You want a little COVID college hoops tale, mixed in with some Philly hoops, Wagner men’s assistant Bobby Jordan has one for you.
“Crazy, crazy last couple of weeks for our program,” Jordan said over the phone Thursday morning as he drove back up to his office on Staten Island from his home in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.
This was the morning after Jordan had acted as a college head coach for the first time. Jordan assumed the role since Wagner head coach Bashir Mason was in the last day of a 10-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID. In recent days, Jordan had to run practice too.
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“What was crazy, I was actually in practice playing as well,” Jordan said. “I was the point guard on our second string. It reminded me of our last year at Drexel when so many guys were hurt.”
Being on the sidelines at college basketball games isn’t new to Jordan. He’d had that job at Drexel under Bruiser Flint after playing for the Dragons. Being a head coach isn’t new either. He’d done it at prep school Girard College in Philadelphia, IMG Academy in Florida and for various Team Final travel teams along the way.
Facing Seton Hall …
“I’ll say this, the game went a lot faster, going at a Big East team,” Jordan said. “Those 7-0 runs come at you quick.”
Wagner wasn’t just missing its head coach, a former Drexel star. Also out for the same reason was the starting point guard, the top scorer, and sixth man. Plus, Jordan said, four more players were just back from COVID protocols after being out 10 days.
“We were playing with lineups where guys had never even played in those positions,” Jordan said. “Approaching this, we talked about not forgetting who we are. We preach a brand, a culture of toughness. That’s kind of what it was all about, the game plan, staying to who we are, on offense and defense. That’s the standard Bash sets every day. What we wanted to hit on the most, this is non-negotiable, our culture has to be on display.”
There was no upset for the ages. Seton Hall won, 85-63.
“I thought we ran out of gas,” Jordan said.
At halftime, it was 35-33, Wagner showing why it is picked to win the Northeast Conference. By the end, Wagner had 17 turnovers, but also 7 steals. This was their first game back after three postponements, the lull hitting just after Wagner had beaten VCU, 58-44.
“We had a lot of momentum going,” Jordan said before COVID shut things down. “We think we have a really good team.”
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No “crazy” COVID symptoms, mild symptoms at most, including for Mason, Jordan said, nobody needing to be hospitalized. Jordan,contracted COVID himself the first week of official practices and had to stay home in Philly for 10 days.
Wednesday, Jordan said, he talked on the phone with Mason three times, the last time just before getting on the bus.
Wherever he’s working, Jordan, a former Roman Catholic High point guard, is one of those guys who always takes his Philly connections with him. He’s got two daughters in pre-school so he drops them off in the morning and heads up the Jersey Turnpike. (It’s a hoops family. His wife Kate used to be a Penn women’s assistant.)
They won’t forget this whole thing. Did Jordan get any buckets in practice?
“I’m a big assist guy. We have Scott Rodgers on the staff now,” Jordan said, mentioning another former Dragons guard. “He’s a big buckets guy.”
“It’s funny, we had Wally Rutecki on the game … I think Wally probably refereed me when I was a player,” Jordan said, mentioning the Monsignor Bonner graduate who officiates in the Big East among other leagues. “I worked a bunch of years when I was in school for Joe DeMayo at the rec center in my neighborhood in Somerton.”
DeMayo was a long-time college ref who also worked as officiating supervisor and assignor in the Philadelphia Catholic League.
“I told Wally before the game that I had called Joe and he was coming out of retirement for this game,” Jordan said.
No chance a Roman grad would catch a break from a Bonner grad.
“My mom was sitting behind me,” Jordan said to that. “She told me after the game, ‘That ref killed us.’ ‘’