By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — Just a few minutes after Georgia beat Mississippi 81-63 in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament here Wednesday night, Georgia coach Tom Crean and his players learned that the SEC announced during the game that fans would not be allowed in the rest of the tournament due to the coronavirus outbreak.
That means Georgia will only have family members at Thursday’s game when it plays Florida.
Georgia coach Tom Crean had almost no time to think about how to respond to the situation when he was the first coach asked about it after the SEC banned fans.
Here’s what he said word for word for you:
Q. As a coach, what is your reaction to all that’s happened today?
TOM CREAN: Well, it really doesn’t matter in the sense of how disappointed you would be for people being able to see it, to travel. I cannot begin to describe what’s going on in our world right now with this Coronavirus. There’s a lot of people making decisions that can. That’s what you have to do. You have to trust the people that have the knowledge and are getting all the information that they have.
“I read a great story, a great interview, with Mr. Gottlieb today in the USA Today. I never met the man. I learned a lot just reading the story. There’s so much information that we have to try to decipher as people out here in the public, and it’s not even close to what the people behind closed doors have to be able to determine.
“There’s no way that you can do anything but trust the judgment of those people, participate the way they want you to participate, be thankful that you have a chance, and continue to trust that they know what’s best. That’s exactly how I look at it. That’s exactly what I would say to my team. We just didn’t know when we walked in here that they have stopped it for tomorrow.”
Q. You have a really young team. You had to educate these guys. That’s part of your job. What did you tell them as far as trying to put them at ease, trying to keep them comfortable amid —
TOM CREAN: “With the Coronavirus?”
TOM CREAN: “Like coaching, you have to keep giving them reminders. You have to remind them about cleanliness, the hand wipes. We had all those things in our locker room long before this Coronavirus has jumped into where it’s at. Now we try to intensify it even more.
“I think it’s just an educational process. You give them every bit of working knowledge that you can give them. You don’t inundate them with things that aren’t really going to register.
“But the bottom line is, I think when the level of seriousness of this, you’ve got to have a maturity level in you that says, I better listen to everything that’s being said because this obviously is for real. It’s the new normal right now. We’ve got to be able to deal with it.
“That’s exactly what I will tell them again tonight, right? All we can do is keep taking care of ourselves and each other in the best possible way, trust what people are doing to make these decisions.
Q. You addressed this, but you played in Gainesville, crazy crowd. You play tomorrow almost no crowd.
TOM CREAN: “Does my wife get to come (smiling)?”
Q. Yes, she’s allowed.
TOM CREAN: “Families are going to have to bring it, right?
“It is what it is. We’re at a disadvantage because we haven’t done a closed scrimmage since I’ve been at Georgia. We’ve been playing exhibitions either at UAB or at Charlotte. If Florida did a closed scrimmage, they’ll have the advantage tomorrow. That’s one of the coaches said today is, all it is is the closed scrimmage in the preseason.
“But, no, this is such a serious situation, whatever gets canceled and whatever gets postponed, whatever gets put away, the people that are making these decisions, they know what they’re doing. We just have to trust it. You take the hand that’s dealt.
“We’ll come out here tomorrow, we’re very thankful that we’re playing. We’re grateful we’re in an environment like this. It’s such a first-class operation, it’s Bridgestone, the people here, certainly what Commissioner Sankey does with his entire staff, it’s completely first class, completely.
“That’s the focus. We earned the win tonight. Let’s go play Florida. Let’s not focus on what’s not there, let’s focus on what we have to do because that’s what we can control anyway.”