Syracuse, New York – Jim Boeheim called his decision to play Friday’s game against Bryant “stupid.”
The Syracuse basketball coach, whose team outlived the visiting Bulldogs 85-84 in the season opener at the Carrier Dome, was lively and agitated afterwards when he spoke to the journalists by Zoom.
The Orange, sent to quarantine following positive Covid-19 tests by Boeheim and an SU player, had trained once in 12 days before meeting Bryant. SU announced midweek that the game would be played despite basketball’s long layoff.
Boeheim said on Friday medics had determined the Orange could play the game. No one, he said, thought the players risked getting hurt while playing. As for the logic of playing when the whole team had been quarantined with just exercise bikes to maintain cardiovascular fitness?
Maybe not the best idea.
Boeheim called the choice to play or defer potentially “100% my fault.” He never, he says, tried to move the game.
“The doctors make (the decision) that they’re healthy to play,” Boeheim said. “I decide if it’s smart to play the game. When you don’t play for 14 days, it’s not smart. “
The Orange struggled to shoot the ball on Friday. They struggled to keep Bryant, who executed a clever game plan and nearly beat SU on his home ground.
Marek Dolezaj described the timing problem after more than a week of inactivity in basketball. Buddy Boeheim said the Orange men were “stuck in our apartments all day” because of the coronavirus protocols.
The SU players took a hiatus on November 15. They practiced on Thanksgiving afternoon. They played a game a day later. Boeheim said during Thanksgiving practice coaches laid out plans on how to attack Bryant’s shifting defenses. Some of his guys, he said, were “dying” from the recent lack of conditioning in basketball.
“It was really difficult for us. We didn’t practice for 12 days, ”Dolezaj said. “We weren’t together, so it was really difficult.
“(It was) probably just the wind, up and down, hold somebody and come back on offense and play basketball,” said Buddy Boeheim. “I feel like we had a good four months of practice and then being held back like that definitely took a toll on our overall chemistry and going up and down. The conditioning was much better before that. Just trying to get it back now, it’s obvious that we still have a lot of work to do to figure out how to play together.
The Syracuse players had to be quarantined for 14 days, but the university hopes the program’s positives futures will be judged differently.
Boeheim spoke again on Friday about the wearable devices his coaches and players wore. These devices alert players and staff when they are within six feet of each other; the data is then collected to determine the exact time they spent within a six foot radius. (The CDC defines close contact as “a person who has been within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.”)
Boeheim said SU data from its wearable, wristwatch-like devices would offer more accurate contact tracing information. Onondaga County Manager Ryan McMahon agreed.
“The CDC made a suggestion – and I’m not sure how we should listen to their suggestions – and the NCAA has argued that if one guy tests positive, the whole group is eliminated, level 1,” said Boeheim (level 1: players, coaches, doctors, managers). “I have the chip. I am not near a player for more than 1 minute and 30 seconds during the whole practice. The whole practice. So why if I had – which I did – couldn’t the team train? That does not make any sense.
“Managers wear masks, gloves and chips. They are not near a player for (more than) two minutes. So if they get it, we’re going to have to seat the whole team? It does not mean anything. “
Boeheim said he spoke with medics who informed him that Covid-19 had not spread among athletes on the playing fields. The SU player who tested positive, has he said, trained with his teammates for two days before the disease was detected. No one else on the team, he said, has tested positive.
“We have to figure that out soon because if you play 3-4 games and the guys are out for 14 days during the season, you’re going to miss four or five games that won’t be made up,” Boeheim said. “And then you’re going to have to come back with a day or two of practice and play Duke or North Carolina?” You can not do this. It’s physically impossible.
The Syracuse coach said the NCAA and the conferences that govern college basketball need to change the way they determine who should be quarantined after testing positive in a program.
“We have to do something about it now,” he said, “or this season will be destroyed.
Syracuse and Bryant play a wild, but weird, game in the empty Carrier Dome
Observations of Syracuse’s men’s basketball season opener against Bryant
How Syracuse Will Test Basketball Athletes For Covid, And More On These Wearable Devices
Ryan McMahon: Syracuse men’s basketball season opener can be contested; the school must now decide
Donna Ditota is a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and Syracuse.com. Do you have a comment or a story idea? Reach her at [email protected].