Like a bag of switches or a lump of coal, a positive COVID-19 test is not what you want for Christmas.
East Carolina basketball coach Joe Dooley has had a unique holiday, spending time with his household family and his basketball family.
“Just keeping busy,” Dooley said. “We had a lot of guys in town, just making sure they had stuff to do. It was a little different, but something is better than nothing.”
Dooley’s son, Max, was at practice at John Paul II in Greenville while his dad was conducting a news conference via Zoom on Thursday. The younger Dooley, a junior, is averaging 10.8 points in a 3-4 start for the Saints.
The Pirates have been good, as a 7-1 record would indicate, but it was like the Grinch was waiting on them after a respite following a 68-58 home win over Tulane on Dec. 22.
“We were off the 23rd, 24th, 25th,” Dooley said. “The first order of duty was to get tested on the 26th. We did the antigen test. The antigen test came back positive, so we held the young man out. We retested the antigen and had a PCR. We all had a PCR. You don’t get the PCRs back until a little bit later. The PCR confirmed it so from there it was just follow what our medical people tell us. We had a game plan. That’s what we’ve done.”
The player who tested positive has been in quarantine. A game at Wichita State on Wednesday was postponed.
Home court situation
Because attendance is restricted, the home court advantage is not as pronounced at present. Dooley shared some thoughts in that regard.
“How does it affect energy?” Dooley said. “I think some places it’s neutralized some things. You’re still shooting on the rims that you’re more familiar with. You know where the court has a dead spot. You know the surroundings and depth perception a little bit better. You’re sleeping in your own bed.
“I do think it’s a little bit different playing somewhere with 1,800 fans as opposed to 18,000. That’s a little bit different, but I think good teams find a way to win at home whether there’s 18,000 or 18 in the crowd. The good programs are still dominant at home.”
Jayden Gardner and J.J. Miles have dealt with ailments in recent games but the ECU roster is generally healthy.
“We’re pretty good,” Dooley said. “We’re like everybody. There are some guys we have to limit some things in practice. If we try to do two-a-days, they’re probably limited to one of the practices. We’ve got some guys who can only do a certain amount of time. … That’s nothing different than non-COVID times.”
Charter to New Orleans
The Pirates will be in and out of New Orleans for a Saturday game at 2 p.m. with Tulane, thanks to charter travel.
“We’ve flipped one of the deals and we’re going to charter because of the timing of the deal,” Dooley said. “We’ll go commercial on another flight in about a month. We sort of flipped what was going to be a commercial flight. Jon (Gilbert, athletic director) and Ryan (Robinson, executive associate AD for external operations) and us, we discussed it. With the Sugar Bowl there and the amount of traffic going through an airport, this might be a little bit better time to charter.
“Then, one of the trips later in the year, we’ll flip it to a commercial.”
First Tulane game
Gardner had 21 points, including 17 in the second half, with 10 rebounds in the first game with the Green Wave. Dooley has studied that tape.
“Watched the tape and watched (Tulane) against Memphis,” Dooley said. “And some of the previous games. They played Grambling right after Memphis. They’re very creative offensively with their perimeter guys dribbling the ball. They can take tough shots. They’re good off the dribble creating shots for themselves. Obviously, you have to rebound a lot of long rebounds. They shoot 26 threes a game so we’ve got to be ready to contest and rebound a lot of 3-point attempts. ”
Practice focus today
ECU has a practice this morning.
“We won’t go very long,” Dooley said. “We’ll defend Tulane. We’ll go with some stuff against what they do defensively. We’ll work for 30 to 40 minutes on some of the things that we do on a daily basis. We get down to (New Orleans) around mid-afternoon, I think around four o’clock and then we’re going to go over to Tulane. Since it’s an early game, we won’t get to shoot. We’re going to go over and shoot free throws, I believe at their arena at six o’clock, for about 30 minutes.
“Then it’s back to the hotel and eat, put their feet up. Then we get up and tee it up on Saturday afternoon.”
How many scholarships the Pirates have for the next recruiting class is yet to be determined.
“I think we’re always recruiting,” Dooley said. “We’d like to keep the nucleus of guys together. We do have some seniors that we’ll have conversations with about whether they’re going to come back next year. That affects the numbers, although they don’t count. I don’t want to have 17 guys. I don’t think that will make anybody happy, the players or our staff.
“I think we’ll continue to recruit. I think there are some things we would like to address, but I also feel good with the guys that we have,”
What’s important for ECU as far as getting to 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference?
“Defending and taking care of the ball,” Dooley said. “Not giving up easy baskets either way, us giving up transition baskets because we turned it over or took a bad shot.
“And I do think if we can get some easy baskets because we rebound the ball. I didn’t think we got as many easy baskets as I would have liked last time because I didn’t think we rebounded the ball as well as we should’ve.”