Seven years and one month ago, I stuck out my hand and managed a smile.
"I'm Ryan Finley," I squeaked to the burly guy standing in front of me. "And it's my first day."
Mike Stoops, to his credit, tried to be nice.
"Good!" he bellowed. "I think we should change you guys out every four or five years anyway. Ha, ha, ha."
A few thousand stories and 37 gray hairs later, I can't believe I'm writing these words: Mike Stoops was absolutely right.
Change is good, whether you're a football coach or a sportswriter.
That's why I'm so excited to share some of the changes coming to the Arizona Daily Star's Sports Department.
After more than seven years as sports editor, Shannon Conner decided to move to a part-time position and enjoy more time with her family. I am her new, full-time replacement.
Daniel Berk is taking over my former beats, UA football and UA baseball, effective immediately. Daniel Gaona, a Tucson native who got his start as a freelancer, will guide the Star's high schools coverage. Irene McKisson, the Star's night sports editor, is leaving her post today to become our new social media editor.
It's a lot of change, all at once. And I think it's good.
See, I love it here. I first began stringing high school softball and baseball games for the Star as a UA senior. With the exception of a two-year stint in California after graduation - I spent more time in traffic than on the beach - I've worked in Tucson ever since. I've covered high school games and college clashes, a Holiday Bowl disaster and the most compelling Super Bowl of my lifetime. Last summer, I spent 15 days - one for every pound I gained - chasing down both stories and steaks at the College World Series in Omaha.
Sportswriting is a great gig, especially if you can turn a phrase and love caffeine. And our readers are lucky: The Star's coverage is, and will continue to be, world-class.
But the industry is changing. Actually, it's changed already.
The morning scramble for the sports page has been replaced with the ding of a push-alert or buzz of a smart-phone on vibrate.
On the bright side, breakfast tables are safer now.
When we were kids, Patrick Finley - the Star's sports reporter/columnist and my twin brother - would go downstairs every morning to pore over transactions and pitching matchups in our hometown paper. My infant son, Luc, will one day just open his iPad for sports news. (Disclosure: At 17 months old, he loves Elmo like I love baseball.)
Our readership continues to grow. We have a lot to live up to.
Over the next few months, the Star's Sports Department will roll out a social media initiative that will showcase our reporters - the real experts, ones with standards and experience - like never before. That means more commentary, deeper analysis and the kind of reader interaction that you can't get with print alone.
Our blogs will continue to deliver exclusive content and breaking news.
Our Wildcat Extra and Star Mobile apps will ping and buzz news directly to your phones, while our e-edition will deliver the feel of a newspaper, only without the inky fingers.
Of course, the print edition of the Star isn't going anywhere. If anything, it's only getting stronger.
Your daily newspaper will continue to grow as we focus even more on local content. Our UA basketball coverage will continue to win awards and turn heads, and our high school stories will feature athletes that often go overlooked. The Star's photographers will wow and move you with their images.
Greg Hansen, well, will stay Greg Hansen. (Come on: Some things you don't change.)
I have two goals as sports editor: to be both visible and accessible. Call me directly at work; the number is on today's masthead. Email me. Follow me on Twitter. Or simply say hi next time you see me.
I'll stick out my hand, say hello, and try not to squeak.
Follow uS …
• Sports editor Ryan Finley: twitter.com/ryan_finley
• Columnist Greg Hansen: twitter.com/ghansen711
• Basketball reporter Bruce Pascoe: twitter.com/brucepascoe
• Football reporter Daniel Berk: twitter.com/dsberk
• Reporter/columnist Patrick Finley: twitter.com/patrickfinley
• High school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona: twitter.com/azprepstar
On your phone
Download the Star Mobile app and Wildcat Extra app for your smartphone. Both are free in your device's app store.
• Bookmark Starnet on your browser: www.azstarnet.com
• Follow the Star on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ ArizonaDailyStar