So, college sports are over. One Shining Moment will be just a reel of players washing their hands and using hand sanitizer. The stunning and sudden turn of events has flipped the sports world upside down, and many questions still remain.
“Last night we had a good sense when we woke up today there was the potential for this,” UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley said in the teleconference. “It’s a surreal situation, trying to figure out how to get home as quickly and safely as we can with these guys.”
The team did everything it could to stay safe, even though the games ultimately got canceled.
“Hand sanitizer, gloves in practice. Reiterating to them the symptoms and reporting them if you’re not feeling well. The last four or five days and the last 24 hours, if someone coughed they’d freak out. We were in the meeting last night and someone sneezed, half of the room looked around. The scary situation is that everyone is hyper-sensitive to it. We’re thankful that we have the great support of this university that will hopefully get us out of here safety today. And then putting steps in place when we return to keep everyone as safe as possible. I imagine some of our players will be staying on campus, I’m not sure that someone like Alterique will be heading to Atlanta, so we have to continue to be vigilant.”
Hurley said the Husky players didn’t really have time to process how quickly their situation changed.
“We were set for an 8:30 team meeting to shape the game for today. The room was buzzing, because of the NBA news. Everyone was disappointed and mostly shocked by it. It wasn’t even sadness, because I don’t think it hit home yet.”
They found out after a short team session, just a few hours before they were set to tip off.
“We told them last night: ‘go to bed with the mindset to wake up and play a postseason game.’ Things change, you have to be ready for that. We had just gotten done with a walk-through in the ballroom and the video edit with personnel.”
Going forward, they’re just trying to get home quickly and stay safe.
“We’re very far away from Connecticut right now, we we’re working hard to get a plane here,” Hurley said. “In terms of phrasing their seasons and putting their careers into perspective, we’ll have time for that down the line. I think everything will be turned upside down. Safety is our number one concern. Number two, it’s where do these players go when we get back to campus. Are they better off on or off campus?”
Hurley also had his family at home to consider, in addition to his players.
“I had the worst night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time last night. My son at Seton Hall had just gotten back home last night. They’re closed, so I feel good about that. It’s hard to think about the basketball part of this, it’s more about your health and the well-being of the people you care about. The only thing about the sport aspect — and this pales in comparison — is getting robbed of the opportunity to walk off the court with the people you battled with for a long time one last time. That’s an emotional experience. Not having that last locker room after victory or defeat, is the only thing I’m thinking about from that sense. I’m not thinking about a championship or how well we’re playing, I’m thinking about the teams across the country that don’t get that one last moment together.”
His son also had his high school season cut short as part of the measures taken within Connecticut.
“I’ve had conversations with Andrew, and I feel awful for him. But we were locked in on preparation for Tulane. It became real for us yesterday afternoon with the NBA news. That’s when it became ‘what are we doing here?’ After that, I had conversations with Dave Benedict and his staff about being proactive on our own accord.”
He mentioned they got close to making a school decision before the conference acted.
“We talked about it. How we left it last night was that after the Hoiberg stuff, it reaching the NBA level, and the whole scene with the Big 10, we knew that very intelligent people were going to have a chance to make a decision. Going to bed, I didn’t think there was any way we’d be playing today.”
Ultimately, Hurley’s happy the situation was resolved without any conflict.
“We would have never gotten to that point. Obviously from the looks of me on the sidelines, I enjoy the games. And obviously this team especially loved to compete. But by the looks of it, it would have been hard to lead the team out on the court. But thankfully we were not put in the position.”
He was asked what he told his team to take away from the season.
“You guys have shown as much character, resiliency, and toughness than any team I’ve ever coached. You’ve given as much as any team I’ve ever coached. You guys are the foundation of what’s going to happen next at UConn. Programs turn after three straight losing seasons with that team that changes the mindset, the fabric of a program. They change the standards. This year was about going from the last couple of years that were often times non-competitive and embarrassing, to starting this year as a team that wanted to earn respect. And then later in the year, we looked like a team that had earned it, but then had learned how to win.”