Iona Gaels men's basketball coach Rick Pitino called for a delay to the start of the college basketball season Saturday as cases of the coronavirus surge across the United States.
While advocating for "May Madness," rather than holding the NCAA tournament in March, Pitino said it's "impossible to play right now."
NCAA guidelines required Iona to halt team activities for 14 days beginning Nov. 11 after a member of the program tested positive for COVID-19.
Pitino's tweet comes only days after the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to cancel winter sports for the 2020-21 season—including both men's and women's basketball.
The league pointed directly to health and safety of its students and faculty as reasons for its decision:
"Regrettably, the current trends regarding transmission of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent protocols that must be put in place are impeding our strong desire to return to intercollegiate athletics competition in a safe manner.
"Student-athletes, their families and coaches are again being asked to make enormous sacrifices for the good of public health — and we do not make this decision lightly. While these decisions come with great disappointment and frustration, our commitment to the safety and lasting health of our student-athletes and wider communities must remain our highest priority."
In the following days, Seton Hall was forced to pause its practices after a member of the program tested positive. Iona's need to go on hiatus will likely disrupt its scheduled season-opener against Fordham on Nov. 25, and Pitino said Wednesday the school would attempt to reschedule the game.
The first wave of the coronavirus in spring forced the cancelation of the NCAA tournament among other collegiate championships. The dramatic decision abruptly ended the careers of numerous college athletes without an opportunity to win a national title.
Pitino's plea seeks to avoid a similar fate in 2021.
According to ESPN's Myron Medcalf, multiple men's basketball coaches have echoed Pitino's sentiments in private, with a "high-profile" coach calling the current college landscape "scary." To that end, Medcalf reported the NCAA may have more flexibility with March Madness this season, with executives exploring all available options to ensure the tournament is played.