The strange part, really, was that Will Brown wasn’t even talking about the situation that developed Tuesday with the nearby Siena men’s basketball team, which is now unable to open its season later this week.
No, the veteran UAlbany head coach, speaking during a teleconference session with reporters since in-person media availabilities have become increasingly burdensome for area basketball programs to offer as the coronavirus pandemic continues, was just commenting on how commonplace cancellations, pauses and delays are during this Division I college basketball season that’s being attempted.
“This is the world we’re living in right now,” Brown said. “There’s going to be interruptions moving forward. In my opinion, it’s inevitable.”
Later, he added: “We have to focus on, and be consumed with, today — and let’s embrace today and appreciate today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.”
At this point, if they haven’t already, all college basketball coaches and players have to adopt that ethos. Each of the four Capital Region head coaches of Division I programs, all of whom have had their programs pause at least once this preseason, met virtually with reporters Tuesday, and none of them offered up a rosy picture as to what’s ahead.
Siena men’s head coach Carmen Maciariello, whose team announced its second coronavirus-related pause Tuesday and that it won’t open its season later this week at Fairfield because of it, said he gets “really frustrated” when he considers all the games — time and experiences, really — his club has lost in the last nine months.
Brown, as each of the area’s coaches have brought up at one point or another, cautioned that the constant stop-and-start nature of this season is “very difficult emotionally, mentally for our guys.”
Siena women’s head coach Ali Jaques offered up a “if we get to March” at one point when discussing her team’s long-term prospects.
As for UAlbany women’s head coach Colleen Mullen? She may have overall been the most upbeat Tuesday of the area coaches, but that was an easy bar to clear. Still, her session with reporters spent ample time using words such as “difficult,” “challenge,” and “setbacks,” and including the only-makes-sense-in-2020 sentiment that she thinks some of her players may opt to play games this season wearing protective face masks since they’ve come to view that accessory as “part of their uniform.”
And . . . they’re right?
At the very least, they’re certainly not wrong.
That’s the type of season that college basketball players and coaches signed up for when the decision was made to try to administer a campaign amid a pandemic that caused the cancellation of the prior one’s end. So the cancellations, pauses and delays will continue, especially for mid-major programs at schools such as UAlbany and Siena that cannot put in place all the mitigating measures that schools in, say, the Atlantic Coast Conference or Big Ten Conference are able to afford.
For now — heavy emphasis on “now” — it appears that two of the Capital Region’s Division I basketball teams are on track to finally play a game this week, as the Siena women will host Fairfield at 7 p.m. Friday and the UAlbany women will play at 3 p.m. that day at Hofstra in a game that was once scheduled for Wednesday . . . and Thursday . . . before settling on Friday as Mullen’s program dealt with a variety of pauses.
The Siena men? It’s unclear when they can practice next, but their Dec. 18-19 home games against Canisius remain on their schedule as their new opening matchups . . . and that’s good news for Canisius, which posted Tuesday on social media that it had lost a Dec. 22 non-league game because “Broome County (N.Y.) will not allow Binghamton University to travel to or play host to schools that are located within an ‘orange or red zone’ in accordance with the New York State’s Cluster Action initiative.”
And the UAlbany men’s team, which has lost the most on-court time of any of the area’s four teams since the academic year’s start, are scheduled to play Dec. 19 against UMBC to start its season. As long as the Great Danes are allowed to play that day, Brown said they will, regardless of how many more practices their coach thinks they need to be totally game ready.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re prepared or not,” Brown said, “we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Jaques’ team emerged from its two-week pause early last week, and it took some time for her Saints to get “the quarantine out of us, for lack of a better way to put it.”
She’s confident, though, that her club — coming off an 11-20 season — is ready to compete, calling her club a “mature group.” Leading the Saints is graduate student Isis Young, a 24-year-old point guard who transferred to Siena to end a college career that’s included time at Florida, Syracuse and Fordham, and started back in 2014.
“She’s like having a coach on the floor,” Jaques said of the 5-foot-7 guard.
‘ITCHING TO GET BACK’
August Mahoney, a Saratoga Springs native who played high school basketball at Albany Academy, has watched his fair share of college games since the season started on Thanksgiving eve.
A member of the men’s basketball program at Yale, Mahoney doesn’t have a 2020-21 season of his own since the Ivy League canceled its season due to concerns related to the pandemic.
“I’m itching to get back,” Mahoney said. “I’m definitely ready to get back. I wish everything was normal.”
As a first-year student at Yale, Mahoney averaged 3.6 points per game in 29 appearances and received the program’s John C. Cobb Award as its top rookie.
Mahoney, like a majority of his Yale teammates, used the fall as a gap semester to pursue work opportunities and work on his game. Mahoney said he still needed to sort out what he will do for the spring semester, but knows he needs to “get a lot stronger” before his next college season.
“A lot of shots. A lot of ball-handling,” Mahoney said of what makes up his on-court work these days. “Just trying to improve every single aspect of my game.”