary career. So many times, something spoils it. An injury. An upset. A distraction.

Rarely does it unfold the way it did Wednesday night at Horse Guards Parade.

Full story here