ALBANY — At this point, head coach Will Brown knows what must go through the minds of his UAlbany men’s basketball players when they’re text messaged to prepare for a Zoom call on short notice.
This week — again — players on both UAlbany basketball teams received an alert from their coaches to prepare for unfavorable news, as each program needed to pause in-person activities. UAlbany’s athletic department announced Thursday that both programs needed to take a “temporary pause from team activities due to presumptive positive [coronavirus] tests among individuals associated with both programs’ Tier 1 group.” Brown confirmed Thursday that his team’s pause started Wednesday night after it had practiced earlier in the day, while UAlbany women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen said her team found out it needed to pause on Monday, which was an off day from practice for the team.
UAlbany’s teams only regained the ability to conduct in-person activities on Nov. 25, the day that Division I teams around the country were able to start playing games. Including instances in which the UAlbany basketball programs needed to pause for reasons both directly and indirectly related to their teams, the latest pause represents the fourth stretch of time both programs have been unable to meet in person since workouts were originally scheduled to begin on Aug. 31. Since that point, each month has included at least some days the teams could not meet in person; the men’s team missed out on a majority of September and November, while the women’s team missed the majority of September and approximately half of November. In total, the women’s team has conducted 13 full-contact practices, a figure that is several ahead of the men’s team’s total.
UAlbany’s programs are among the hardest-hit basketball teams in the country in terms of missing in-person activities because of issues related to the coronavirus, and both are a few dozen or so practices behind where a team normally would be at this point in the year.
Mullen described the latest pause for her team as “really frustrating,” while Brown said “I think [my players] are getting tired of me telling them to stay patient because I think they’re now expecting bad news.” Both coaches praised their players for how they’ve handled themselves amid a stop-and-start preseason and commended UAlbany’s commitment to following safety protocols, but both acknowledged their teams are far behind where they need to be with America East Conference play scheduled to start Dec. 19 against UMBC.
“There’s very little we can control right now,” Brown said, “but we need to control it.”
UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said the school’s athletic department expects to know “very soon” when the basketball teams could target their next restart.
“We’re testing everyone and doing the contact tracing to find out when we can resume,” said Benson, whose basketball programs began three-times-per-week coronavirus testing last month in accordance with NCAA guidelines.
Brown said his program remains in a “fact-finding stage” and that it was too early to estimate when his players could return to the court, while Mullen said she’s optimistic her team could avoid another lengthy pause.
“So it’s more wait and see for us,” Mullen said. “Patience is a virtue right now.”
Brown said he wouldn’t rule out still trying to schedule a non-conference game ahead of his team’s game against UMBC. Meanwhile, Mullen said her plan — at the moment — remains for her team to play its season-opening game against Hofstra that’s scheduled for next week on Long Island “as long as it’s safe for our players.”
Mullen said she will seek to move that game back a day, if possible, from its currently scheduled date of next Thursday.
“At this point,” Mullen said, “one extra day is really important.”