Forgive Danny D’Antoni for feeling a bit discombobulated.
Marshall University’s veteran basketball coach arrived back in Huntington at 8 p.m. Friday to find no basketball games, no school classes and even no toilet paper, all because of the coronavirus crisis.
But the biggest blow of all?
It was the loss of the most popular annual event in the sports world — “March Madness.”
“No question,” said D’Antoni. “There isn’t any March Madness, so what do you do?”
Apparently, have lunch and commiserate with a sports writer.
“I told my wife that she’s going to have to teach me how to do ‘Netflix’ now,” said D’Antoni with a grin. “I’ll probably be down at Books-A-Million and get me a book and a couple more crossword puzzles and hope this thing ends real quick.
“I was talking to Mike [younger brother Mike D’Antoni, head coach of the NBA Houston Rockets] and they’re trying to figure out what they’re going to do. My guess is they’ll have a 10-day season and, then, go into the playoffs.”
The potential for a postseason still exists for the NBA. But that isn’t the case with college basketball.
“Obviously, they’re not going to do anything about the NCAA,” said D’Antoni. “It’s done. I don’t know where you go from here. It is what it is. Some people worry about, ‘Well, if people start moving in different directions, will they come back?’ I don’t think that will be a problem. The fans will come back.”
In the United States, as a society, our pastime is watching sports. Whether fans watch it live or on television, they watch. It is the national pastime. That premise isn’t going to end.
“This all seems surreal,” said D’Antoni. “We’ll meet with the players on Monday or Tuesday and tell them what I see that they need to do and get them all lined up. We’ll probably let them go until after spring break.
“I don’t know what the school is going to do. I don’t know if they’re going to open the school back up. But, you know, the Euros [Marko Sarenac of Serbia and Goran Miladinovic of Montenegro] can’t go home. So, they’re here. We’ll probably work the Euros out while they’re here.
“Then, when the others come back, start working them out and get ready for next year like it’s going to happen.”
D’Antoni’s choice of words — “like it’s going to happen” — was compelling.
“Personally, as a sports person,” said D’Antoni, “you hate it because, now, what do I do? But, at the same time, you understand there’s a large world that I don’t know a lot about. So, I’m careful to have a strong opinion on something I don’t understand.
“What I see doesn’t look to support what is going on. So you almost, because of the lack of information and knowledge you have in the area, have to rely on others. If that’s what they see, that’s what they see.
“But right now, when I look at what I see out there, it doesn’t support the actions that have been taken.”
The whole scenario was unimaginable, but now we actually have to find a way to deal with it. This is something no one believed we’d ever see.
“Totally,” said D’Antoni. “What makes it worse is I thought we were in the perfect position to repeat what we did a couple years ago [in the Conference USA Tournament].
“I thought our team was playing at its best and when we were at our best we were the best team. We had to be more consistent to be at our best, but when we were at our best we beat everybody. I just thought that we were closer to that consistency when they pulled the rug out from under us.”
After an 86-78 win over UTEP in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday night, the season came to an end.
“It’s disappointing,” said D’Antoni, “but in the scheme of life there will be whatever number of champions they’ve had, then there will be an asterisk and, then, there will be more champions.
“So, it’s going to be an asterisk 10 years from now.”
Only an asterisk.