By Bruce Wood
"ChaCha, as most people under 103 know, is the highly addictive mobile answer service that responds to any query you send (text "ChaCha" or "242242") with a real answer from a real person, usually within three minutes, for free. Is this a great world or what?"
Dartmouth senior Kirk Crecco knows all about ChaCha. As a 6-foot-3 freshman shooting guard, he collected a little extra coin - emphasis on a little, he'll tell you with a laugh - sitting at his laptop answering questions for ChaCha, the self-proclaimed "human search engine."
Crecco's areas of expertise as a ChaCha generalist guide were sports and law. Makes sense.
Before coming to Dartmouth Crecco was a two-time New Hampshire all-state basketball and soccer player at Gilford High School in the Lakes Region. He scored 1,300 points on the hardwood and was the Class M player of the year as a senior.
And he has an interest in the law. Between his sophomore and junior years the government major and would-be lawyer did an internship that gave him a little background in contract law, real-estate law, intellectual property, patent application and more.
A visit to the ChaCha site reveals that it answers more than 2 million texted questions each day. Here are some it hasn't answered.
When did Kirk Crecco decide he wanted to play college basketball?
Early. Very early. He was a big Duke and Coach K fan as a young boy.
Did Coach K and the others dial in their GPS units to come scout him as a high schooler?
Hardly. Explains Crecco, "I came from a smaller town that is not exactly a basketball powerhouse. It's not like scouts flock to Gilford, N.H."
So how did Crecco get his name out there?
Persistence. His dad, Gino, "was the best marketing person I could find," Kirk says. Together they sent out packages with video highlights, a basketball resume and brag sheet. Then they hit the road. "The idea was to go to as many exposure camps as possible," Crecco says. "Throw myself at everyone and see what stuck.
How did he end up at Dartmouth?
Crecco was always a good student. He and his fraternal twin brother, Collin - his point guard for two years at Gilford and now a senior at the University of Miami - were 2-3 in their high school class. Crecco drew interest from Amherst and Williams, but he wanted to play at the highest level he could. When Brown, Penn and Dartmouth touched base with him he set his sights a little higher than the NESCAC. "Once I started hearing from Ivy League schools I realized this was the best of both worlds, a great education and Division I basketball," he says. "When Dartmouth started recruiting me it was kind of game over."
How has his career gone?
"Rollercoaster" wouldn't be too strong a word. He got into 18 games as a freshman but scored just 12 points all year. As a sophomore he played in 23 games with an eight-point showing against Ivy champion Cornell. Last year he started 11-of-24 games and hit double figures six times, including 19 points at St. Francis. With a big and talented freshman class he hasn't had a start this winter and yet there have been some highlights off the bench. Six points at Notre Dame, six more at Harvard and five against San Francisco.
He isn't playing for the coach who recruited him, right?
No, that would be Terry Dunn, who left midway through his sophomore year. Mark Graupe finished out that season and then Paul Cormier came in. "It has been pretty crazy since I've been at Dartmouth," Crecco says. "We were talking about it the other day and I think we have had 2½ head coaches and 10 different assistant coaches. Obviously when I committed here that's not what I envisioned, but you kind of roll with the punches. I think it has definitely made me a more resilient person. In high school it wasn't like I was handed everything, but everything just came a lot easier. So it made me work really hard and understand that, regardless of what happens, you keep your head down and keep your feet moving forward. I think that's going to help me in the long run, no matter what I decide to do in the future."
What does he mean by working really hard?
How about taking 500 shots to start the day and 500 to finish it one summer? How about foregoing an internship opportunity last summer that would have helped set him up in the corporate world in exchange for working at IMG in Florida as a coach for seven or eight hours during the day, and then playing against top-level competition for the next four hours? "I would get to the gym at like 6:30 in the morning and not get home until 8:30 at night," he says, "but it was great. "It helped me improve a lot as a player."
Given how things have worked out has he had any second thoughts?
Not really. It's about a 90-minute drive from Gilford, so his parents have been able to watch him play. A bunch of townspeople come over for a reunion of sorts when Patrick Saunders, another Gilford product, shows up with the Princeton team and that's been fun. "I'm getting a great education and I have definitely enjoyed my time here regardless of the ups and downs of basketball," Crecco says. "There've been downs but there've also been a lot of highs, too."
What one game would be the "high" of his career?
The 19 points at St. Francis might be close, but his first career start at Drake a week later might be the pick. He just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds and chipped in with three assists to boot. "It was actually the day before my birthday so it was kind of like the best 21st birthday present you could get after working as hard as I did for two years or whatever," Crecco says. "That plane ride home was definitely pretty sweet, getting home to see my family after that."
So what's next for Crecco?
Glad you asked. First, he's looking forward to a turnaround in the program over the final few weeks of the season. The team has made progress but it still has to learn how to close out games. Off the court he's had a few interviews and has a handle on what he wants to do next. "I would like to work for a law firm for a while just to make sure that is what I really want to do," he says. "I've had interviews with different firms and I'm using the same kind of strategy I did with colleges. Kind of throw myself at everyone, see what sticks and take the best option."
ChaCha is one thing but rumor is Crecco has worked summers for one of those operations that call you up at dinnertime and try to convince you to visit a resort and listen to a presentation in exchange for free airline tickets or the like. Is that true?
Absolutely. It was a neighbor's company. He had the headset and the whole deal. And the thing is, he was good at it. "I was like a 17-year-old kid and I think a lot of people I called felt bad for me because I sounded so young," he says. "A lot of times they would be like, 'Why aren't you outside playing with your friends or something?' "
Which, of course, is exactly what he ended up doing when he hung up the phone.
A veteran writer and observer of Dartmouth athletics, Bruce Wood launched a web site in 2005, www.biggreenalert.com, specializing in Big Green football news coverage.