“It’s a busy time of year, for sure,” Hyland said.
The confluence of games in and around New York City the past two weeks has revived its image as a “basketball mecca.” The only problem is that this mecca does not come with an infinite supply of indoor gyms.
Thus, basketball operations personnel called in favors, nailed down contingencies, estimated traffic patterns, and secured any court time, anywhere. Some teams have it easy. The Duke Blue Devils, the No. 2 seed in the A.C.C., simply leaned on the former Duke star Trajan Langdon, now assistant general manager for the Brooklyn Nets, to let them use the Nets’ practice facility, according to a Duke spokesman.
Several other A.C.C. teams used the Nets’ gym as well, but some squads had to scramble for whatever they can find. Miami, the No. 3 seed in the A.C.C., practiced Tuesday at Léman Preparatory Academy, a high school in Lower Manhattan, on a court with a rock-climbing wall off to the side. Virginia Tech used Baruch College’s arena on Manhattan’s East Side, and Clemson practiced at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
Hyland heard from one team, Wake Forest, as far back as last April. But that is hardly the norm.
“Some teams will call me at 10 p.m. tonight to see if they can have a place tomorrow,” he said.
Erich Ely, the facilities manager at Columbia University, said he started hearing from Big Ten programs four months ago, when the conference wanted to declare Levien Gymnasium as its “official practice home” for the week. The problem? Columbia’s men’s basketball team was still trying to win the Ivy League, and the home team obviously gets priority.
Ely still managed to squeeze in practice time for Michigan, Iowa and Penn State last week, and then DePaul, Georgetown and Xavier this week. He took care to make sure that there were at least 15 minutes between sessions for the teams, who could wind up facing each other in their tournaments.
“We don’t want to have a Jets-and-Sharks moment when they’re passing each other in the hallway,” Ely joked.
Dan McDermott, the director of basketball operations for Boston College, said the top priority was finding a court not too far from the hotel where the team was staying. Spending hours trying to fight midday traffic for a 90-minute practice is less than ideal.
“That can kill the whole afternoon,” McDermott said.
But teams also want a certain amount of privacy. That can be hard for some gyms to deliver. Chelsea Piers, the indoor sports and entertainment complex on Manhattan’s West Side, reached out to McDermott about hosting the Eagles last year, he said. But he had concerns about the intimacy.
“I’m not sure that was actually private,” he said. “I think they would section it off.”
The gym at John Jay, known as the Doghouse, includes a balcony for spectators during games, but it is kept restricted during the times when visiting teams are practicing. The college, part of the City University of New York system, charges up to $300 per hour for teams to rent the space. Columbia has charged $500 in the past, but Ely said that practice had largely gone by the wayside.
“We sort of try to be an open, friendly place,” Ely said. “We like having them here.”
Paul Brazeau, a senior associate commissioner for the A.C.C., said the league made the court at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the tournament is being held, available on Monday for the 11 teams that had games Tuesday and Wednesday.
In most cases, he said, the teams are not looking to do particularly intensive practices.
“You’ve practiced for a hundred days already,” said Brazeau, a former University of Hartford head coach, “you’re in Game 32 or 33, and much like the N.B.A., you’re trying to stay sharp, keep your legs fresh.”
But even simple shootarounds can be an invaluable opportunity for coaches like Hyland, who said he likes to ask if the players on his Division III team can sit in to listen to what coaches like Notre Dame’s Mike Brey or Villanova’s Jay Wright are drilling their teams.
“It’s great for them to hear all these guys saying the same things we’ve been saying,” Hyland said.
The facilities will typically only have to provide water, basketballs and a working scoreboard for the visitors to feel right at home.
“These teams function at such a high level, they’re on the road all the time, they bring 99 percent of what they need,” Hyland said. “The one thing they can’t bring is a court.”
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