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Gene Frenette: College hoops coaches hope to push through COVID-marred season

By Gene Frenette, The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) on

Published in Basketball

Like many coaches, Matthew Driscoll is analytical by nature and tries to anticipate potential obstacles in advance, just so they don't impede progress for his University of North Florida basketball program.

It could be how to deal with an opposing player who can exploit the Ospreys' matchup zone. Or what solution he can offer for one of his own players dealing with a personal matter. Or maybe it's resolving a logistics issue on a road trip.

But Driscoll has never encountered the anxiety associated with potentially his biggest nightmare of the 2020-21 season. It's not having a roster loaded with freshmen, but the specter of COVID-19.

"I just thought of this as we're talking. I think the best way to describe it is if you were to ask a giant slalom skier, 'Can you get through all those gates going 150 miles per hour down a hill with ice?'" said Driscoll. "He or she might say, 'I think I can, I think I can.'

"But this season is so fast, and the games are so close together, and you're trying to mitigate the travel as best you can, and within the travel is the eating and the transportation ... ."

Driscoll doesn't even pause to catch a breath. He's rolling with this giant slalom and COVID analogy at breakneck speed.

 

He's imagining the pitfalls, the anxiety of possibly game-planning with three or five players absent for coronavirus-related reasons. As long as a team has a minimum eight scholarship players to suit up, Driscoll says the NCAA rules mandate that those games must be played.

"So as you're going down that slope, you're up on the edges and you hit that patch of ice," continued Driscoll. "Now you got nine dudes or whatever number (contact-tracing) for 14 days and missing four conference games. How do you mitigate that? We're going to have to be so locked in, so focused on every little thing we do and understand that one extra piece of ice on that slope, the next thing you know, it can be a wipeout.

"You got to think about how you get your food delivered, how you minimize the amount of times you get on and off the bus. Who's been watching the bus driver and what he's doing? As you're going down that slope, there's a lot of gates you can't miss."

Some might suggest Driscoll is being overly paranoid. Well, guess what, especially during this COVID-marred season, coaches are being paid more than ever to be paranoid. Even more so in basketball, because the smaller numbers compared to football don't leave teams with as much margin for error when it comes to being vigilant about safety protocols.

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