HUNTINGTON — Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni is running the gamut of emotions as his team gets set for the 2020-21 season to open.
As Marshall prepares for Wednesday’s 6 p.m. season opener against Coppin State, the Herd’s 73-year-old head coach said the entire scope of getting things underway is an enigma within itself.
On one hand, it feels like an eternity — more than eight months — since the team’s last game.
On the other, it feels like the preseason just started due to a pair of COVID-19 related delays within Marshall’s men’s basketball program that forced the team off the floor for two weeks at a time.
“In some ways, it feels like it’s been a long time,” D’Antoni said. “Now, all of the sudden, we’re going to play and I’m like, ‘Shoot, we’ve got a game.’ I just think it’s both emotions. It’s not just one or the other.”
D’Antoni’s routine is certainly different in the 2020-21 season.
The Mullens, West Virginia, native is a big fan or the entertainment aspect of basketball, which has made the adjustment difficult.
In normal years, he would have 40-50 guys whom he affectionately calls his “armchair coaches” on the sidelines at practices intermingling with the staff and players.
D’Antoni would also go to different activities associated with being a head coach — public appearances and other features, which killed the monotony of the practice/game routine.
“When we were ramped up before, I would have a lot more to do” D’Antoni said. “I’d go with Steve (Cotton) for the radio show and I’d have a lot more activities. Now, it seems like I’m waiting around.”
That wait is almost over for D’Antoni and the Herd as they get set for Wednesday night’s contest with Coppin State.
The Herd is coming off a 17-15 season in which they built momentum late in the year after a 2-6 start.
While D’Antoni is eager to get back on the floor, he also knows that there will be difficulties associated with his team essentially having just two of six weeks of preseason on the floor.
That is where it doesn’t feel like time yet for D’Antoni’s bunch to be taking the floor.
“It just doesn’t feel like we should be approaching a game right now,” D’Antoni said. “We haven’t been on the floor much. We’ll take it on the go, though.”
While D’Antoni knows his team is well behind other programs in terms of preparation for the 2020-21 season, that doesn’t mean he isn’t excited to see the product on the floor.
Because of the situation facing the Herd (two full weeks of preseason), D’Antoni’s main focus is energy in the early portion of the year.
With the system employed, that energy can help atone for any early mistakes in execution.
And there’s no questioning D’Antoni’s energy when it comes to the season starting.
He’s more than ready to get things tipped off this week, despite the adversity in preseason.
“I’m always eager,” D’Antoni said. “I love basketball. To me, basketball is the most fun thing to do. I don’t want to do anything else. If a lot of people had a choice, they’d go to the beach and hang out. I’d just like to go play a basketball game.”
Marshall’s 6 p.m. contest on Wednesday is the first of two this week at Cam Henderson Center for D’Antoni’s team. On Friday, the Herd returns to the floor at 6 p.m. to take on Tennessee State.