January 29, 2008
BLACKSBURG About 14 hours after his team lost 81-64 at home to Duke on Jan. 24, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was on a bus with his team headed to the Roanoke airport. They had a game to play at Boston College the following afternoon.
So much for preparation time. So much for rest and relaxation in between games. In the ACC, time waits for no one, especially on weeks when teams must play a home game on a Thursday evening and travel the next day for a Saturday afternoon road game against a team that didn't have to play Thursday night.
It's one of the most ill-conceived aspects of ACC basketball scheduling, and Tech isn't the only program that must deal with it. After his team's victory at Tech, even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski empathized with the Hokies.
"I feel bad for them in that I don't know how we do the scheduling in the ACC," Krzyzewski said. "For them to do a quick turnaround and go up 36 hours and play again when the other team doesn't play, that should never happen in our league. That's not a good thing."
Despite the difficulties associated with having to step off one court and travel to play a critical conference game on a hostile court (think lack of preparation and rest, less time to concentrate on academics, etc.), Greenberg's teams somehow have managed to keep from suffering under the circumstances.
After the Duke loss, Tech traveled to BC and came away with a surprising 81-73 overtime win without freshman forward Jeff Allen, who was serving the second of an ACC-mandated two-game suspension for bumping an official Jan. 19 in Virginia Tech's 81-70 loss at Georgia Tech.
In January 2007, the Hokies had to deal with the same kind of absurd one-day conference turnaround, but they came out of it with a pair of wins, at home against Maryland (in overtime) and on the road against Miami.
Greenberg's philosophy on the quick turnaround is to forget about it. In his mind, it's not that big of a deal. At least, that's what he told the media before the BC game.
"It's not difficult at all," Greenberg said. "It's not an issue. ... That's what the schedule says, and that's when we're going to play. That's just the reality. In the NBA, they do it every day. They get on a plane, they fly to the next city and go out and try to win a game.
"If you want to make it an issue, you can make it an issue, but there's a lot of issues out there. ... We've got all these freshmen. They play two games in a day in the summer in AAU ball. They don't make that an excuse."
Regardless of Greenberg's reaction, there are better ways of doing things. In the final five weeks of the season, Virginia, Florida State and Wake Forest have to work with the same kind of scheduling once each. Georgia Tech has to do it twice in the last three weeks of the season. BC also has to do it once, but at least its Saturday game is in the evening after a Thursday evening game.
Here's the easiest way to handle it: play more Sunday afternoon games. Long ago, Sundays stopped being days of rest for the ACC. The ACC already plays one to three games on Sundays. Why not play more Sunday games, to avoid the Thursday home-Saturday road turnaround for some teams?
If the ACC insists on keeping the Thursday-Saturday scenario, make both teams involved in the Saturday game also play on Thursday night (preferably, the home team for the Saturday game should play on the road Thursday night).
It seems so simple, but maybe that's the problem. It just makes too much sense.
GREENBERG SEEKS STUDENT HELP
In the Jan. 16 issue of the Collegiate Times student newspaper at Virginia Tech, a letter was published from Greenberg's desk directed toward the students. He implored them to come out to Tech's Jan. 24 home game against Duke.
It wasn't a one-time shot. In college basketball coaching circles, Greenberg would be considered a prolific writer.
He said he has a letter published in the student paper before nearly every home game. Each letter is unique, but each one also carries a general message of just how important student support is to the success of the program.
"When something is important to you, you make time for it," Greenberg said. "Those students are very important to me. Those students are very important to build this program. ... We've got 27,000 students on this campus in a college town. If I don't include them in what we're doing, it's foolish.
"I'm probably the anti-ACC coach. I say what I think. I believe what I say. I think I know what it takes for us to build a program here. That's the only thing that really concerns me, and doing it the right way. Part of doing it the right way is getting ownership from our students and our community and building a captive audience."
In Greenberg's opinion, it's all part of growing the basketball culture on what is still a fledgling ACC campus with a serious bent toward football, a sport Greenberg supports and has applauded for being a huge recruiting tool for his basketball program at Tech.
"I want to keep the students in tune and let them know I appreciate them and that they have ownership," Greenberg said. "Their support is not going unrecognized and it's a value."
He said he didn't get the idea from any other coach. It's just something he thought would provide a bit of a personal touch. He didn't need any advice on how to get the letter started because he didn't want any.
"I don't live my life to other's expectations," Greenberg said. "I go to the beat of my own drum. I don't do what other people think I should do. I do what I think is in the best interest of our program."