HUNTINGTON — It has been 50 years since Dan and Mike D’Antoni were on Marshall’s men’s basketball team in the same year - Dan finishing his playing career in 1970 and helping coach Mike as a true freshman later that fall.
Now — a half-century later — the D’Antoni duo has teamed up once again during the coronavirus pandemic.
This time, though, the game being played is a bit different.
Instead of basketball, the two brothers are playing bridge — a popular card game that involves four players with two-man teams facing each other.
“We love it,” Dan D’Antoni said. “We just enjoy the game and it’s a chance for us all to get together.”
So, just how often do the D’Antonis join in for a game?
“I’m playing right now,” D’Antoni said on Thursday afternoon. “And if I’m talking to you, I’m not playing very well. Mike is cussing me right now — ‘Dang it. Start paying attention.’”
There’s a reason that Mike D’Antoni is adamant about brother Dan paying attention to the game.
The competition is fierce. It is their sister, Kathy, and friend Jim Sorrent from Charleston.
“Normally, they kick our tails, but they’ve been doing it for years and years,” Dan D’Antoni said. “Lately, it’s been getting a bit more even, though.”
Dan and Mike connect for the game and then call each other to work out in-game strategies together — thus the reason for Mike’s frustration with Dan taking an interview call in the midst of a game.
“If I’m on here, that means I’m not talking to him,” Dan D’Antoni laughed.
Each day at 3 p.m., the four players connect for a game of bridge that generally takes them up until dinner time around 6 or 6:30 p.m.
Normally, Mike D’Antoni would be strategizing for a playoff run as head coach of the Houston Rockets.
However, with the NBA still awaiting word in the next two weeks on whether or not the 2019-20 season will be completed, Mike’s strategies instead come with his brother and former NBA coaching counterpart.
For Dan D’Antoni, there are many similarities between basketball and bridge that make it fun for all involved.
“First off, it’s competitive, and there’s a lot of strategy involved,” D’Antoni said. “It’s a thinking game. You are trying to outsmart your opponent.”
Both Dan and Mike are relative rookies to bridge in comparison to Kathy, who Dan said has competed in tournaments. In true D’Antoni fashion, however, the two are trying to get creative with their thinking to find a way to win.
The good news for the D’Antonis is that while there are similarities between basketball and bridge, there is one distinct difference at game’s end.
“You enjoy the competitive part of it, but at the same time, it’s not killing you if you lose,” Dan D’Antoni said. “You don’t sit up and think about it all night. The way we’re wired, that’s good.”
D’Antoni said the games began once the COVID-19 shutdown started because they were all stuck in the house.
With Dan D’Antoni being 72 years old and Mike D’Antoni having recently turned 69, they have been cautious about not going out into public to avoid potential health risks.
In that sense, the game’s name is fitting.
It is helping the D’Antonis bridge the gap of time until basketball returns.