LOUISVILLE — Three Louisville basketball games have been postponed in the last few days due to a coronavirus outbreak in the program, and Saturday’s contest at No. 16 Virginia Tech is also in jeopardy if the Cardinals continue to be as shorthanded as they are currently.
The university announced Sunday that head coach Chris Mack had tested positive, and assistant coach Dino Gaudio said on the ACC Zoom call Monday that three players have also tested positive and others are in quarantine due to contact tracing. Names of the players weren’t revealed.
Gaudio, who is handling the team along with assistant Luke Murray in Mack’s absence, said his boss has shown mild symptoms and that he has been in touch with him.
“I talked to Chris last night and I called him on the drive in this morning to see how he was feeling,” Gaudio said. “He didn’t answer whether he was sleeping or he wasn’t, but for the most part he’s feeling pretty good.”
The Cards (11-3, 6-3) last practiced last Tuesday for Wednesday’s game at Syracuse following Monday night’s 74-58 homecourt victory over Georgia Tech. Gaudio said he hopes practice can resume on Wednesday, but if so it could be severely limited.
“Hopefully today we get a clean return on all the tests and we have no more positives,” he said “If that’s the case I believe we could practice on Wednesday. That’s not 100% certain; I’ve got to wait until (trainer) Fred Hina and our medical staff says we can do that. And even if we do practice, we will not have a full contingent of players.
“Can’t get into the specifics and names, but we have three who have tested positive and we have other players that are in quarantine with contact tracing. So we’ll just see ... we’ll know a little more tonight perhaps when we get the results back who we will have and how many we’ll have if in fact we’re able to practice on Wednesday. If we had a practice today, I’m not sure if we’d have six guys. We’re seeing how that all plays out in the next 24 to 36 hours.”
The latest game to be postponed was Wednesday’s matchup with Pittsburgh in the KFC Yum Center. That came on the heels of postponements at Syracuse and Virginia, the latter on Saturday. That trio brings U of L’s total of postponed ACC games to six, only one of which, Georgia Tech, has been made up.
Asked about the likelihood of being able to play the Hokies (14-4, 8-3) at noon Saturday in Blacksburg, Va., Gaudio said that decision will be made by athletic director Vince Tyra and will depend on what happens in regard to the virus the rest of the week.
“I’m not sure. I think to start with we’ll see where we are and see if that’s a possibility,” Gaudio said. “Right now we’re preparing as if we’re going to play the game. That’s the way we’re looking at it. Of course, it’s all contingent on what happens tonight and the next few days.”
Louisville’s coaches learned about a positive test Tuesday night in Syracuse and the game was postponed. With contact tracing two other players were sidelined. Thursday another player tested positive, and on Saturday Mack learned he was also infected.
”We’re obviously a little disappointed because we played well a week ago against Georgia Tech,” Gaudio said. “We had some guys start to emerge a little bit. David Johnson shot the ball really well from three and Sam Williamson was outstanding. “
Johnson hit 6-of-11 3-pointers en route to a career high 24 points, and also had 10 rebounds. Williamson notched career bests in both points (20) and rebounds (18).
”I told the players I’ve been able to talk to that we have a built-in excuse for poor performance right now,” Gaudio said. “But if you use that we’re making a horrible mistake. So whatever happens, how we handle this adversity will go a long way toward how we continue through this season. We’ve got to mentally handle it the right way when it rears its head like it has for us for the second time.”
Gaudio added that he thinks Mack handing over the coaching reins to him will be seamless. They were assistants together under the late Skip Prosser at Xavier and Wake Forest, and Gaudio joined Mack’s UofL staff soon after he got the Louisville job.
”Being so close to Chris, we have a very similar philosophy,” Gaudio said. “It’s funny, when I first came back three years ago all the drills we were doing were the same drills we did when we were at Xavier and Wake Forest together, so it’s very similar.
”I don’t see much deviation in any way, shape or form. With my time at ESPN (as an analyst), this is my 40th year in basketball, so I am who I am. I’ve got to coach like myself and be myself if the opportunity in fact does present itself. Coach Mack will take the lead with what we’re doing in practice, although he can’t be here. I think it will be a smooth transition.”
Mack is at least the third ACC men’s basketball coach forced to spend time away from his team, with Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Pitt’s Jeff Capel the other two coaches known to have tested positive.
”I’m grateful that teams are able to play with all the struggles that are going on,” Capel said. “Maybe I’m sounding like a Debbie Downer, but there hasn’t been joy with the season, to be honest with you. When you have a great win you enjoy that moment, but then you go back to reality, and the reality of the situation is not good.”