Earlier this week, the most influential coach in college basketball, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, raised the question of whether the season should even be continuing amid the worsening pandemic. His concerns, made a few days before Duke canceled its remaining nonconference schedule, were well-rooted and well-reasoned: The U.S. on Wednesday experienced more than 3,000 deaths in a 24-hour period, and disruptions in the sports calendar have been a mainstay, especially in college basketball since the season began two weeks ago.
But Alabama coach Nate Oats on Thursday questioned Krzyzewski’s sincerity of those concerns in a press conference, saying, «We should 100% be playing basketball,» while adding that Duke’s slow start to the season may have had something to do with the Hall of Famer expressing his concerns.
«Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost the two nonconference games at home he’d still be saying that?» Oats asked reporters. «I think we’d have a whole lot more problems if we weren’t playing games.»
Duke is 2-2 on the season after taking losses at home to Michigan State and Illinois in December, its worst start to a season in more than two decades. But Krzyzewski’s concerns of pushing forward are related not just to the overall health of players and staffers, as he said earlier this week, but also the planning of the season and how it may unfold.
«We’re just plowing through this,» Krzyzewski said via ESPN.com. «People are saying the next six weeks are going to be the worst. 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?»
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As for Oats, who has contracted and already recovered from COVID-19, he feels it should be full-steam ahead.
«Like, what are these guys gonna do? I’ve got three daughters, they need to be in school,» Oats said. «Humans aren’t made to sit alone in isolation for weeks and weeks on end. We gotta be careful on how we do life, but you still gotta do life. A huge part of life for these guys that I’m coaching is being in the gym playing basketball.»