Casey: ‘It’s bigger than basketball. We want to do what we can for mankind’
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
Basketball coaches as a group rank among the most strong-willed sets of people anywhere on the planet. And yet in the face of a global pandemic, they’re also a group more likely to embrace the reality of the fight against it – lock, stock and barrel.
And Dwane Casey – for whom basketball has coursed through his veins for nearly all of his six-plus decades – gets it.
“Teamwork plays a big part of getting us through this,” the Pistons coach said Wednesday. “It’s sobering. My message would be to listen to our leadership. And our leadership in Gov. Whitmer and Mayor Duggan has been outstanding. We all need to do our part just like when you’re a part of a team. Everybody has a role to play and we all need to do it or else the whole team is affected – and that’s our fellow man.”
Even among team sports, basketball requires exquisite teamwork and greater sacrifice to make the gears mesh optimally. Football’s roles are regimented; there is no real sacrifice in an offensive lineman not catching or throwing passes or running for touchdowns. Baseball’s sacrifice is situational – a hitter sometimes willingly makes an out to advance a runner – but a shortstop doesn’t have to sacrifice anything to do his job well in the field.
Basketball is more fluid and interchangeable. Even superstars are asked to sublimate some parts of their game for the greater good. Coaches are the ones most directly in charge of creating the environment to make that come to life. And that’s the perspective Casey brings to the world’s fight – waged on a house-by-house front – against COVID-19.
He credits Pistons owner Tom Gores, vice chairman Arn Tellem and Ed Stefanski, senior adviser to Gores, for establishing the norms that have helped the Pistons organization through the early stages of the situation.
It hit home for them with hurricane force two weeks ago. In the span of minutes, the Pistons learned that Rudy Gobert – against whom they’d played four days earlier – had tested positive, that the NBA season was suspended and that as a result of their exposure to Gobert they would need to self-quarantine for 10 additional days. The quarantine was extended by four days when one of their own players subsequently tested positive, but everyone is doing well, Casey said.
For Casey, that meant spending a few nights in an area hotel so that his children could continue to attend school. Since schools were shuttered, Casey has lived in the lower level of the family home, away from his wife and children. With the self-quarantine now expired, he’s most looking forward to family time.
With players – many of them without any family around – self-quaratined in their homes, Gores made sure they were well-fed, having the team’s partner in the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center, Plum Market, deliver food. Henry Ford’s medical personnel, Casey said, have collaborated with Pistons training staffers to make certain everyone under self-quarantine had help and information readily available.
“Our team doctors from Henry Ford have been unbelievable. Arn and Ed and our front office have done a great job keeping people connected. I’ve stayed connected to our coaches and our players. From top to bottom, that helps in times like these. A lot of our players are alone. It’s tough being isolated. It’s important having that connection with each other. Tom providing meals to keep them healthy and well-nourished meant a lot to them and to us.”
All 30 team training facilities have been locked down by NBA edict and players have been discouraged from using outside training facilities even in areas where they remain open. No one knows when the NBA season might resume and while that affects no one more than those directly involved, Casey is 100 percent on board with keeping the finger on the pause button until the pandemic is fully contained.
“I’d much rather be playing for our fans and I know our players would, too,” Casey said. “But there’s a bigger picture. It’s something bigger than basketball. We want to do what we can for mankind and be a gatekeeper for what needs to be done.”