Itâ€™s been just three days since the CIAC shook the state with the cancelation of all remaining winter state tournament games, ending the season just 12 hours after first-round matchups in boys basketball and boys ice hockey had been played.
When CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini addressed the media on Tuesday morning, he acknowledged how unprecedented the move appeared to be, at least on the surface, but also expressed the possibility that the necessity of such a move might seem like a more appropriate course of action in the near future.
â€śWe donâ€™t know how this is going to impact us within Connecticut,â€ť Lungarini said on Tuesday. â€śWhat may seem as a very bold and unprecedented move right now, by the end of today or tomorrow may very well be the direction that comes, depending on how many more cases are confirmed within Connecticut.â€ť
Turns out, Lungarini was onto something.
Late Wednesday night, long after hundreds of student-athletes and coaches gathered in protest outside of the CIAC, and long after the vast majority of local athletes and coaches expressed their displeasure over the CIACâ€™s decision, the NBA shook the sporting world with its decision to suspend the 2019-20 season indefinitely, as a result of Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19. Within hours, MLB had delayed its season and canceled spring training, NHL and MLS had suspended play, and the NCAA canceled winter and spring championships, including March Madness.
In central Connecticut, the rapidly evolving news around the sports world offered local coaches and athletes an opportunity to look at the CIACâ€™s decision through a new lens, as the decision to cancel state tournaments seemed more like the first of many rather than an infuriating anomaly.
â€śWe've got to accept it,â€ť Southington boys basketball head coach John Cessario said. â€śIt looked like the CIAC had a little bit of a crystal ball. Maybe they talked with NCAA personnel, I don't know. We're looking at things that can change minute to minute. What we're experiencing is well beyond anything that we can look at from a high school basketball standpoint. This is life.â€ť
In New Britain, boys basketball head coach Kurt Reis was angry, to say the least, after hearing Tuesdayâ€™s news, but recent developments have caused that boil to drop to a simmer.
â€śYeah, to some extent,â€ť Reis said when asked if his outlook on the decision had turned to a more understanding scope. â€śI don't think on Tuesday, when they made the announcement, that the NBA would suspend the season and all of the conference tournaments would be cancelled.â€ť
Goodwin Tech girls basketball had been eliminated in the first round of the Class M state tournament, but the boys team was supposed to host RHAM on Tuesday night and never got that chance. The Gladiators were one of many teams that ended their season without playing a state tournament game, but as the coronavirus continues to spread, even to professional athletes, the severity of the situation is leading to coaches taking another look at the justification of the CIACâ€™s decision.
â€śI think people have come to realize that maybe it was the right decision,â€ť Goodwin Tech girls basketball assistant coach and athletic director Joe Granja said. â€śIt wasn't one that a lot of people liked and I feel bad for all of the seniors that didn't get to finish their career on their note, but it's uncharted territory, and decisions are coming day by day. Nobody expected any of this.â€ť
The CIACâ€™s decision to cancel state tournaments was shocking, at least in the moment. At the time, states like New York, with a far greater number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, were still continuing with their high school tournaments, and no professional sports were rumored to be postponing. Thatâ€™s all changed, and so has the outlook of many local coaches, though the disappointment of what it means still lingers.
â€śWe've never shifted away from the impact that this pandemic has had on our seniors,â€ť Cessario said. â€śI don't think thatâ€™s every going to leave me. But with everything that has happened both internationally and domestically, we're looking at something that nobody has ever seen before. I appreciate people expressing their frustrations, but we have to take all of this with an open mind.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com