College Basketball Is Starting. Some Coaches Are Openly Asking Why.


The surface tension, though, is rapidly building. The first game, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, was to feature the University of San Francisco (a fill-in, chosen Friday, for St. Bonaventure) against Towson State. At least until Monday night, when U.S.F. was moved to an 11 a.m. game against Stephen F. Austin. By Tuesday afternoon, that game was scratched and San Francisco was moved to a 4 p.m. game against UMass-Lowell, which just returned from a 14-day pause because of the virus.

This burst of games and the attendant travel — some of which will happen on commercial flights — come at a time when universities are urging their non-basketball-playing students to exercise great caution as they head home for Thanksgiving.

Among those wondering how long a season can go on like this is Rick Pitino.

He returned in March from exile, after a recruiting scandal at Louisville, to coach at Iona and was spending Tuesday in quarantine, just like a number of his colleagues. (Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, who had contracted the virus, was doing fine, but Tennessee Tech’s John Pelphrey was hurting, Pitino reported.) Iona can begin practice on Wednesday at the end of a 14-day hiatus due to a manager’s positive test. No Gaels coaches or players have contracted the virus, but the rules are the rules — at least in New Rochelle, N.Y..

Not so in Mississippi, where Coach Kermit Davis tested positive, but the players were allowed to continue practicing — at least until some tested positive and the team paused workouts on Monday. Or, apparently, in Utah: The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Krystkowiak was among “at least nine” positive cases within the program but that workouts have continued. (The 14-day pause is a guideline adopted by the N.C.A.A. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but colleges are allowed to defer to local health protocols.)

Pitino believes that, with vaccines being readied and flu season just arriving, the best way to rescue college basketball’s moneymaker — the N.C.A.A. tournament — may be to move the season back. He suggests starting the season in March and ending it with May Madness.

“Hospitals are being overrun, we’re at 200,000 cases a day,” Pitino said in an interview. “We’re not the N.B.A. — we don’t have $150 million to protect us in a bubble; we’re not college football and can play in an open-air facility. Interruptions are going to be quite substantial. There are 15 or 20 coaches that have tested positive, and we’re just entering winter. It’s going to be very difficult to manage a good product and keep everybody safe.”



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