Without basketball in his life, Joe David said there is plenty to do.
“Get an early start on my golf game. The yards needs a lot of work,” said the Mt. Lebanon boys basketball coach.
“Fortunately, I also have the office,” added David, who owns David Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Center in Mt. Lebanon. “So I look forward to spending more time with my patients.”
Chartiers Valley girls coach Tim McConnell and Bethel Park girls coach Jonna Burke, however, don’t have that luxury.
Aside from coaching, they are full-time employees of school districts, which, like the rest of Pennsylvania, are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation.
“Absolutely,” said McConnell. “Other than Christmas, this is my favorite time of year. I love the NCAA tournament. Filling out my brackets and watching the games with my buddies. Now, I don’t even have that.”
The PIAA suspended its tournament because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The PIAA offices are closed until at least March 30.
“If I had to guess, they’ll cancel the whole thing,” McConnell said of the state postseason.
David agreed with McConnell’s sentiment.
“If I were a betting man, my guess would be we will not play,” he said.
Burke said she also doesn’t have a good feeling about a possible resumption of play this season.
“If the NBA,NHL, MLB and NCAA are shutting everything down for a month or possibly longer, it doesn’t give me great hope that the PIAA will have much of choice not to do the same unfortunately,” she said.
Char Valley set a WPIAL record of 57th straight victories when it won a PIAA Class 5A tournament game before the postseason was suspended.
BP, likewise, had reached the quarterfinals while Mt. Lebanon still had to play its second round contest.
Lebo takes the lead
Mt. Lebanon was scheduled to play Cheltenham March 11 at Chambersburg, but the game was postponed.
Cheltenham is located in Montgomery County near Philadelphia. The school had been closed earlier in the week for disinfecting because a school parent was a caregiver to a patient who was a presumptive positive COVID-19 patient.
When Mt. Lebanon sought advise from the county health department, it was encouraged to stay home.
“When the health department tells you that you shouldn’t go, you don’t get on the bus,” said Lebo athletic director John Grogan. “At the end of the day, the health and well-being of our students, staff and community are of the utmost importance to us.”
David said he understood why the playoffs were suspended.
“We wanted to play, but we also wanted to keep everybody safe,” he said. “I think the administration did a great job of stating our cause. John (Grogan) has been a huge advocate of our program and Dr. (Timothy) Steinhauer believed our fight was right. It’s a wonderful thing to have such support.”
The last hurrah
There are four seniors on the Black Hawks’ roster: Lauren Mullen, Maddie Dziezgowski, Mallory Locke and Juliana Carbone.
Lebo boasts seven seniors, including Evan Jones, Blaine Gartley, Danny Simboro, Joe King, Andy Sapp, Jake Hoffman and Thomas Peters.
Mt. Lebanon graduate Sean Loughran, now at the University of Dayton, was also poised to take part in the NCAA tournament.
“I feel for the seniors across the board,” David said. “It would have been nice for Sean to experience that atmosphere. I’m sorry his season is over and I feel for my current seniors if their season ends like this.”
The Colts have two seniors: Amaleen Malcolm and Megan McConnell, who is the daughter of CV’s head coach.
“We were eating dinner the other night and Megan said ‘I surely hope I haven’t played my last high school game.’ That’s when it hit me,” McConnell said. “While she had a great game, we want to continue. We had a good chance to go back to Hershey and defend our state championship and now that may not happen.”
What is certain now that the schools have shut down, is there are no facilities for teams to practice. Initially, coaches planned to practice until they no longer were allowed. Few had contingency programs.
“I don’t know how you can resume in two weeks when he schools are shut down and you have no place to practice,” McConnell said. “You always can practice on your own. I know I will work out my daughter.”
David said players can always improve. They can step back to the fundamentals, concentrate on their shooting form and do drills.
“You can get better in a couple of weeks if you work hard,” he said. “If you continue on, then you put yourself in a good place to be successful. That works in life as well.”
Right now, however, high school teams across the United States remain in a holding pattern.
“It’s wait and see what happens,” McConnell said. “We await a decision then go from there. But for now, I feel like I’m in a movie with no good ending.”