By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor
One night in the late 1990s, I was assigned to cover a boys basketball game between the Rootstown Rovers and Woodridge Bulldogs in Peninsula.
Rootstown head coach Rod Truman would not be on the bench that night, so I knew that after the game I would need to track down the assistant sitting in his place, coach Bryte, for a postgame interview.
I had interviewed coach Truman many times, but this would be my first time talking with coach Bryte, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet and speak with him. Bryte had been a standout basketball player at Rootstown during his high school days, so the storylines for this game were plentiful.
And, since this would be my first time talking with him, I wanted to make sure I brought my "A" game to the interview.
Rootstown won the game, and afterward I waited outside the Rovers' locker room at Woodridge High School until coach Bryte was done speaking to the team. When he emerged, I introduced myself and asked if he had a couple minutes for an interview.
He politely obliged, and I began to ask questions.
One question I had for him was, "Brook, did you feel any extra pressure to win tonight coaching the team in place of coach Truman?"
He answered candidly and was very accommodating throughout the interview, which lasted several minutes.
When we were done, I said, "Well it was nice to meet you, Brook. Thanks for your time and good luck to you guys the rest of the way."
We shook hands, and I headed out to the parking lot to my car. As I drove, I replayed some of the key moments of the game in my head as I collected my thoughts in preparation for writing the story.
As writers often do, I was penning the lead to my story in my mind as the car churned through the cold Northeast Ohio night.
Suddenly, my blood turned cold. I instantly felt a pit in my stomach, and a rush of anxiety washed over me: Coach Bryte's name was Greg, not Brook.
Yet I had just spent an entire several-minute postgame interview looking him in the eye and calling him Brook.
What's more, he did not correct me -- no doubt overlooking my faux pas to spare me some embarrassment. Either that, or he just chalked it up to simple buffoonery. Regardless, I was thoroughly humiliated -- especially considering I knew full well what his name was.
I was very familiar with Greg's basketball exploits when he played at Rootstown, and I knew he was one of coach Truman's assistants with the Rovers. However, for some reason my mind inexplicably confused Greg Bryte, Rootstown High School boys basketball assistant coach, with Brook Bright, a Kent State University men's basketball player at that time.
Although spelled differently, their last names are pronounced the same -- which apparently was just enough to cause my mind to jump the tracks that night (even though I had never interviewed Brook Bright). And it couldn't have happened at a worse time: my first interview with coach Bryte following his first game as a head coach.
Fortunately, I realized my error in time to make sure his correct first name found its way into my game story the next day. Unfortunately, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.