Iowa State Cyclones

Bill Fennelly is finding ways to keep in contact with Iowa State women's basketball team

Iowa State women's basketball head coach Bill Fennelly. (The Gazette)
Iowa State women's basketball head coach Bill Fennelly. (The Gazette)

AMES — Bill Fennelly doesn’t like this time of year to begin with.

The spring is normally filled with paperwork, evaluations and budgets for the Iowa State women’s basketball coach.

But in years past, he’s had the silver lining of seeing his players go through voluntary workouts.

Now, with everything going on surrounding the coronavirus, Fennelly doesn’t even get to see his players get shots up.

“The best part about coaching is interacting with your team and players on a daily basis,” Fennelly said. “That’s the part you miss the most. There was a suddenness to all of this — there was no gradual easing into it. We went to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament and we were told that we’re done before we could play a game, so we got on the bus to go home and then that was it. It was so quick.

“There wasn’t that time of thanking the seniors in a lower-key manor and getting the young players ready. It was very quick.”

Iowa State’s last game of the season was an upset over No. 2 Baylor — a game Fennelly still rewatches from time-to-time just to make sure the outcome hasn’t changed.

The self-isolation has forced Fennelly to learn how to use technology — something he’s still getting used to.

“I don’t know if I’ve learned it,” Fennelly said with a laugh. “I have coach (Josh) Carper and my sons Billy and Stephen on speed dial. I didn’t know Zoom, Go to Meeting, Webex, Google Hangout and all those things existed. This is the best we can do.

“It’s not what you want, but it’s like I tell the team, you have to control what you can and we’re not going to make excuses.”

The women’s basketball team had a virtual meeting on Monday and it was the first time Fennelly had seen any of his staff and players since things got shut down.

They didn’t talk much about basketball — it was more making sure everything was OK.

“I made them all tell me what they’re thankful for, what are things you never had to think about or never wanted to think about,” Fennelly said. “They talked a lot about their families and teammates and the opportunity they have to be a college athlete. Now we’ll do individual ones and small-group ones. I think it made everyone feel a little bit better.”

Fennelly’s main focus right now is on his seniors, making sure they’re still on track to graduate and that they have jobs lined up.

His next biggest priority is making sure his returning players aren’t treating this time like a vacation.

“We’re going to know who got better and who treated this like a vacation and sat on mom’s couch and watched Netflix,” Fennelly said. “We’ll find out who is truly committed. There are a lot of people on our team right now who, for the first time in their lives, are having to live through some really hard choices. We can’t make them be here at 2:30 to work out for a half-hour and we might not be able to do it for a long, long time.

“There will be teams that benefit from this and there will be teams that really suffer from it. It depends on the kids and it depends on the leadership. This will be a huge thing in the fall and how we reboot. I’m just hoping our kids will be ready to go.”

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