By Michael Muldoon
---- — Few fans can match Andover native Hunter Lochmann’s love for the Kansas Jayhawks.
His father, Riney Lochmann, starred along with Celtic legend JoJo White on some great KU teams before playing three years for the Dallas Chaparrals in the ABA.
Hunter, a 1990 Andover High grad, also went to KU as did his mother, sister, wife and father-in-law.
“I literally have Kansas blood running through me,” said Lochmann.
Last week with Bill Self’s powerhouse club seemingly destined for another Final Four berth, it suffered one of the most heartbreaking collapses in school history. Kansas, which was ranked third nationally, led by 10 with 2:20 left but Michigan rallied and forced OT on Trey Burke’s 30-footer with four seconds left. Michigan won in OT.
Hunter was at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., and beamed while the rest of Jayhawk Nation was aghast.
He can be forgiven. Lochmann is the chief marketing officer for University of Michigan athletics.
“It was crazy,” said Lochmann, who has been at Michigan for nearly 18 months. “As soon as the brackets came out, I was just holding my breath (thinking), ‘Don’t do it to me!’”
Of course, Kansas now is a distant second to his Wolverines, who then beat Florida to make the Final Four for the first time since Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Fab 5 in 1993.
“It’s not just because of the paycheck,” he said. “I work with Coach (John) Beilein and they are such good people. So I’m vested in it. And you know how important it is to the fans.”
There were no divided loyalties.
“I was one of the most obnoxious Michigan fans (last) Friday,” he said gleefully. “The icing on the cake was celebrating with my KU friends. I celebrated and they drowned their sorrows.”
The run to the Final Four has made his hectic life that much more chaotic.
“It’s been a whirlwind, the phone calls and the e-mails,” he said during a Monday phone interview. “It’s been chaos but it’s been fun stuff. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Everybody wants to be your friend when you have a high-ranking position at a big-time school. But his number of friends swelled dramatically when the Wolverines made the Final Four.
He’s certainly not complaining.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ve been lucky,” said Lochmann, a key executive in an athletic department which generates $130 million in annual revenues. “It’s great.”
Most of his lifelong friends from our area have too many family and work commitments to seriously consider going to the Final Four games in Atlanta.
But Lochmann is still very close to former Andover quarterback and assistant football coach Pat Finn. He also probably could have come up with a ticket for the big guy who made Lochmann look good on the Golden Warrior defensive line.
That guy, high school All-American Joe Marinaro, could make anybody look good. Coincidentally, he went on to star at Michigan.
“We called ourselves the Nasty 11,” recalled Lochmann, who was a year ahead of Marinaro.
Any other matchup and he’d still be the same crazed Jayhawk fan he’s always been.
For decades, he and his father have dissected their games well after midnight.
This isn’t the first time Hunter’s career has forced the family to switch allegiances.
Prior to the Michigan job, he was the vice president of marketing with the New York Knicks for five years. That was a bit jarring for a guy who grew up in Boston during the Larry Bird era.
“My dad worked for Converse, that’s where I got my love of sports,” said Lochmann. “I met Larry Bird. It was after a game and he was drinking a light beer (in the old Boston Garden training room). I’ll never forget his crooked finger around the can.”
To this day, the 40-year-old Lochmann drinks Miller Lite because that’s what Bird was drinking.
His parents are divorced. Riney now lives in, of all places, Columbus, Ohio, home of the hated OSU Buckeyes. Much of the family still lives in the Merrimack Valley. His mother, Norma Lochmann, lives in North Andover, and his sister, Megan Lochmann, a 1989 North Andover High grad, lives in Salem, N.H.
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.