Shortly before Colorado’s second-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament game against Florida State on Monday, coach Tad Boyle began to see alerts on his phone about the mass shooting at a Boulder grocery store that killed 10 people, including a police officer.
When the Buffaloes tipped off, details were still murky, and Boyle decided against addressing it with the team, though he assumed many of them were getting messages from back home and knew as much as he did.
After Colorado’s 71-53 season-ending loss, Boyle said the events had weighed on his mind throughout the night, and that his heart went out to the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy.
“It puts basketball in its proper place,” Boyle said. “Win or lose tonight, I just felt an emptiness in my stomach. Another senseless act of violence that we’ve experienced as a country many, many times.”
Colorado senior guard McKinley Wright, who played his final college game, said the shooting was on his mind during the game.
“I feel bad, so terrible for the families who were affected by what happened in Boulder,” he said. “Today people get so caught up and even us as players on playing this game, and it’s a privilege to play this game. But we have to realize life outside of basketball is real, and a lot of people lost family members today and that sucks, man.
“Where I come from (near Minneapolis), that happens often and I see it a lot, and I’m just hurt and devastated for them as families that they have to experience this.”
Boyle said he discussed with his assistant coaches when to talk about the shooting and decided to wait until after the game, because the team’s mindset can be fragile under the best of circumstances — and they were going to have to play the game regardless of what happened.
“This gives the game of basketball perspective. It gives the NCAA Tournament perspective,” he said. “I’m so thankful we’re playing this tournament and this group got a chance to play basketball. They love the game and they’ve sacrificed, and I knew that when this game was over with, it was going to be all about perspective, win or lose…
“We’ve got to find a way to stop this stuff. I don’t know the answer of it. We just have to figure out a way.”
Follow reporter Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken