Kellogg gets creative for fans, community

By Adam Miller

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Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg sees winning and attendance at home games going hand-in-hand. The latter is something he knows can change this season.

Kellogg wants to bring the Mullins Center back to the way it was during his playing days when Kentucky coach John Calipari was at the helm for UMass. After his departure, no coach has been in Amherst for more than five years, and the Minutemen were last in the NCAA Tournament in 1998.

Between those two factors, Kellogg is aware of the challenge that comes with getting students to the games, so he doesn’t mind going outside the box with his marketing ideas.

It started with Super Sunday; a replacement for Midnight Madness in the Mullins Center that was meant to boost season ticket sales and help fans get to know a team that consists mostly of players who, for one reason or another, have never seen a minute of playing time for the Minutemen.

The day featured an autograph session as well as a question and answer session, where fans asked a variety of topics from his thoughts on the season to what happens when players miss practice. Kellogg expressed his excitement over the fans’ loyalty for those who showed up, despite the small crowd.

He recently started a fan club that gives students and people around the community access to the team that he knows most coaches wouldn’t feel comfortable with.

“I understand that in order for us to make the moves we want to make, we have to have 2,000 students at every game cheering for us,” Kellogg said.

Part of the promotion includes bringing fans into pregame meetings to hear the pregame speech before running through the tunnel with UMass. In its exhibition game with Dowling, 30 fans came out of the locker room with the rest of the Minutemen.

Kellogg hopes to push that number to 500.   

He publicized the club by having the entire team and people close to the program walk around the dorms and put fliers under every door.

“My legs are sore from walking through Southwest,” Kellogg said. “But I think if you create a family atmosphere with the students, they’ll want to come.”

The fan club also includes a special seating section at home games and a bi-monthly dinner party at Kellogg’s house throughout the school year.

He also plans to throw an end of the year party for everyone in the fan club. If Kellogg’s promotions work the way he wants, he envisions turning the Mullins Center back to a hostile environment similar to the ones the Minutemen are going to play in front of this season.

The Jordan rules

Anything associated with Michael Jordan during his playing days turned to gold. Kellogg hopes to get a similar result when UMass plays Central Florida on Friday, featuring Jordan’s son, Marcus, who is a freshman at the school.

The Knights became part of a national controversy when Jordan chose to only wear his father’s Nike Air Jordan shoes over the school’s shoe sponsor, Adidas, which announced that it will end its sponsorship of all UCF teams.

Kellogg believes the high-profile battle over Jordan’s feet will ultimately benefit UMass.

“Having Jordan’s son and what’s going on with that stuff hopefully will get us even more publicity,” Kellogg said. “That’s one of the reasons why we thought playing that game would be so good for us.”

Florida also became a target area for recruiting after freshman Freddie Riley signed with the Minutemen last season. Kellogg is looking to expand his base in Florida with a game in a big stadium and over 53,000 students.

Adam Miller can be reached at [email protected]