HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Sometimes the best opportunities are the least expected.
Gettysburg College men’s hoops coach BJ Dunne wasn’t the first choice to coach Team Armored Athlete at “The Basketball Tournament” in Columbus, Ohio but, a pandemic-altered tournament mixed with a vacation conflict opened a door.
“The Basketball Tournament,” often referred to as “The TBT,” is an annual winner-take-all tournament with a cash prize of at least one million dollars going to the champion of the single elimination event. The games are televised on ESPN and ESPN2.
Dunne knew it was a unique opportunity and took the gig.
“Here you are, a Division Three coach trying to get guys into spots and get them to buy in in such a short period of time to win a lot of money,” he said. “It’s a humbling opportunity and I really appreciate these guys really just helping me grow”
With a roster filled by professional basketball players here in the United States and beyond, it’s the most talented squad Dunne has ever coached. At the same time, he’s trying to lead his team during a pandemic. A number of his players were unable to make the trip to the bubble after testing positive for COVID-19.
His team was still able to hang on for an opening round victory against a team comprised of Clemson University alumni. It’s the first pro-level basketball event to be held in America since March and, as Team Armored Athlete creeps towards the $1,000,000 purse, Dunne knows there are as many eyes on the coronavirus results as there are the results of the games themselves.
“Everywhere you go, you have to wear a mask,” he said. “You’re grabbing a tissue just to press an elevator button, you’re wiping down every meal.”
The 2020 installment of The TBT is doubling as a guinea pig for major pro sports leagues like the NBA, who are currently arriving and preparing to arrive to their respective locations. Dunne warns of there needing to be more caution outside of the sports world for these leagues to work.
“I hope it can just bring more awareness that if people really want sports to come back, there has to be a lot more accountability nationally right now,” Dunne added.
If Team Armored Athlete wins it all, Dunne will take home a hefty $110,000 slice of the million-dollar pie. It’s a big ‘if’ — the team will face Team Overseas Elite, the most successful team in tournament history on Thursday. The team is led by future NBA Hall of Famer Joe Johnson.
The third-year headman of the Bullets will head back to Pennsylvania a winner regardless of the overall outcome. He is learning from some of the brightest basketball minds there are and plans to pass his knowledge on to his team at Gettysburg.
“It’s been really amazing for me to just pick up so many little things, little details that really can impact winning on both ends of the floor and those are the things that I’m excited to bring back to Gettysburg.”