NCAA basketball

A New Way To Hoop

From the coaches, to the fans, to the noise level inside Viejas Arena, San Diego State home basketball games look and feel different this season.

With the coronavirus changing many of our work environments, many people have changed how they dress for work, including San Diego State basketball head coach Brian Dutcher.

In past seasons, Dutcher would be wearing a suit for every game. Through the first two games of this season Dutcher is wearing casual coaching gear. Basically, an SDSU logoed polo golf shirt, a pullover and some comfortable pants.

So, what does Dutcher think about the change in attire?

"Well, I went out and bought two new suits so I am not very happy about it, that's money not well spent, but right now we are wearing coaching gear, I guess you can hide an extra few pounds under a sweatshirt, so in that regard it's a good thing," Dutcher said.

Coaching in a suit versus more casual attire has long been a hot topic among basketball coaches, so does Dutcher think the casual look is here to stay?

"I like representing the university in a suit and tie, if we get past COVID we'll see if it goes back to that. I think the NBA sets the trend on that, they coached casually in the bubble and college coaches are taking the time to do this now," Dutcher explained.

Coaching sans a suit is just one of the many things that look different inside Viejas Arena during an Aztecs home game this season. The big difference is instead of 12,000-plus black and red-clad fans screaming and supporting the Aztecs, the arena is empty outside of a couple hundred cardboard cutouts of fans.

Aztecs supporters had the chance to pay for a picture of their face to put on a cardboard cutout and placed on a seat inside Viejas Arena during home games.

"Heck yeah, I'm going to do that!"

That's the reaction from Tiffany Spitzer, a San Diego State alum and longtime season ticket holder for Aztec athletics, who purchased one of the cardboard cutouts. The deal came with a chance to write a personalized note to the team.

"I said on mine, 'I'm with you in spirit and in cardboard, but mostly in spirit.'"

Whether it's an Aztec alum like Spitzer, or a big-time booster, or a casual fan or even some pictures of dogs that have been placed on the cutouts, the purpose is to show support for a team that is missing its loud and proud home-court advantage.

Spitzer said, "I hope it matters, I can't imagine what its like to play in Viejas with nobody in it expect cardboard pieces, so I hope the team feels the energy."

Coach Dutcher agrees.

"I love it. I look around and I see familiar faces even though I can't say hello to them, I see cardboard cutouts of faces that I've seen every year for the last 20 years. I hope fans continue to buy them, I'd like to fill that whole lower level if possible," he said.

San Diego State is also pumping in crowd noise and their famous "I Believe" chant in an effort to create a more normal game environment.

Aztec forward Matt Mitchell said the players are noticing all the extras and appreciate it.

"It's a hard thing to play without the fans, and we are supportive that our fans always have our backs. At the same time, our crew did a good job of making it feel more game-like, as though the fans would be there. I can definitely say it felt more game-like as we get into it," Mitchell said.

Every little bit helps in this new way of doing things, even when it comes to putting on a basketball game. Now if coach Dutcher could just wear slippers on the court, he'd be the "King of Casual," although that's probably taking it a little bit too far.

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