Seattle University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford got to coach Thursday, but it wasn’t the kind of coaching he expected after the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournaments were canceled.
“I’m not coaching plays today, I’m coaching guys on how to handle this disappointment,” Hayford said about 45 minutes after he received the cancellation news at 9 a.m.
“We just needed to scramble and get everyone home and in some cases, that doesn’t mean Seattle, it’s getting people to be safe,” Hayford said in a phone call from Las Vegas. “It looks to me if they won’t have sporting events, they won’t have college students living together in dorms. I’ve got to take care of my guys and get them safely home.
“I was able to find flights for everyone on the team and they are going to meet me at 1o; everything is happening in real time.”
The Seattle U men (14-15, 7-7) were No. 3 seed in the tournament, their highest ever, and Hayford was confident his team was peaking at the right time. The winner of the WAC tournament gets a berth into the NCAA tournament — which was also canceled later Thursday — and accomplishing that was the team’s goal all season.
“It’s really disappointing,” Hayford said. “You work all year to get to this point and have your team ready for this point, but it’s happening all across the country and it’s not under our control. The way I try to coach my guys is to focus on everything that is under their control. And, so our season is over, and it’s not under our control.”
The season also ended for the Seattle U women (13-16, 6-9), who beat Utah Valley on Wednesday night in the first round of the WAC women’s tournament.
Players and coaches will forever wonder “what if.”
“I am heartbroken for our players, but I understand the decision,” Hayford said.