The Dayton Flyers begin their journey to the Maui Invitational at 5 a.m. Friday. A bus will transport the players and coaches and the rest of the traveling party — approximately 45 people — from campus to Dayton International Airport.
Then it’s a long day of travel. Flights from Dayton to Denver and Denver to Maui will deliver UD to paradise about 4,379 miles from home. If there are no delays, they’ll land at Kahului Airport at 2:15 p.m. — or 7:15 p.m. back home in the Eastern Time Zone — and have about 67 hours to get ready for a 9:30 a.m. (Maui time) first-round game against Georgia on Monday.
James Haring, Dayton’s director of basketball operations, has been in charge of travel logistics since he was hired in July, though the planning started in the spring.
“Credit to Mike Mulcahey, Angie Petrovic and Brett Comer for having the wheels already in motion,” Haring said.
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Flights had been booked and hotel rooms reserved when Haring started working on the trip. There was still much for him to do. Head coach Anthony Grant told Haring when he offered him the job he would have “hit the ground running” with the Maui trip in his first days at UD.
“I’ve never been to Maui, but I know a lot of people who have,” Haring said. “I consulted different people in college basketball. Have you stayed at the Sheraton? Did you rent SUVs, vans, mini-buses? Just to get a feel for how people got around the island and handled the logistics. There are no better people to consult than people who have been there.”
Mulcahey, the head trainer for the UD men’s basketball team, is one of those people. In fact, he’s the only person remaining with the program who was on the bench in 2013 when Dayton last played in the Maui Invitational. He added travel planning to his duties when Grant was hired in 2017 because he had so much experience in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“I learned a lot,” said Mulcahey, who worked at Xavier from 1999 until 2013 when he got the job at Dayton. “It put a little bit more on my plate, but it gave me an opportunity to grow and develop a different skill set.”
Mulcahey planned all the travel in the 2017-18 season and then trained Comer, a graduate assistant who was promoted to director of player development last summer, to plan travel in the 2018-19 season. Now it’s Haring’s job, though Mulcahey has plenty on his plate. With two practices and then three games in a five-day stretch, keeping the players healthy and ready for action will be his priority.
Mulcahey packs a giant Pelican case with three sets of recovery boots, a four-channel Stim device (electrotherapy stimulation) with ultrasound treatment options, a massage gun for soft tissue and many other items to help the Flyers.
This will be the only time this season, other than potentially the A-10 tournament, when Dayton will play three games in three days.
“Feeling good can be a challenge,” Mulcahey said. “As soon as the game’s over, you start the recovery process for whatever the next day holds.”
At past tournaments, players have taken turns wearing the recovery boots in Mulcahey’s hotel room. Some wear them for an hour, some for 30 minutes. It depends on how many minutes they play.
“I don’t have a hard time getting them to do what they need to do,” Mulcahey said. “They like the way they feel when they come out.”
Prior to the games, there’s not much Mulcahey can do to help the players adjust to Hawaii time. He said he wants to keep them hydrated and fed and off their feet as much as possible, but it’s not a big concern because Dayton “is in the same situation as every other team.”
Dayton will play teams from its own time zone in the first two games. After Georgia, the opponent on Tuesday will be Michigan State or Virginia Tech. Teams from farther west meet on the other side of the bracket. Kansas plays Division II Chaminade University in the first round, and BYU plays UCLA.
All the teams will practice once at Lahainaluna High School on Saturday and once at the Lahaina Civic Center, the site of the tournament, on Sunday. The high school is 5.7 miles from the Sheraton Maui Resort, where Dayton is staying, and the Civic Center is two miles from the Sheraton.
Haring has worked on renting vans to transport the players to the high school because it’s a steep climb for larger buses. He plans to visit the high school himself on Friday so he knows where everyone’s going the next day.
Haring’s support crew during the tournament consists of four Dayton student managers: senior Henry Stark, of Spring Grove, Ill.; senior Alex Reilly, of Dallas; redshirt junior Matt Weckesser, of Dayton; and junior Alex Roberts, of Springboro. The same four managers traveled with the team to the Battle 4 Atlantis last season in the Bahamas.
“They’re packing all of our equipment bags, our uniforms, our practice uniforms, the video equipment, pretty much anything we could possibly need,” Haring said. “Those guys, along with the entire crew (of managers), have been a major help because this is all new to me. I could easily forget something that is common knowledge.”
All the planning and work will be worth it for Haring when he gets to experience the Maui Invitational for the first time.
“I’m definitely pumped,” he said. “Everyone wants to play in the NCAA tournament, which we definitely want to accomplish as well, but in terms of these preseason tournaments, there’s no better event with tradition like Maui. It’s definitely a bucket-list item for myself and many people in college basketball.”
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