College Hoops Teams Scramble For Practice Space In Busy Big Apple
The confluence of conference basketball tournaments in and around N.Y. the past two weeks has "revived its image as a 'basketball mecca,'" but one problem is that the area "does not come with an infinite supply of indoor gyms," according to Zach Schonbrun of the N.Y. TIMES. Basketball operations personnel "called in favors, nailed down contingencies, estimated traffic patterns, and secured any court time, anywhere." A Duke spokesperson said the team "simply leaned on" Nets Assistant GM Trajan Langdon, a former Duke player, to "let them use the Nets’ practice facility." Several other ACC teams "used the Nets’ gym as well, but some squads had to scramble for whatever they can find." Virginia Tech "used Baruch College's arena on Manhattan's East Side." Columbia Univ. Facilities Manager Erich Ely said that he "started hearing from Big Ten programs four months ago." Ely still "managed to squeeze in practice time for Michigan, Iowa and Penn State last week, and then DePaul, Georgetown and Xavier this week." Columbia has "charged $500 in the past." However, Ely said that the practice had "largely gone by the wayside." Ely: "We sort of try to be an open, friendly place. We like having them here" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/8).
GARDEN PARTY: In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes nothing has been "as enduring" as the Big East's annual March occupation of MSG. It is "still a city game, after all, and nothing quite combines the glamour and grit of big-time basketball like the stage provided by that spotlit court in midtown Manhattan." Villanova coach Jay Wright said, “That’s always been one of the greatest assets of the Big East. We own it. It’s natural and authentic to the Big East.” Other conferences have "noticed that New York isn’t a bad place to get attention, of course." Wright: "I’ve learned to appreciate other (conferences) coming in. It brings more basketball excitement to New York City. When the ACC or Big Ten comes in, good for them. It might not be natural for them, but they enjoy it. It’s our home. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s who we are. When you help basketball in New York at this time of year, you’re helping the Big East" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/8).
DOUBLE DIPPING: In Texas, Brett Vito notes Conference USA is "staging its men's and women's basketball tournaments simultaneously on two temporary courts placed on what is normally a football field" in Ford Center at The Star in Frisco. C-USA is the "first league to try the setup for a conference tournament," and Commissioner Judy MacLeod is "confident the experiment will go off without a hitch." She said, "What has made me feel really good is seeing the student-athletes come in. They love it. The whole reasons we did it was to try to create something special for the players." Vito notes each court will have "seating for about approximately 2,000 in temporary bleachers." The C-USA tournament was "played the last three years in Birmingham at Legacy Arena and Bartow Arena." C-USA "moved its conference basketball tournament to Frisco with the idea of making it a destination event" (DENTON RECORD-CHRONICLE, 3/7). MacLeod: "We're kind of the guinea pig. I don't know if anyone else will try it or not." The AP's Stephen Hawkins notes the dual-court setup is "being used for the first two rounds" of the men's and women's tournaments, and fans can "go back and forth between courts." Southern Miss men's coach Doc Sadler "acknowledged being a bit wary at first, not knowing what to expect in the unusual atmosphere." Sadler: "The court was well-lit, the environment is close. I though it was a good setup" (AP, 3/8).