It has been almost 22 years since Mike Rohn was the leading man on any bench for any basketball team. Asked if he has any sort of electric, emotional pregame speech he has had tucked away all these years, waiting for the right opportunity, Rohn offered a laugh with his response.
“I’m a field guy,” Rohn said. “If I’ve got to give some big fire and brimstone speech then that’s never a good thing. We’re in trouble from the get-go.”
Rohn, CU’s associate head coach and Tad Boyle’s assistant for all 12 of his seasons in Boulder, finally will get his chance in the spotlight leading the Buffaloes’ bench during Thursday’s home game against Oregon (8 p.m., FS1).
On Tuesday morning, CU announced that Boyle will miss practice this week, as well as the Oregon game, after testing positive for COVID-19. Rohn, the Buffs’ associate head coach who has served alongside Boyle for 397 games at CU, will take over in Boyle’s absence. Rohn also worked as an assistant for seven seasons at Wichita State before joining the Buffs, yet this will mark the first time he has served as the head coach in any regular season game since his final season as the head coach at Dodge City Community College in 1999-2000.
“This has nothing to do with me. I’m just standing in for coach,” Rohn said. “This is about the players. What I do is going to have no bearing on that game. It’s going to be about our preparation and what these guys get done. They did a great job at Oregon (last week) and hopefully we’ll have a good week. I’ll just try to not screw it up.”
Rohn takes over, however briefly, a club desperate to get back on track following a pair of ugly losses at Washington and Washington State that dropped the Buffs under .500 (5-6) in the Pac-12 Conference for the first time this season. CU has lost four of its past five games and returns home facing personnel issues that go beyond just those of their head coach, whose status for Saturday’s home game against Oregon State will be determined later in the week.
As the Buffs resumed practice on Tuesday, the status of starters Tristan da Silva and Elijah Parquet remained in limbo. Da Silva’s situation — he has missed the past two games while dealing with his own COVID issue — appears more favorable than Parquet’s, as the sophomore’s mandatory five-day quarantine was set to expire Tuesday. Barring any setbacks, there is a reasonable chance da Silva will be back in action on Thursday.
Parquet’s situation is perhaps more tenuous and less definable, as a foot issue kept him on the sideline during Sunday’s lopsided loss at Washington State. It was the third time Parquet has been sidelined over the past five games, and the problem is beginning to have the look of a matter that could trouble the senior guard and defensive specialist over the final nine regular season games.
“It has to come from the players,” CU sophomore forward Jabari Walker said. “We’ve talked about being a player-led team instead of a coach-led team and we have to play for ourselves, play for each other. It’s a brotherhood. We don’t have to listen to outside noise. It’s got to come from within the team. We’re all connected and if we hit the floor with that I definitely think we’re headed in the right direction.”