For the first time in more than 20 years, March Madness will proceed without John Giannini, so we thought he’d be going crazy. He’s not.

After 29 years in the coaching crucible, Giannini misses the players, and he misses his peers, and he misses his assistants, and he misses the winning.

He does not miss the physical pain of losing. He does not miss the constant anxiety of knowing your career hinges on the decisions of very young men, on and off the court.

After 14 fascinating seasons, Giannini and La Salle parted ways in 2018, after 212 wins and a 2013 NCAA Tournament appearance that ended with an unlikely run to the Sweet 16, thanks in part to The Southwest Philly Floater.

Giannini, who holds a Ph.D. in kinesiology with a specialization in sports psychology, took his cerebral approach to the game, and to life, to Rowan University, where he had won a Division III title in 1996. He is the director at the new Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact. He teaches a course called Current Issues in Sport. He networks for students. He lines up speakers. He mentors.

He also began his career as a TV analyst.

So, for the first time in decades, Giannini knows exactly when his season will end: Saturday, when George Mason visits George Washington, a game broadcast on the multi-platform Stadium network. It will be Giannini’s 22nd game of the season, working for Fox Sports 1, NBC, ESPN+ or Stadium. He spends as many hours preparing for TV games as he did as a coach: rewinding video time after time, scrawling notes into one of the 30 notebooks stacked beside him.

He finished 337-337 at the Division I level. He broke even. Maybe the symmetry of his departure was perfect. It just feels like, for such a dynamic person, there should be ... more?

Giannini, 56, said he will not seek to reenter coaching unless a Division I college program that appreciates his particular philosophies comes knocking, looking for his type of leadership. Whatever the rest of his life holds, he seems intent on living it completely on his own terms.

It’s a Monday in late February. What would a day like today be like if you were still coaching?

It would be video first thing in the morning. Studying our next opponent. Meeting with the staff to figure out a practice plan that would give us a chance to win. After practice, go see a high school game somewhere. Make some recruiting calls in the car. Then, home. Most of us live those cliches more than most people realize.

What good parts of coaching do you miss?

The extremities of the challenges and the relationships. It’s really hard to get a group of people to try to get better every day. It’s really hard to try to beat talented, committed, resourceful programs. The relationships, going through extreme highs and lows, brings you so close to people. I’m not on a roller coaster now. I’m on a monorail. The roller coaster had some really big dips and some very high highs. You miss the highs.

What parts don’t you miss?

The losing is physically painful. You didn’t lose that game over the last 40 minutes; you lost that game over the last 350 days. The reason you’re in the weight room with your kids at 7 a.m. in June is to win those games. The reason you spend a month in July on the road (summer trip) is to win those games. The around-the-clock intensity that goes into winning those games is very high. When you fail, you feel very empty. You didn’t get the results, despite this massive effort behind the scenes, which I don’t think the casual fan can appreciate. Losing physically hurts. I haven’t felt anywhere near that bad in the last month.

Have you had to advise or shepherd your replacement, Ashley Howard? After all, La Salle is a unique place.

No. Ashley and I have probably spoken at least once a month since he left our staff (at La Salle, in 2008, after four years as an assistant). Our relationship has never changed. We’ve always picked each other’s brains on coaching issues. We still talk once a month or so. They hired someone I believe in. A friend. The transition was really seamless. I couldn’t have scripted any of it better for La Salle, for Ashley, or myself. He just checked so many boxes. A lot of people, if they had been only at Villanova or Xavier (Howard’s last two jobs), would have some adjustments going to La Salle. But Ash knows the school. He loves the Big Five. He believes he can win there. I believe he can win there. Any advice I gave him had to do with the team itself, and the Atlantic 10.

So, how much attention have you paid La Salle this season?

Not as much as other A-10 teams, actually. I did 22 games on TV this year. I requested not to have La Salle. Because of the emotional awkwardness for myself, and maybe for some others. Of course, I know their record (9-19 as of Wednesday, with two games to play). I look at the box scores. In terms of watching video, and really studying teams, I do that more with the teams I’m covering.

How much college basketball have you watched, all told?

As a TV analyst, I’m never going to be extraordinarily entertaining or have the best personality. So my calling card has to be my knowledge. I’ve over-prepared. I’ve watched as much video this year as I did while I was coaching. I could teach a course on any of the teams I’ve done. Now, if you ask me about, say, Virginia or UCLA, I couldn’t tell you as much, but I know the teams I’ve covered as well as if I were playing them.

Did you record and critique your tapes?

Absolutely. You have to. This is something I want to be good at. ... I’m getting better. I’m getting more comfortable. I think my analysis is very strong. I’m learning to enjoy the game more. As a coach, you don’t enjoy it. One of your players dunks the ball, your first thought is, ‘Get back on defense!’ As an analyst, I have to enjoy that dunk, and have some enthusiasm. That’s a shift.

College basketball is a wintertime respite for many. As this winter grew darker and colder, did your mood correspond?

No. I was very much a realist this year. I loved my job at Rowan. I loved the opportunity to do basketball on television. I completely immersed myself in those two things. I worked as hard as I ever have, but with a tiny fraction of the stress. I like hard work. Like most people, I don’t like stress. It really has been a pretty happy year for me.

There’s a difference between hard work and stress. Stress comes from challenges that are not under your control. Frankly, there is just so much that’s outside of a coach’s control; so much that will affect that coach’s livelihood, or his reputation. You agonize and stress over that every second of the day.

I’m shocked that your stomach doesn’t have to feel like someone poured battery acid in it 24 hours a day. I’m shocked at how good life can feel even though you’re still working hard.

So, what’s next? At 56, with this wealth of knowledge and this education. Administration? Coaching, at any level?

My criteria for starting this Center for Sports Communication was, ‘Could I do this for 10 years?’ I absolutely could. Help kids with their education and finding careers. Combine that with broadcasting college basketball games, and seeing my friends, and studying the game for 10 more years? This is perfect. I just want to be as good as I possibly can be at this.

But ...

I mean, if someone wanted to give me the extreme challenge of running a program at a high level again, I think a lot of people who have coached their whole lives would get excited. I’m in a win-win situation. Coaches are addicted to challenges. Most of us are going to take the leadership of young men, being a visible part of a university and being in a highly competitive environment as the biggest challenge we’ll be able to find. We’ll see what happens. It’s the proverbial ‘Never say never.'