BOSTON (CBS) – It was supposed to be business as usual for head coach Matt McCall and the UMass men’s basketball team, who arrived at their hotel in Washington, D.C. around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
They had a game scheduled against George Washington the next night at 6 p.m.
However, right away, this trip was different.
“I don’t think anyone expected what was going to transpire. It felt like it was safe to go and play the game,” McCall said. “Upon arriving at the hotel, right then and there, you knew that this just didn’t feel right.”
McCall says they were met by a rowdy crowd outside of their hotel, located about two miles from the Capitol building.
“Our bus pulls up and we get off the bus and they are starting to chant and yell and scream. So then as a coach, you just click into safety mode for our players. Wanted them to just grab their stuff and get in the hotel as fast as they could,” said McCall.
It would be the start of a whirlwind 24 hours. Players were told to remain in their rooms throughout the night, and on Wednesday, the focus shifted from preparing for a basketball game to keeping the team safe.
“Around 2:30, I finally called the Atlantic 10 and said, ‘We’re going to do what you guys decide as a league, but if you turn on the news right now, we got to get out of here,'” said McCall. “Whenever the ball stops bouncing for them, they will be a part of changing everything that’s not right right now with our country.”
UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford was in constant communication with McCall and league officials, sharing, “it was about an hour to 90-minute period where we were just furiously on the phone trying to get as much information and make good decisions and we’re fortunate that everything kind of came together in a way that allowed us to move quickly.”
Shortly after a curfew was issued in the city, the game was postponed and the team went straight to the airport, trying to digest the day’s events.
“We’re very, very fortunate that we were able to bring our young people back, bring our program back here safely but also understand this is much bigger than basketball. Much bigger than athletics,” said Bamford.