Q&A: Amarillo’s Jason Pillion reflects on UIL’s plan of action

Q&A: Amarillo’s Jason Pillion reflects on UIL’s plan of action
Amarillo Basketball hosts a game late in the 2019-20 season (Source: KFDA)

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Following the UIL’s monumental announcement with their plan of action to bring high school sports back to action in the Panhandle, NewsChannel 10 Sports Anchor Evan Abramson and NewsChannel 10 Sports Contributor Lance Lahnert interviewed Amarillo Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jason Pillion about his reactions to the news from Tuesday morning.

Here is their conversation below:

Q: Talk to me about your immediate reaction to the UIL’s announcement. How has this affected your team?

A: Well, my first reaction is, is I’m excited that, that we’re looking at how we can have sports. And so I think the first thing is I want to be thankful and grateful that looks like there’s an opportunity to continue on with the season. So that’s that was the first response. Then I started looking at the schedule and the parameters and the things like that, that were under. And now I got lots of questions, for example, with losing tournaments. And then also, you know, some we don’t have some answers such as, you know, will we be able to travel and play? You know, say could we travel the Metroplex and play a Friday, Saturday? You know, we don’t have answers on that yet. So if our if our district comes in and says no overnight stays at all, no traveling outside a certain radius and I’m looking at I just lost 19 games today off my schedule. And so now I got to replace those games with a radius that’s, you know, does not include a lot of 5A and 6A teams other than the ones in our district. You know, you’re dealing with just trying to figure out how you’re gonna make that work. So I’m excited that we’re gonna play basketball, at least through an announcement today, but I’m also a little concerned about how we’ll make a schedule work.

Q: That’s incredible 19 games Jason I can’t believe I mean, that’s amazing number. Tell our listeners what you know, the tournament’s I mean, that’s how you get better as a team you bond etc. Like that. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Those are really critical to the success of your seasons normally.

A: Really are I mean, we feel like that’s, you look at our success over the years. That has a lot to do with it. I mean we’ve we’ve made a commitment to go play really good people doesn’t always look great on our records but we learn a lot. We have weakness weaknesses exposed when you’re playing against elite competition. It forces It forces coaches and kids to learn on the run a little bit. And then and all the things you talked about your overnight your with each other, all the kind of noise goes away and it’s just about you and your team and, and hanging out and, and eating together. And, and so it’s it’s really a time that you do you grow a lot you bond so much comes out of it. You’re kind of playing for something, you look at a bracket and you’re trying to figure out okay, we go here and so there’s this, there’s this, a little bit of a goal involved as far as what you’re trying to do that weekend. So it’s a man, that’s tough. That’s a hard one to lose when you’re looking at losing those tournaments. It’s a big deal.

Q: Coach. How is this going to affect your, I guess the quality that the kids are playing, there their timeliness of how they’re learning to play the game, especially with such a young team that you have guys like Hausen, Hornecker, Woods? How is this going to affect them? And even maybe looking a step further into the recruiting process?

A: Yeah, that’s a good question. Because some of the places we do go, there’s there’s obviously some coaches that come out and watch that and some recruiting services that do that. And so now all of a sudden, you know, instead of being there, where those people are there, they’re kind of isolated up here on an island. The one thing I would say the good news is, those are established guys. They already have some offers, they’re getting a lot of attention. People know about them. You know, they’ve played lots of varsity basketball games. So you know, if we’re looking at the previous year to where we’re trying to gain a bunch of experience and they’re trying to get a little more exposure out there, then do a lot of games with but the hope is now people know about those guys. So it’s not like they’re going to forget about them. But it does hurt us as far as team goes simply because you know, there’s things there’s from the coaching, you know, you’re talking about the little details, that that are the difference in being good and great. And you know, a 16 year old kid looks at you and says okay, but then it doesn’t always buy in but then all sudden, you’re having a blackout of 6-10 you know, a really athletic guards doing these things and you have to play team defense. And so it exposes those, those little things that we have to do to be successful. And we don’t get that opportunity. And so you know, just some, you know, we’ll do everything we can to try to play the best people that we can, but there’s no doubt we just lost a big chunk of our, of the type of teams that we played. It’s really talented.

Q: Jason looking for that clarification on your schedule. What process we go through now just talking to people talking to other coaches. How’s that work?

A: Yeah, I mean, I’ve already done that a couple things. And so you know, for example, if we’re going to go to a tournament, first weekend in December, you know, I’m reaching out to coaches in area to go, okay, we can’t play because Okay, so let me back up. So if you’re in the Metroplex, or you’re in Houston, and there’s, there’s 150 schools within a 30 mile radius, then you lost the tournament format, but you didn’t necessarily lose games, because they can still go and play. You could play a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, type deal, and still pick up three games in a week. So maybe you lose a couple games, but you’re still going to be able to replace those with games. We, on the other hand, cannot unless we’re pretty much playing the same people all the time. So you know, I’ve at least put out some phone calls to say, you know, to some coaching buddies in the Metroplex to say, Hey, we were supposed to come down, do you think you can find some guys that would be willing to play us if we were to come down that same weekend and play. So that’s the first thing I’m doing and I’m trying to reserve at least those weekends, however, I’m also at the mercy of, you know, your own districts rules where they may come in and say, can’t do that, because we’re not gonna let you stay overnight, or we’re not gonna let you leave a certain radius. So so I’m waiting clarification. But, you know, at the same time, I feel like I can’t wait too long, because you’re gonna be on the outside looking in, because everybody in the states scrambling the day to remake their schedule. So I’m at least going to try to get some people on the horn and say, Hey, put us down this weekend, we’re looking at doing these things. And then if, if I get told later that, that I’m having to stay here and play, then I’ll cancel those games. And we’ll, we’ll go back to the drawing board. Coach, one of my last questions for you.

Q: Can you tell us an estimation of how many phone calls you’ve made today? In regards to trying to fix your schedule?

A: Oh, between phone calls and texts. I’m on the upper side of 30.

Q: Hey, Jason, we’re so yeah, that’s a lot. I mean, you’ve been busy obviously all and you’re not alone. I mean, all these coaches are going through this. So I’ll figuring out the social distancing, you guys have already worked on that, you know, with the strength and conditioning stuff. How will that affect you going forward into full on practices in games?

A: You know, that’s a great question. You know, you’re, you’re, well, they say it takes 30 days to create a habit, you know, you’re trying to get kids who their whole life or used to just know we can do, we can we can create a practice that has social distancing. And we can create drills and situations where the kids aren’t getting too close. But then, you know, after the after the repetition happens, you know, what the kids do, they just gravitate next to each other and close to each other. And so just trying to get them to say, look, okay, you got six feet apart, you got to back up. That’s, that’s been a bit of a challenge. I’ve used the word social distancing more in the last month, and I probably ever have In my life, but it creates some challenges. I feel like the kids have done a good job of adjusting. coaches are having to be more flexible. And so you just, you know, constant reminders about things that that are now part of part of our normal, at least for the current time.

Q: Question, Let me play devil’s advocate just for a second. Is it worth? Is it worth it going through all this to play?

A: I mean, absolutely. I’ll say this. Absolutely. And, you know, I mean, obviously, this is a five hour conversation that won’t get to certain things, but I’ll say, look, there’s, you know, in and I guess somebody could twist it to saying insensitive, but there’s there’s a, there’s a psychological health. That is that is also there and I’m not trying to downplay you know, the health concerns with COVID. And not at all. I don’t want anybody to take that and twist my words, but but the efforts to try in a safe way to reserve to return to some sort of normalcy. You know, I mean, I’m here from kids, and they’re just like, they’re just, they’re so happy to get the opportunity just returned to normal. And again, that’s not about just playing a game per se, but that’s relationships. And and it’s, it’s it’s taken me personally, I mean, I’ll be a little transparent, psychologically honest, a lot of struggles over what’s going on. And so yes, I think we need to do whatever we can to see if it’s possible, in a safe way to return to normal, so I’m definitely willing to make this bet.

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