No one is real fond of the type of weather we experienced this week. Ice, sleet, snow, wind and arctic cold all took place in a course of 24 hours. That’s not entirely true. I know my son was overjoyed to get an extra day out of school. I don’t think he was the only one.
One group of people that really didn’t like how the bad weather affected them was basketball coaches. Coaches are creatures of habit. Once the Northwest’s men’s and women’s basketball teams get into conference play, it means a three days of practice, a Thursday game, another day of practice, and a Saturday game. Most coaches take Sunday off and so it goes until March.
That won’t happen this week. Central Missouri couldn’t make it to Maryville for Thursday’s game. All of a sudden, the routine is all out of whack. It means games Saturday, Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Then to throw things off even more, the rival week with only one game comes next.
That may not seem like a big deal to the normal fan but to a coach, it’s a real dilemma. Getting into that routine, that good groove is what all coaches hope to accomplish. The dog days of basketball are approaching. Things get complicated.
I’m not sure if it was a snow day that affected this, but one year Emporia was supposed to play the Wednesday game in Maryville. We were then to travel to Central Missouri on Saturday.
Emporia was going to be tough anyway. They were a top 10 team and beat us by double digits. We didn’t play great but I had a team that I never knew what to expect.
We actually headed to Central on Friday, practiced in Warrensburg that evening and played Saturday afternoon. I don’t know why but saying the routine was busted was as good of excuse as I could find.
Two weeks earlier, we had pounded the Jennies, leading by 28 points at halftime. At Warrensburg, it was much worse at halftime, but we were on the short end of the score. The onslaught continued until we had been defeated by over 40 points. Dave Slifer, the Central coach, even tried not to run up the score, but it was hard considering how bad we played.
I told my assistant to make sure I wasn’t napping under a bus tire when we headed home that night. I have never felt like such a failure as a coach. As a footnote, that team was one of my three teams to win a MIAA Tournament Championship. I guess routine was everything.
When at Doane College, we spent a Thanksgiving Weekend playing a tournament in Butte, Montana. The weather was fantastic until just as we were leaving after our Sunday game.
We had driven college vans to Butte for the games. Our goal that night was to reach Sheridan, Wyoming, then on to Denver for a Monday game. The snow hit as we tried to cross the Continental Divide as we entered Montana. We should have reached Sheridan by 10 pm, but it was 2 am when we limped into the hotel parking lot.
Things looked better for Monday. If we left at 8 am, we should make Denver a couple of hours before game time. The weather report said clear and windy. I wasn’t worried but I should have noted the windy part.
It turned out to be the worse ground blizzard I had ever seen. We spent hours traveling at 30 miles per hour on an interstate. We stopped for a quick drive through pre-game and got to the gym 20 minutes before game time.
Colorado Christian did not live up to their name. They showed no sympathy and made us start at the scheduled game time. It just so happened I had a player hit the first five shots of the game, all threes, and we led 15 – 0. We barely hung on to win and actually drove halfway home before collapsing at a hotel in North Platte, Nebraska.
I spent 15 years driving vans in all kinds of winter conditions at Doane College. I have no idea how I managed not to kill my team or myself. At Northwest, the poor bus drivers had to make the tough decisions on road conditions.
The one situation I remember the most is when Doug Rush was the bus driver on a Saturday trip to Bolivar for games with Southwest Baptist. It was clear going down but we knew there could be trouble coming back.
By the time we left the gym, there was a sheet of ice on the roads. Doug drove white-knuckled to Clinton. We stopped to eat and evaluate the road at Clinton. A teenager was doing figure eights in the store parking lot.
I have no idea why, but Doug decided to give it a try. Personally, I would have hit a near-by hotel. Luckily, within 15 miles, we ran out of ice. Doug had the right premonition.
Sam, my son, may have enjoyed his day off on Thursday. I’ll bet there wasn’t a basketball coach in Maryville that felt the same.