The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

Looking back, I probably did not enjoy my first six years as a college basketball head coach the way I should have. There was plenty to celebrate, including three national championships. My strength as a coach, however, is the urgency to get things done, to win, to succeed, to create something special. Enjoyment could come later; it was all about constant progress.


The toughest season of my coaching career ended Feb. 29, 2020, with a 77-66 loss to No. 17 Rogers State.

This was not supposed to happen.

Seven weeks earlier, we boasted a 9-5 overall record and a 3-2 mark in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play. We had overcome losing seven seniors to graduation from the previous season, four of whom signed professional basketball contracts. We overcame losing our only returning starter to an Achilles tendon rupture in the preseason, and we proved we could still compete and win games.

Things changed quickly.

Against Missouri Western, our best player and perhaps the best overall athlete in the MIAA, junior Brenden Van Dyke, took an awkward fall after being hit while attacking the rim in transition. As he lay on the floor in agonizing pain, I went over and crouched down beside him as he screamed. I knew. Brenden knew. We all knew.

The MRI came back to confirm a torn ACL.

Two weeks later, junior Dallas Bailey broke his foot on the first play of the game at Central Missouri. Five freshmen started multiple games the last 14 games of the season, sometimes four on the same night. This is not a recipe for winning games in Division II, especially in the MIAA.

With three upperclassmen enduring season-ending surgeries, after graduating a big class of seniors, this was what we had to do.

We lost 13 of our last 14 games, finishing with a 10-18 record.

It could only get better from here, right?

Then a global pandemic struck.


I was raised on a farm 40 miles south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I grew up attending games and camps at South Dakota, South Dakota State and Augustana (South Dakota). I loved Division II basketball. When I decided my career path would be in coaching, my goal was to become a Division II head coach.

I reached that goal April 27, 2018. My staff and I took over a program at Emporia State that finished tied for last in the 14-team MIAA conference the year before. We also had just coached three national championship teams in the previous five seasons. So there was a lot of work to be done, but we were ready for this opportunity.

Emporia, as we’ve found out, is an incredible college town.

With 25,000 people, it is the perfect sized community for a Division II program. People live and breathe Emporia State athletics. Every game is followed closely. You cannot walk into Walmart or Applebee’s without getting praised for a win or grilled about a loss.

After knocking off No. 20 Southwest Minnesota State to open our first season, the No. 1 question we got was, “How long are you going to stay before you leave us for the next level?”

While year one went back and forth, the progress was evident, and that same question was posed to me from everyone from my banker before signing a mortgage to the seamstress who tailors my suits.

Midway through year two, we had the program rolling. We were ahead of schedule, and life was good.

Then the injuries and the subsequent losses started to mount. The outward question of, “How long will Coach Doty be here before he moves up?” changed to people wondering why the program was back to its old ways of struggling through the unforgiving second- semester MIAA schedule.


I was with Emporia State assistant coaches Evan Lavery and Justin Harley when I realized our normal might significantly change.

We left for a recruiting trip March 10 and were slated to arrive back in Emporia on March 15. Our first stop was in Alabama for an in-home visit. We stayed in New Orleans that evening as we headed toward the Houston area for our next visit.

Then we saw that Rudy Gobert of the Jazz had contracted the coronavirus and the NBA season was postponed. We talked as a staff that evening and decided we needed to move up our next two in-home visits because we had a feeling that this was only the beginning.

We made it to the Houston area and got to our next in-home visit. However, that would be the last face-to-face recruiting we would have to date. We were sent home the next day.

We now had a global pandemic on our hands.


The spring season is always important but certainly not as necessary for our teams at Rock Valley College and Graceland University — my previous two coaching stops — when we were national-level programs. The culture was established. We were rolling and could recruit and secure our top recruits without much resistance.

However, we just finished our injury-ridden season at Emporia State with a 10-18 record while consistently having a majority of freshmen in the starting lineup. We needed to be in the gym; we needed to have fun again. Strength and conditioning, player development and bringing in recruits to play with our guys were all paramount.

All this was canceled, unfortunately. There would be no spring. COVID-19 put an end to it. While the restrictions were across the board for all member institutions, the actual situation was different for each school based on how the pandemic was affecting their local community.


I dropped my wife, Alexys, off at the hospital at 7 p.m. April 29. She was going to be induced into labor early the next morning. Just five weeks earlier, we were told no one could be in the room during delivery or recovery due to COVID-19 protocols. However, a few days before delivery, the restrictions had loosened. We were told one person could accompany Alexys once they started the induction process.

While men were usually not welcome in the delivery room before the 1970s, that isn’t the case in modern times. The coronavirus, however, would take me out of the delivery room.

Alexys and I are raising an 11-year-old son and a 22-month-old daughter. During a global pandemic with stay-at-home orders, you can’t just drop the kids off at the neighbors’ house and go have a baby. After following strict social distancing measures for many weeks, Alexys’ mom came to town from Illinois. We decided I would stay home with the kids, and my mother-in-law would accompany Alexys in the delivery room. Both jobs were equally as important, and all parties were comfortable with this.

At 1:15 p.m. April 30, Sienna Jean Doty was born at 8 pounds, 13 ounces and 22 inches. Technology is a beautiful thing. I met my new baby daughter immediately on FaceTime. Mom and baby were healthy and well.

COVID-19 wouldn’t take this moment from us.

On the basketball front, when the pandemic hit, we asked ourselves these questions as a staff:

How can we sign the high-caliber recruits we need to make ourselves a team that can compete toward the top of the MIAA?

How can we develop our young talent, who have junior-level experience despite being sophomores, to be game-changers in our league?

How can we get healthy for next season and ensure our injured players are recovering and going through rehab while maintaining proper social distancing measures?

How can we ensure our student-athletes are making degree progress while successfully passing their classes with high academic marks?

The answer for each question is: relationships, communication and technology.

This is what worked for my family when welcoming a baby girl into the world.

This is what would work with our basketball program, too.

We feel like we have the perfect staff to progress a college program during these trying times. And I feel like we have the perfect family to welcome a new life into this world. If anything, we felt we could spin the negative of a global pandemic into a positive.

Life continues, and nothing is going to get in the way of us enjoying these moments.

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