PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JUNE 16
By Leo Haggerty

BULLS HOOPS TALK – PART 1

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

I want to personally thank Jay D’Abramo, University of South Florida Associate Director of Communications for Men’s Basketball, and Mike Hogan, University of South Florida Associate Director of Communications for Women’s Basketball, for making available to the media both of the Bulls basketball coaches.  Both Jose Fernandez and Brian Gregory meet with the Fourth Estate for as long as the correspondents in attendance had questions and I want to thank them as well as all the USF personnel who brought this to fruition.  Much appreciated as least from my end.

As usual, I snuck in a few questions of both head honchos.  So, ladies first which means we’ll start with Coach Fernandez and will follow with Coach Gregory later in the week.

His answers to my questions are below and some of them are definitely thought provoking.  Enjoy.

LH : We all know that kids want to play.  How much of a problem is it dealing with parents because this is their most precious commodity?

JF : I think, when you look at this from a youth level and a high school level as well as a travel basketball level, that’s what’s going on right now.  The last two weekends they had two big travel tournaments.  I think Florida was one of the first states that opened up to all the youth sports.  Really, it’s all about communications.  I have a very good staff and we’ve been in communication with parents to answer any questions that they may have and so forth.

LH : The southern school aren’t the problems.  If you’re dealing with a Temple or another northern school that really having a problem with Covid-19, do you expect some changes in scheduling?

JF : I don’t know.  I think we’ve had between 1,300 and 1,400 cases in Florida over the past few days.  That seems to be a problem.  As far as scheduling or anything, right now our non-conference schedule is set.  We haven’t had any games dropped.  I know the tournament where we are playing in the Bahamas, The Battle of Atlantis and it’s the first time that they’re doing the Battle of Atlantis for women, will be played one week and the men will play the week after.  How will that be handled? Travelling outside the United States, and if that ban is still up, we would have to quarantine for 14 days and then we couldn’t play for two weeks.  So, I think there are some questions there to be answered as well.  I think we have a very attractive schedule.  We have Texas on the road and Mississippi State and Baylor at home.  We go to VCU so I’m really excited about November and December.  The matrix for the league has already come out but, as far as when we play in January and February, those dates haven’t been determined yet.  We do know who we play twice and who we play once in the league schedule.

LH : March has been like an automatic thing for you guys lately being in the tournament.  How much of a down was it for you and your team to not even being able to play?

JF : It was bad but I really feel for our men’s team.  They didn’t even get a chance to play in the conference tournament and they were up there already. It’s tough.  You play the whole season, and then finish the way that we did, I still think we had a lot of basketball left to play. It was definitely not the tournament that we were used to playing in but we still had something to play for.  There’s only two teams that finish, at the end of the year, with a win and that’s the NCAA champion and the NIT champion.  That was tough because our kids were really excited and we had a young team with a lot of kids coming back.  You want to give them a taste of the post season.  Ok, so this isn’t the tournament that were suppose to be playing in. It’s a lot different in the way that you travel and the media and other things.  I think sports got moved to the side, as it should be, because in the United States alone we’ve lost around 115,000 people.  That’s an unbelievable number.  I think everything that we did, from a protection standpoint around the country, was the right thing to do.

LH : I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Coach Arians.  In your program, you’re the most susceptible to getting Covid-19.  What are you doing to stay safe?

JF : Me being susceptible to catching it?  Do I look older than 48? My wife and I just haven’t gone out much.  I can tell you one thing.  Home Depot and Lowe’s are not hurting that’s for sure.  When we do go out of the house, we have to wear masks.  Our daughter lives with us and works at Publix.  Since it’s opened back up, we’ve been to three or four restaurants.  So, there’s been a change.  There’s been a huge change in the way people are living their life as far as how we try to stay busy at home.  How we communicated.  How we shop.  How we have changed as consumers and feed at home.  I have plenty of masks.  I have masks in my car.  We have hand sanitizer in the car.  My wife is tasking very good care of me.

LH : Have you gained weight or lost weight?

JF : I’ve lost weight.  I’ve lost 20 pounds.  No, 21.  I was at 200 and now I’m at 178.