The conversation at last year's boys state basketball tournament between Brown Deer Athletic Director Mike Novak and WIAA Associate Director Deb Hauser went something like this:
"I walked into the Kohl Center," said Novak, "and Deb said to me 'Talked to Jerry Petitgoue (legendary Cuba City coach and WBCA executive director), and he was really impressed with your facility.'
"'What would you like (in terms of hosting games)?'"
To which Novak replied, just a little tongue in cheek, "I'd like the state tourney."
To that, Hauser smiled and said, "I can't do that."
But Novak spied an opening and jumped both feet right through it. "I'll take whatever you can give me."
And Hauser took him at his word.
The line at the Novak Family field house at about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, March 12, stretched out the door 50-60 people deep or so for the 4 p.m. tip-off of the WIAA D2 boys sectional final between Whitnall and Whitefish Bay. Novak said people were already there when the doors formally opened at 3 p.m.
Contemporary Services Corporation handled the security and metal screening efficiently and quickly as they have been doing for Brown Deer for quite some time, and by tip-off, the joint was packed and jumping.
Just as Novak wanted it to be.
It marked the seventh and finally the last WIAA tournament game the 2,250-person capacity site had hosted since March 3, including an absolutely crazy, Saturday, March 5, where Novak and his staff hosted a D2 girls sectional final at 1 p.m., a D4 girls sectional final at 4 p.m. and then Brown Deer's own D3 boys regional final at 7 p.m.
As Novak paraphrased the famous line out of "Field of Dreams": "We finally have it, so why not use it?"
The old high school and college player and former coach just couldn't get enough.
"Being in that kind of environment is so exciting," he said. "Even for the fan and the worker, there has to be a real type of high to be involved in all that, though that three-game day was a little trying.
"It was like, 'Let's get to Sunday, go to church, thank God and then rest the rest of the day.'"
The field house was built three years ago as part of a public/private partnership as the community approved two referendum questions totaling $22 million to greatly renovate almost all of the district's educational facilities.
At the famous dedication ceremony in April 2013, Novak's son and NBA player Steve Novak announced to great cheers that he was donating $100,000 to the cause.
"That first year (2014), I think we had two sectional finals, and then last year we had a little more," said Mike Novak.
In fact, it was the well-run and exciting D2 boys sectional final last year between Greendale and Wauwatosa East that precipitated the conversation between Hauser and Mike Novak.
Which led to a schedule this year that included the D1 girls sectional semifinal on March 3 and then the Falcons' boys D3 regional semifinal on Friday, March 4. Then came that crazy March 5 day. The schedule rebooted with a D5 boys sectional semifinal on March 10, and then came the Whitnall and Bay game on March 12.
"There were an awful lot of people that day," said Mike Novak of March 12. "They just kept coming and coming."
Novak said his staffing, for which the school gets reimbursed by the WIAA, is solid and experienced. For big games he said, there are always pre-sales, and always two on-site pay stations for walk-ups. At the end of the day, when all the bills are paid, Brown Deer does get a cut of the proceeds.
It has gone surprisingly smoothly, Mike Novak said.
"There's always something about the public that will bring a new situation to your door," he said. "You can never prepare for everything. We can say that did what we could as well as we could, and we were pleased with the results."
The site is also used for phy-ed classes and indoor track meets (the first one was held March 15) as well as the big NY2LA AAU basketball tournaments over the summer.
Mike Novak said there will be meetings to discuss what can be done better at the WIAA events but noted that there is no plan to cut down on the scheduling anytime soon.
"The kids (his basketball-playing children) grew up on the AAU circuit so we got a look at a number of different venues over the last couple of decades," said Mike Novak. "Now we're happy to take on that role. The place just brings such positive attention onto the community, and it's a great thing for area businesses too.
"It projects Brown Deer in a whole new light both regionally and nationally.
"And it's just good to end up with a game at the end of the day. All the energy and emotion that comes with it. It's just a fantastic situation."