Several Pitt football players and UTEP basketball coach Joe Golding and his family found themselves in a real-life version of the holiday classic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" on Christmas Day after flight cancellations left them stranded in Dallas before embarking on a road trip more than 600 miles long.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters on Monday at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where the Panthers will be playing No. 18 UCLA on Friday, that Samuel Okunlola, Jake Frantl and Hudson Primus were stranded when they bumped into Golding, who was in a similar predicament trying to get home to El Paso.
"Joe Golding, head basketball coach at Texas-El Paso here in town ... him and his wife and child, they picked up and took our three guys and drove them because the flight was delayed to get them here for practice," Narduzzi said. "They got here late last night. Just want to give a shoutout to those guys."
Golding spoke to KTSM in El Paso about the impromptu carpool adventure, saying Narduzzi had approved it and that the players called their parents and traded information with Golding to make sure everyone was comfortable with the situation.
Golding, whose sister, Kate, is married to TCU football coach Sonny Dykes and whose grandfather and father were both Texas high school football coaches, said he understood the pressure of travel issues that come along with sporting events and just wanted to help however he could.
"I see these guys; they have Pitt bags on. They start talking about playing in the Sun Bowl and having to get to El Paso and there wasn't any cars left. And I was like, 'Hey, if we can find a big enough car, I'll take you guys home.' And they were like, 'Who are you?'" Golding said, laughing. "[The rental car employees] showed up with a minivan first of all. It was too small, and we couldn't all fit in it. Then they had like a big Ford Explorer. I said, 'Who's using that one?' He said, 'Nobody right now. But you can't afford that one; it's too much money.' I said, 'Just give it to us; we got to get home, man.'"
Golding said his wife, Amanda, and sons, Cason and Chase, sat in the back, while Frantl got in the front seat and Okunlola and Primus took the middle seats.
"We went to the gas station and loaded up for dinner about 9:30, 10 at night," Golding said. "Made one stop in Pecos [Texas] at the Pilot for some fresh coffee and a couple Red Bulls and made it all the way back, man."
Golding said he didn't think twice about the trip and just wanted to leave a good impression on behalf of El Paso and the Sun Bowl, which has always been known for its hospitality.
"Out here in West Texas, that's what we do," he said. "I would hope someone would do that to Cason and Chase if they were stranded somewhere on Christmas night."
Golding said the players told him they had 9 a.m. meetings and a 10:30 a.m. workout and that he promised them they'd be there in time. He said they arrived in El Paso at 5:58 Monday morning and were able to make all their scheduled events.
"They even got a two-hour nap, I think," he said.
Narduzzi said he didn't know Golding before Monday.
"Great job by Joe, and we appreciate it," he said.