‘Bigger than basketball’: East’s Darrell Barley provides thoughts on playing with no fans due to coronavirus

Darrell Barley (center) has won seven sectional titles as the head coach at East High School. (Photo: PAUL GOTHAM)


UPDATE: The NYSPHSAA has postponed the remaining winter sports championships indefinitely.

As of Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m., East High School and the rest of Section V’s boys basketball teams playing in the Far West Regional on Saturday will do so in front of no fans due to concerns with the coronavirus. East head coach Darrell Barley provided his thoughts on the situation to Pickin’ Splinters on Thursday afternoon. The Eagles are slated to play Health Sciences of Section VI on Saturday at 7 p.m.

MORE: Section VI bans fans from Far West Regional

What were your initial thoughts when you heard that no fans would be at the regional games?

I think fans are important. They bring a lot of energy. Also we have to understand that it’s a pandemic and a lot of people are sick, and this is something that can easily spread. I guess New York state basketball and other places had to take precautions to make sure that they limit the spread of this pandemic.

Do you ever play in situations where there aren’t any fans?

We do that every (darn) practice. We scrimmage everyday. It’s not like our kids aren’t used to it, or any kid for that matter, because everyone practices. I think it will be strange. I remember when I was a younger boy, and my brother played at East High School, he might’ve been at Monroe at that point, and there was a fan ban. Only parents could go to the games, and kids were not allowed to go to the games.

So this is not anything new in Rochester to a certain extent. It’s new where this is bigger than basketball, right? Lives at stake, whoever thought the NBA and other sporting leagues would actually be shut down because of a virus? We have to take everything into account and just pray for the best. This is bigger than sports. 

Will you have to change your approach Saturday, or will you approach the game as if it’s the same as any other?

When you think about all of our games this year, if it’s a big game, it was packed, a big stage. Now, it’s probably one of the biggest stages if not the biggest of the year. I think they’re ranked No. 6, we’re ranked No. 4 in the state. There’s not gonna be a crowd that cheers you on and motivates you to make big-time plays and I think a lot of guys feed off of that.

That’s gonna be strange in itself, but both teams gotta go through it, and it could benefit us because we’re coming from Rochester to play in Buffalo, and they’d probably have more fans than what we would have, but I would love to see both teams’ student bodies there cheering their peers on. It’s unfortunate that this is happening, but this is something that’s happening around the world. 

What would your thoughts be on a potential cancellation of games?

I mean it’s nothing you can do, nothing you can do. You think about the Power 5 tournaments, you’re talking, this is a once in a lifetime chance, NCAA Tournament, once in a lifetime chance, winning a conference tournament, once in a lifetime chance, winning the NBA Finals or MVP, once in a lifetime.

This virus is having a huge impact on sporting events but also as an adult and a parent, how we carry ourselves, how we take care of ourselves economically, politically, socially. It’s a lot of huge decisions to be made in the upcoming weeks and months. So as a whole, we’ve definitely gotta get a hold of this virus, make sure it doesn’t spread and come up with a cure. Because right now, people are feeling bleak and a lot of pessimism going on not just with adults but also kids, and you can’t find hand sanitizer and Lysol spray and all those different types of things. People buying a lot of water and just hunkering down and staying in the house and not moving, but this is the environment right now. It’s strange, it’s weird.

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