No NCAA Tournament, but Forbes still has pressure — washer

Joe Avento • Mar 19, 2020 at 3:35 PM

On the day the NCAA Tournament was supposed to have gotten into full swing, Steve Forbes was a man on a mission.

Unfortunately for the East Tennessee State basketball coach, his mission had nothing to do with March Madness. He was heading to Jonesborough with his wife Johnetta to pick up their repaired pressure washer.

“I don’t think it really hit me until this week,” Forbes said about the canceled NCAA Tournament. “I think last week happened so fast and furious I didn’t really have time to settle in and think about what was really going on. There really isn’t going to be an NCAA basketball tournament, but the way things are going, it was the right decision.”


The Bucs were preparing for the tournament after having breezed through the Southern Conference tournament with three double-digit victories. They were 30-4 and poised for what they hoped would be a historic postseason run.

For those efforts, Forbes was rewarded with the Mid-Major national coach of the year award.

“My mom asked me who voted on it and I said one person,” Forbes said with a laugh. “Seriously, any time you get those kind of awards, it’s a reflection of your players and staff. I’m very honored to receive something like that, as honored as I am to coach these players and work with the guys I work with. Everybody shares in that.”


The last pre-tournament bracket Forbes saw had ETSU taking on Iowa in the first round in Greensboro, North Carolina. The game would have been played on the first anniversary of his father’s death. His dad and mom both worked for the University of Iowa.

“I kind of figured we’d have some divine intervention there,” Forbes said. “I grew up in Iowa and that was my team. That’s why I coach, really. I used to sneak into practice and watch Lute Olson coach.”

Jason Shay, one of Forbes’ assistants, played at Iowa, so there would have been plenty of story lines this week.


Despite having no more games to coach this season, Forbes has still been promoting ETSU. He’s done almost 40 interviews for radio shows and national publications and web sites since March 1.

“I’ve been able to spread the word about ETSU basketball,” he said.

Forbes and his staff have been trying to lure recruits to fill the four scholarships they have available. Recruiting became more difficult when in-person visits were banned for the time being.

The staff got together — practicing proper social distancing, Forbes says — to discuss their plans moving forward.

“Basically, the way I started out recruiting was by the phone,” he said. “Now we’re using phone, e-mail, text. There’s so many things you can do with video and graphics. You just have to stay on top of it every day.

“We have a group text that says ‘recruiting.’ We communicate through that every day as far as what we’re doing. It’s a very fluid situation.”

The Bucs have signed Paul Smith, a big man out of DeMatha Catholic, to next year’s recruiting class. Two others — Aquan Smart and Cam Bryant — committed but changed their minds. Smart is headed to Maryland instead.

“I’ve never been in a situation before where we’re not going to be able to go out for such a long period of time,” Forbes said. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out. Here’s the thing. It may get down to it that some kids may commit without a visit. That’s why you have to stay on top of it.”

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