Sanford Pentagon visits Final Four to meet up with coaches

Watch a virtual reality tour of the Sanford Pentagon

Sanford Health

The line looked like Black Friday outside of Target.

Hundreds of coaches, some whose teams played in the NCAA Division I Tournament just days ago, stood for an hour to enter the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Convention in Minneapolis.

Once inside the enormous events hall of the convention center, exhibitors and organizations from across the country surround coaches with the latest basketball equipment and technology. The Sanford Pentagon has a booth right in the middle of the madness.

“We look forward to this event every year,” said Jesse Smith, director of operations at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “If you’re involved with the game of basketball, this is the place to be, and be seen.”

This is the fifth year a team from the Pentagon has attended the most popular attraction for college and high school basketball coaches in the country during the week of the Final Four — aside from the games themselves. More than 2,500 NABC members are expected to attend during the next three days.

Building relationships

It’s at this convention where relationships are built, evolve and are maintained. The Division I games played at the Pentagon don’t happen by accident. Since opening in 2013, the Pentagon has hosted 25 Division I games. Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa State are just a few of the teams that have played on Heritage Court.

“The week of the Final Four is fun, but we’re not here just to watch basketball,” Smith said. “We talk to as many coaches as possible and tell them why they need to bring their teams to Sioux Falls and play at the Pentagon.”

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, a former No. 3 overall NBA draft pick, stopped by the Pentagon booth to take a quick look at the virtual reality tour of the Pentagon on a 72-inch screen. Memphis has played at the Pentagon before, and South Dakota native Mike Miller is an assistant coach for the Tigers.

It’s an example of a brief conversation between a head coach and Pentagon staff that introduces or reminds coaches about the idea of bringing their teams to Sioux Falls for a nonconference game.

‘Like playing a home game’

Regular-season games on neutral courts such as the Pentagon have become increasingly important in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Committee when Selection Sunday rolls around.

“For teams who are looking to boost their resume, the Pentagon is a perfect place to play, and coaches have said that,” Smith said. “They know the competition is going to benefit them, and the atmosphere can be like playing a home game.”

It’s not just current Division I coaches attending the festivities.

A reunion between former University of South Dakota head coach Dave Boots and his former player Nate Blessen, now a senior executive director at Sanford Health, delivered smiles and memories.

“Coach!” Blessen exclaimed.

Familiar faces from Augustana University and NAIA Division II teams that recently played in the national tournament at the Pentagon stopped by the booth to catch up and say hi.

For coaches, the line is worth the wait. And for the team from the Pentagon, the madness is what they’re here for.

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