While Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski thinks college basketball might want to reassess where the game is during the COVID-19 pandemic, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell does not see it the same way.
Following his team’s 67-51 victory over Maryland on Wednesday Brownell said he respects Krzyzewski’s position and understands why he feels the way he does with everything that is going on. However, Brownell feels taking the games away from the student-athletes could potentially be more detrimental to their mental wellbeing than anything they are going through right now with the coronavirus and all the protocols surrounding them in order to play.
“I think the kids want to play. I think kids really want to play,” Brownell said. “I think it would be even harder on them if we were doing all of this with no basketball and no games. I think it could be crushing to guys.”
On Tuesday, following the Blue Devils’ loss to Illinois, Krzyzewski said he was concerned if college basketball was doing the right thing by “plowing through” the season in the midst of huge COVID-19 spikes all across the country.
COVID outbreaks caused the cancellation of three games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and many more games throughout the college landscape as some programs paused for a while.
“People are saying the next six weeks are going to be the worst,” Krzyzewski said to reporters after the game on Tuesday. “To me, it’s already pretty bad. On the other side of it, there are these vaccines that are coming out. By the end of the month, 20 million vaccine shots will be given. By the end of January or in February, another 100 million. Should we not reassess that? See just what would be best?”
In his opinion, Brownell does not agree with Krzyzewski.
“They are not going to class. They are taking classes online. They really have no social life,” the Clemson coach said about what his players are doing right now. “There is no college experience as you know it. Their only outlet is to come to the gym and practice and to shoot and to see their buddies a little bit and get excited about trying to be a part of a team and try to go compete and win games.
“So, I don’t know if it would be better.”
In the long run, Brownell says no one wants to put their players in jeopardy, and he understands the health situation in America is not very good at the moment and that it is likely going to get worse as the holiday season approaches.
“We are all concerned about it, but I would be concerned about my players and where they will be mentally if they did not have basketball right now,” Brownell said. “I don’t think some of them would be doing as well as they are doing, whether it is how they are doing in life or how they are doing in school.
“That interaction they get from their team and having something to point to gives them a lot of direction and purpose to their life.”
Brownell said he is hopeful they keep playing basketball, though he is extremely nervous how fast COVID can come through and wreck a program in a shot amount of time.
“If something happens to our team and we get in a tough spot, maybe I will feel differently,” he said. “I hope that does not happen. Obviously, any team that has to deal with a pause and depending on the severity of it, it can wreck you. In a lot of different ways. Not just missing a couple of games. Your team could lose some spirit and it could be hard to get them back. So, this is a really hard year to coach. No doubt about it.”
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