Matt Pait is arriving fashionably late to the boys’ basketball party.
Barring another round of weather-related postponements, Pait will finally make his debut as the new coach at Jeffersonville tonight when the Red Devils (ranked No. 12 in Class 4-A) visit Seymour to open defense of their Hoosier Hills Conference crown.
Pait, named to succeed Chad Gilbert at his alma mater in July, has waited since the official opening of practice on Nov. 11 to get started against outside competition. After a month of preparation, he and his team have had enough of drills and repetitive intrasquad workouts.
“It’s not been a lot of fun,” Pait said. “But it’s one of those things we can’t do anything about, so we just have to move on. It was good to have an extra week of practice, but the second week was kind of a drag. We’re ready to play and get on the court.”
The start (on a Friday the 13th, not a good omen for the superstitious) is believed to be the latest in the history of Jeff basketball. Team historian Pat Hennegan looked through his extensive records and could not find any season since 1921 when the Devils went past Dec. 3 without playing their opener.
Jeffersonville was scheduled to start Dec. 6, but the home game with Evansville Bosse was postponed by inclement weather to Feb. 15. Meanwhile, many teams in Indiana already have played as many as four games — five for Cloverdale.
“I don’t know that it puts us behind, but it’s not an ideal situation,” Pait said. “Every team we will play now already has a game or two under their belts. But it doesn’t put us ahead either.”
Jeffersonville, scheduled to play five games the rest of this month and four in the Bob Wettig Tournament in Richmond on the weekend after New Year’s Day, will catch up quickly. The problem will arise should any more games be postponed. The Devils’ 22-game schedule is already crammed into 11 weeks.
“We’ll average two games a week, except for the Richmond tournament, and that’s pretty normal for us,” Pait said. “It will be jam-packed. Once we get started, it’s not going to stop. It gets us into a good rhythm. If we miss any more games and start having to play during the week, that will become more of a factor.”
That compressed season is similar to the schedule of Indiana girls’ basketball teams, which start their state tournament in February. Pait had experience with that scenario last season as the head coach of the Jeff girls.
Adding midweek games will also limit practice time.
“It’s been good to have the extra time now, but it won’t give us any practice time through the year to improve on things,” Pait said. “Now if somebody gets hurt, you don’t have time to recover.”
Jeffersonville’s returning experience, with three starters back, will help the Devils work through the obstacles.
“Our guys know what we’re here for,” Pait said. “They know the ultimate goal, and we always have the goals of winning the conference and sectional for a third straight year. Having guys who have been there before, and know exactly why they come to practice every day, will help us staying focused and getting the job done in the short windows we have.”
Jeffersonville is scheduled to make its belated home opener against Madison on Saturday night.