GREENSBORO – While the NBA has suspended its season, the fate of the remainder of the ACC Tournament is not clear in the hours after the league announced that it would not permit fans inside the Greensboro Coliseum.
“It’s a fluid situation,” said Paul Brazeau, the senior associate commissioner for ACC basketball.
The NBA announced tonight that one of its players, Utah's Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for coronavirus and that it has suspended its season "until further notice." Earlier in the day, the NCAA said it would hold its tournament in empty arenas, including games March 20 and 22 in the Greensboro Coliseum.
Brazeau said anything was possible as events continue to unfold nationwide, from decisions involving the NHL and Major League Baseball. The league is having discussions with its presidents and athletics directors.
It's also not clear how fans might be reimbursed for tickets to games they weren't permitted to attend and whether the ACC has insurance to cover losses related to such an unusual development.
Four games are scheduled for Thursday in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. The first game, between top-seeded Florida State and Clemson will start at 12:30 p.m.
If those games go on, they won’t be the same, and Matt Brown knows it.
But the manager of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex says his team will do all it can to make the best of a bad situation over the final three days.
“It’s a challenging situation,” Brown said. “So we’re looking at two areas of focus: One is the players, and the other is the fans. What can we do that’s positive?”
The ACC announced it will finish its marquee event allowing “only essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present.”
That leaves a whole lot of empty space in the Coliseum, which can accommodate more than 20,000 fans.
But the building is versatile. It’s been configured to seat anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 for UNCG men’s basketball games.
“For the players, we’re going to do what probably no one else is capable of, and that’s try to create an atmosphere that is as close as we can make it to what they would see in an arena,” Brown said. “The music will play. If the bands are there — and that’s each institution’s choice — they’ll participate. And the number of players’ family members who are allowed to come, we’re going to put them on the opposite TV side so it’ll create at least some sort of atmosphere. As normal as we can possibly make it under the circumstances.”
For the rest of the ACC Tournament, the curtains in the upper level will be lowered to close in the arena. Downstairs, the end zone seats will be covered with banners featuring the league’s logos.
“All that is done to put more emphasis on the athletes, and not empty seats,” Brown said. “It’s been a model we’ve used since the days we had (minor-league) hockey here.
“I don’t think there’s another building out there that has the reactionary capability or the thought to do this. We’re going to do everything we can to salvage the environment for the athletes.”