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Lobo basketball coaches, families finding blessings in time together

Depending on how long New Mexico’s stay-at-home order lasts, the Mason boys might end up looking more bodybuilder than basketball player.

Brandon Jr., 12, B’Angelo, 10, and Carmelo, 8 — the three sons of UNM men’s basketball assistant coach Brandon Mason — are on a strict screen-time policy during these new stay-at-home, coronavirus quarantine lockdown days of 2020.

“In order to get an hour of screen time or electronics, we have to do 100 pushups or sit-ups,” said Brandon Jr.

Squats were part of the equation, too. But it wasn’t enough.

By this past Tuesday, the boys were regularly earning three hours a night, where dad had to cap the reward, even after he upped what was required and added basketball dribbling drills to the routine.

“They’re doing it all. Now I’m just trying to keep up with them,” said Mason, a dad who, like each of his fellow Lobo hoops assistants, is spending an awful lot of unexpected time at home now during a month that is normally one of the busiest on the college basketball calendar – be it for teams still playing or coaches hitting the recruiting trail.

And while workout routines and handling family game-night coordination seem to fall in the comfort zone for many coaches, other adjustments are a challenge – for them and their families, who are spending more time with dad (or mom) than just about ever before.

“I make that joke with my friends all the time now,” said Beth Robinson, wife of Lobos assistant Jerome Robinson. “You better like your spouse.”

The crash course on the home life the Lobo basketball coaches are getting is not unlike the rest of us are experiencing during various COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home restrictions.

The Lobo basketball assistant staff – Mason, Robinson, Dan McHale and Craig Snow – all say they are working as hard as ever on recruiting evaluations and film study, among other duties. But with it all being done at home, some in-game adjustments in the usual scouting report are in order.

“It’s kind of surreal getting him adapted to mine and the boys’ everyday life,” said Mason’s wife, Celina Ortiz. “Me and the boys are in such a routine, not in just what we do with school or sports, but just little behaviors around the house. With Brandon around … he may be gaining a slightly different appreciation for the day-to-day things we do.”

Jessica Snow, Craig Snow’s wife, echoed what all four wives the Journal spoke with last week about life with their coaching partners at home far more than normal the past couple of weeks.

“I probably would have guessed it’d be a little more sandpaper rubbing together at this point, but it’s been good,” she said, adding that the time spent with the entire family, including daughter Adelynn and son Beckett, has been great.

“It’s likely the most family time we’ll ever have together. Our kids will grow up and move out at some point and they’ll likely look back at this time, like that was when I really got to know my dad.”

And what some of them are getting to know is that while dad works his tail off as a coach, mom has quietly been holding things down on the home front.

Sure, there are a lot more games of UNO and Monopoly, some hikes in the mountains and family walks seem to be the new norm. But things around the house still need to get done, and if it doesn’t entail a practice plan or diagramming a pick-and-roll defense, basketball coaches aren’t exactly Mr. Fix It.

“I’m certainly not the handyman, you can talk to Jackie about that,” said Dan McHale. “Fortunately, she is. She’s a lot like her dad. I couldn’t even pump up my son’s bike the other day. I couldn’t figure out this complex pump that she bought.”

Jackie McHale said that while that all may be true, Dan is very involved, helps the kids with homework and even recently discovered he’s not a bad barber for their 8-year-old son, Daniel.

As Ortiz was noting Mason’s lack of handy-man skills, he quickly chimed in over a speaker phone call boasting about the two light bulbs he had just changed on a ceiling nobody else could reach.

“I should get credit for that,” he said, always keeping score.

Jessica Snow said Craig fits the same mold.

“His skills are definitely more confined to the sports world,” she said. “… He had a neighbor growing up and the dad was a coal miner and was always gone. The wife would be up on the roof, fixing the roof and doing everything with the house. We, lovingly, refer to her every time I’m out there doing that kind of stuff because, yes, that’s more the stuff that I handle.”

And all joking aside, each family had the same overriding message about the influx of family time: You take your blessing where you can find them.

“It’s good for all of us to have this family time,” said Beth Robinson. “We’ve never had time to do this in our entire 15 years of marriage.”

Added Jackie McHale, “As a family, we have learned to embrace things. I’m grateful for that because more than anything in this coaching lifestyle, life can be unpredictable. If you can take a deep breath and let yourself take it in, there’s magic in the unpredictability.”

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