HUNTINGTON — Danny D’Antoni is surprisingly flexible for his age.
Is it because of clean living and taking good care of himself? Uh, no. It’s mostly out of necessity.
That’s why the 74-year-old D’Antoni is a combination of Jack LaLanne and Hank Iba.
It’s because he has to be.
During this continuing battle with COVID-19 and the different strains of the virus, a college basketball coach has to be ready and able to adjust at a moment’s notice.
This week was a perfect example of that for D’Antoni.
It all started on Monday when the veteran coach led a hammer-and-tongs workout that was long on physicality and short on excuses. It was a take-no-prisoners practice.
It was the toughest, most grueling practice imaginable. And, yes indeed, it got the players’ collective attention. There was new strategy on both offense and defense. There was a different starting lineup.
Most of all, there was a raised decibel and new edge in D’Antoni’s voice. He was visibly tired of losing. And, to be honest, it was encouraging.
It’s a shame it was so short-lived.
Just a day or two later, everything came undone. The culprit? COVID, of course. That meant D’Antoni and his assistant coaches had to go back to the drawing board.
So, at practice on Thursday, freshman David Early was playing point guard because usual starter Andrew Taylor had tested positive. Taevion Kinsey remained at shooting guard with Obinna Anochili-Killen at his usual spot at power forward.
Then there was the center position where 7-foot Goran Miladinovic was supposed to start. Not anymore. He, too, was sidelined with COVID, which meant 6-foot-10 senior Mike Beyers had to shift inside on defense, but was still free to roam the perimeter while on offense.
Finally, there was the center spot on offense. Senior Darius George had been in the starting lineup all season, but that also changed. George tested positive, which meant 6-9 true freshman Chase McKey had to step up into the starting lineup. He played center on offense and power forward on defense.
But wait a minute. Even that lineup suddenly changed on Saturday. Taylor tested negative, which meant the redshirt sophomore point guard could start against Florida Atlantic after all.
Feeling dizzy? Head spinning? Join the club. This is the new normal that coaches, players and, yes, fans have to accept.
Did that play a role in Marshall’s spotty performance in its 90-77 loss to Florida Atlantic Saturday night in front of fans at the Henderson Center? Well, of course it did.
A college team can adjust to only so much turmoil until it begins to get beaten down. After suffering four consecutive defeats and struggling mightily against a so-so Florida Atlantic squad on Saturday night, this Marshall team seems to be stumbling closer and closer to that probability.
This is a team that desperately needs something positive to happen.
The sooner, the better.
In the meantime, the ever-flexible D’Antoni will keep battling, keep tinkering with lineups and keep employing new schemes until he finds something that works.
What other choice does he have?
Being inflexible isn’t an option.