Placer’s Kendall Arnett tourney cuisine a courtside legend

Pulled pork on Thursday menu was required eating for officials, coaches
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The legends at the 71st Kendall Arnett basketball tournament at Placer High School aren’t just being made on the hardwood court.

They're also being made with some TLC on a smoker.

Placer High coach and teacher Mike Sabins’ contribution to the hospitality room for coaches, volunteers and officials has become something of a legend in itself – pulled pork that has evolved over the past five years into a favorite post-game highlight at Auburn’s prestigious boys basketball tournament.

Sabins’ evening to shine was Thursday and the reviews – as they have every year – were heavy on the thumbs up and smiles.

Tony Phulps, El Camino High School head coach, was celebrating Thursday’s victory with a pulled pork sandwich.

“Perfect,” Phulps said. “This is my first year here and we go to several tournaments, but I can say that this is the best hospitality room we’ve experienced. And the pulled pork is a highlight.”

For Sabins, the pork is a point of pride.

“Something else fell through one year and the pulled pork was a big hit,” Sabins said. “Now I put it on the calendar every year. It’s a nice way of helping out and this is good for the tourney.”

Sabins said the recipe that draws raves is no big secret.

“I just do the low and slow,” Sabins said. “It takes about eight hours at 225 degrees. I let it run its course until its ready to pull. I use oakwood and just keeping stoking it every hour or so and it comes out great.”

For hospitality room visitor Steve Williams, an administrator with the Roseville High School District, the pulled pork was a big draw – but not the only one Thursday.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Williams said. “Great basketball. Great food.”

Thursday’s hospitality room fare filled a large table. Much of it provided by parents of players, it included hearty devilled eggs, spicy homemade salsas and chips, savory artichoke dips and a vegetable assortment, tasty cheesecake bites and homemade brownies.

Accessible only to diners with the coveted wristband, the hospitality room has no guidelines on calories or food groups. Instead, Thursday’s hospitality room manager Joanna Kean – mother of Placer High point guard Peter Kean – said it’s about tradition.

“We have a tradition at the Kendall to have the best hospitality room around,” Kean said. “We want people to feel at home and it’s something we’re proud off.”

Sabins’ pulled pork and homemade goodies provided by varsity parents were on the menu Thursday. Maria’s Mexican restaurant will be dishing out burritos and fixings on Friday, with junior varsity parents adding to the varied menu. On Saturday, varsity boys basketball coach Mark Lee steps up with his own specialty – tri-tip.

But Sabins and his pulled pork are a tough act to follow.

“If we don’t have the pulled pork, we would have a riot on our hands,” Kean said.

The tournament – and the hospitality room – continues through Saturday.