When Clemson head coach Brad Brownell informed his team on Thursday the 2020 ACC Basketball Tournament had been cancelled due to mounting concern over the coronavirus, the players were naturally emotional upon hearing the news.
The Tigers were previously scheduled to play Florida State at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
“There were some guys that were really down,” Brownell said following the cancellation of the tournament. “First, they were angry. A couple guys were angry, a couple guys were down. I think you start out angry, and then it kind of really hits you that for some guys, careers may be over, and this is pretty special. This is such a special tournament. Kids want to play in this. They want the opportunity to play in these kinds of meaningful games.
“So, initially, guys were upset. Then I think it turns a little bit into sadness, and it won’t be easy for these guys the next 24 to 48 hours, that’s for sure.”
After initially planning to continue the ACC Tournament without fans in attendance, the ACC joined the other Power Five leagues Thursday in cancelling their men’s basketball conference tournaments, while a number of mid-major conferences announced that their tournaments would no longer be played as well.
After learning last night the NBA had suspended its season until further notice after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus – other professional sports leagues have since followed suit in suspending operations – Brownell was not shocked when he found out the ACC Tournament was cancelled and thinks it’s the correct decision.
“I knew about the NBA cancelling late last night, one of their players testing positive, so I was kind of suspicious if we would even play today,” Brownell said. “So, it wasn’t a surprise. I think it was the right decision. The competitor in you is not happy. You want to go play and you certainly feel bad for your players, especially your seniors. This tournament just gets more special the longer you’re in it. It was already going to be unique with the way it was set up today, but I think we have to do what’s right, and what’s right is probably not to play.”
Brownell believes the cancellation of the ACC Tournament is in the best interest of his players, even if they don’t understand it right now as they deal with the disappointment of not being able to compete in a big event.
“When we recruit these kids, we promise their families that we’re going to take care of them, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Brownell said. “We try to do what’s best for your players and sometimes they don’t even know what’s best for them – we don’t always know. But I told them the same thing, ‘that guys, you’ve got to trust people in leadership positions.’ Some of you guys are fathers and are going to be fathers, and you’re going to make difficult decisions for your families that aren’t always popular. But you have to do what you think is right, and I think we’re doing what is right.”
“It’s hard, because again, we all want to play and this is a big deal,” Brownell continued. “Kids train and coaches coach all year to be in these kinds of games, and these are the best games of the year, so you hate the fact you don’t get to compete in them. But, again, you’ve got to do what’s in the best overall goodness for everybody involved.”
Brownell says he didn’t realize the severity of the coronavirus and its worldwide impact until he turned on the news Thursday morning.
“Just in the hour that I was getting ready and had the TV on, I was even surprised with some of the things they’re talking about with the coronavirus,” Brownell said. “I heard a doctor say that they think 70 million people could contract it, so that makes you kind of stand up and think what’s going on here. This is way bigger than what we think it is, and it’s rapidly changing. The Ivy League made their decision a couple days ago, I remember thinking, ‘That’s crazy, I can’t believe they did that.’ Now, it seems pretty wise.”
Brownell added prior to the tournament being cancelled, he had a conversation with Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp on Thursday morning to see if there was anybody on the team that was uncomfortable with playing amid the coronavirus concerns.
“I just asked them, I said, ‘How do you guys feel about what’s going on? Is there any of you or anybody on the team that you guys know of that you don’t think wants to play? Is anybody concerned?’ (They said), ‘Coach, we really don’t know that much about it, I think we all want to play,’” Brownell recalled. “Kids want to play, so I don’t think there was anybody on our team that had voiced any kind of big-time concern. But at the same time, you never know how somebody’s mom feels or family feels. Again, I just was worried that we’re going to feel different at seven o’clock than we did at noon. So, I’m glad — if we’re going to do it and we’re going to cancel this thing — if we were going to do it tomorrow or later, that we do it now and get these guys back to where we need to be.”
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