Ohio head coach Bob Boldon knew the team’s depth would be tested coming into the season. COVID-19 could rule out any of his players for any number of games. Boldon himself missed a game when he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this season.
The pandemic struck again as Ohio had to play without two of its assistant coaches, Tavares Jackson and Marwan Miller, in its 74-52 win over Western Michigan on Saturday afternoon in The Convo.
Despite being without two coaches, the Bobcats didn’t miss a beat. They still dominated an inferior team, outscoring the Broncos by 22 in the second half. What they missed was the energy and the trademark slogans that Jackson and Miller usually yell out onto the court.
“Marwan and coach Jack bring a lot of energy, and we know they’re there in spirit,” senior guard Gabby Burris said. “Jokingly as players we will say the ‘familiar quotes’ that they say almost every game.”
The Ohio players filled the gap left by their coaches by repeating the slogans themselves. Players said “Don’t be soft!” to each other instead of having it told to them by Miller. In replacement of Jackson, the players yelled to keep up with CeCe Hooks on the fast break and to get the rebound.
While their voices could be replicated, their presence couldn’t. Boldon missed the little things from Jackson, who he has been coaching with for over a decade. On most gamedays, Jackson and Boldon stand together and talk during the pregame introductions. On Saturday, Boldon stood alone in what he described as a “weird situation.”
“From Tavares’ standpoint, three years at Youngstown, this is our eighth year at Ohio, I haven’t coached a game without him beside me in a decade,” Boldon said. “It’s strange the little things you rely on from people that maybe you don’t realize.”
This might be the only season that a head coach would have to go without his assistants. Normally, injuries and other factors can hamper a team’s depth of players, but coaching is something that is usually stable. Adjusting to uncertain circumstances like that has become a vital aspect that can make a team go from good to great.
Of course, being able to play at all is something that the players and coaches are grateful for.
“I think the bottom line is that we’re happy that we’re playing a basketball game,” Boldon said. “We would play under any circumstances. They played a game without me, and I was 100% on board with it because I think the kids have to play. I think it’s the only sense of normalcy these kids are getting.”
This sense of normalcy is conditional, though, as seen by the men’s basketball team that has been sidelined for two weeks thanks to COVID-related issues.
As the Bobcats continue their unconventional season, they will look to put their team back together. Ohio will stay at home to play Northern Illinois on Wednesday, hopefully with a full coaching staff.
The team is also awaiting the return of Erica Johnson, who has been out the last four games with a knee injury.