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March 15 was pretty tough on Julius Caesar. April 15 is hard on everybody who faces a tax form. And October 15 is the day the college basketball world gets revved up.

On Friday, men’s basketball teams and coaches are reunited on the court. It’s time for official practices to start and the first games can’t be far behind.

“October 15 through the first game in November is the best time for a coach,” SMU coach Matt Doherty said. “You finally get to coach and have a respectable schedule and a routine, you’re going at the same time every day. Those four weeks are the best.”

Rice coach Ben Braun put it simply: “As a player and a coach, if you don’t get excited about October 15th, it’s time to change direction.”

This season, the start date falls on the traditional day to start practice for decades at least, until the NCAA made the start date coincide with the Friday closest to Oct. 15 so schools could hold Midnight Madness on a night when there was no school the next day.

Lefty Driesell started the Midnight Madness craze when he was at Maryland in 1970, to get his team an advantage in starting before any other school. Now it has become an event that draws sellout crowds, plenty of ingenuity and ESPN’s cameras. local time.

“I was responsible along with Lute Olson to change Midnight Madness so you could do it earlier,” Braun said, referring to the former Arizona coach and to his own time as coach at California. “In his community in Tucson, they were going to sleep by then, and in Berkeley I wanted to get the kids involved.”

Some people like the old start time for a different reason.

“We’ve done that most of my career as a head coach,” Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said. “When it was real Midnight Madness, I would love to see the kids who were thrilled just to be up that late. I used to look in the crowd for a kid with his parents and their eyes would be huge because they were up at midnight. I remember that feeling when I was a kid. That’s great.”

Not all coaches are big fans of the celebratory start to practice.

“I’m not a big fan,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I think it’s a big waste of time but the players like it, the fans like it. I’m not crazy about it.

“We didn’t do Midnight Madness for a long time. The first one we did, Arinze (Onuaku) broke the backboard with a dunk and we ended the night right there,” Boeheim said with a wry smile.

Longtime coach and current TV analyst Pete Gillen, as always,
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had a good story about Midnight Madness.

“When I was at Providence one year, we had Midnight Madness and I put on full military gear and walked into the locker room. Remember, I was Mr. Conservative with the wing tips and button down shirt, real Brooks Brother. So now I come in with the hat, all the gear and led them out of the locker room to a packed gym,” Gillen said. “We went to the Final Eight that year. Maybe I should have worn it more often and I’d still be coaching.”

Tom Herrion, who is starting his first season as a head coach at Marshall, was Gillen’s assistant at the time and remembered that Midnight Madness a little differently.

“Providence was one of the original Midnight Madness schools and we were on national TV because of it,” Herrion said. “Gonzo (fellow assistant Bobby Gonzalez) and I told Pete not to do it with the camouflage outfit because it would kill us in recruiting. He didn’t listen, as usual, and to see him come running out in camouflage was a sight to be seen.”

Herrion is ready for his first chance to run his own first practice.

“Your body and your mind are programmed to that magic date of October 15,” he said. “Usually at this time of the year it’s time to start practice, time to get to work.”

Kansas coach Bill Self said he “still gets jacked,” then adds what every other coach feels.

“It’s not enough time,” he said. “All coaches would agree when we play the first game we’re not ready. I don’t look at exhibition games as part of our season, those are practices. We really have four weeks to get ready, which is still pretty quick, but I think coaches can deal with that.”

Southern Mississippi coach Larry Eustachy was his usual dry self about Oct. 15.

“The best thing about coaching is the offseason,” Eustachy said, before adding: “You have it in your blood to be excited about starting. You are always optimistic at that time. The key to it is the enthusiasm you have on October 15 you should have the last day of practice. You don’t want to get too high or too low about it. It’s just another day of practice.”

Doherty’s best memory of Oct. 15 was his first as a freshman at North Carolina under the legendary Dean Smith.

“We had to run a mile the first day and it was a big deal because if you made your mile time you got out of running sprints for the first two weeks of practice and you got dessert at team meal that night,” Doherty said. “I dived over the finish line to break 5 minutes and I got out of sprints for the first two weeks and the dessert was great.”
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