homepage logo

The Press Box For April 4

By Staff | Apr 4, 2018

If we were to count on our fingers the number of times someone has let us down – or the number of times we have disappointed someone else -we’d definitely run out of fingers!

People fail all the time, whether it be in our relationships, careers, or as coaches and as athletes. Just think about how most West Virginians felt when the Mountaineers lost to Villanova in a recent basketball game. We were disappointed, and many felt let down. In fact, there was enough blame to go around to last a lifetime. Most of it was towards the officials. Some blamed the coach.

I don’t believe any of it.

I’ve watched enough basketball to know that if you don’t make your shots, and the other team does, you are going to lose. The Mountaineers had a great season; they had two of the nation’s best guards. One may have been the best in the country. Plus, the team has, what I consider to be, the best coach in the NCAA.

When most sports seasons end, numbers get crunched. For coaches, it’s easy to get caught up in this number crunching, especially as the media highlights your career wins, the titles you’ve won and the number of “coach of the year” awards you’ve received.

However, any true coach knows that records and awards are not what’s important. Having the opportunity to work with athletes and make a difference in their lives is what’s important. Coaches, like players, make a lot of sacrifices to develop winning teams, but most will tell you that those sacrifices and successes are for the athletes – for the joy of watching players mature and grow.

Coach Bob Huggins is like that. Sure, he wants to win. He would love to win a title, but the things he does as a coach are rare in college basketball today. They are rare in every sport at every level. When commenting on the end of this season following the loss to Villanova, Coach Huggins made the following statement:

“Hey, we had a great group of athletes who played their hearts out, got along well, and won games. We won 26 hard-fought games, and that isn’t anything to be ashamed of. We played the best teams in the country and didn’t back off from anyone. There where many great moments during the season, and no one wanted it to be over. But all good things must come to an end. Though we just finished a great season, a new one is right around the corner, and we are going to recharge and get ready for it.”

That’s why I call Coach Huggins the best in the land. Even though he doesn’t know what tomorrow or next season will bring, or whether new recruits will blend well with the veterans, he stays positive and keeps coaching even in the off season. He stays excited and encouraged and energized.

When I was a kid, our outdoor neighborhood basketball court – the kind that sometimes had nets and sometimes didn’t – was the place where everybody went to play the best basketball.

During the summer months the court was packed with the best area players.

We didn’t need referees or coaches; we just played. It’s where we learned the most to be better players and how to get along with each other. It’s where we learned to want to win, but to also accept loss. It was also where we learned to just have fun, where it was only a game.

I have been following the “Save West Virginia Class A Schools” posts on social media, and must say I have written a couple articles over the past two years in support of public schools versus private. It’s an interesting subject and one that should warrant consideration from the WVSSAC. Over the past 16-17 years, the state tournaments have been tilted in favor of the schools who are allowed to recruit. Check the numbers and you’ll see there is a huge advantage in favor of Catholic, Christian and private schools over public when it comes to sports. I believe if no action is taken to remedy the situation, the state tournaments will continue to lose attendance. It certainly has been down the past few years. I have made a few recommendations, and the one I feel would be most effective is if all Class A schools’ athletic directors would refuse to schedule those schools.

I watched a few high school baseball and softball games this past week and a couple track meets. So far this season I have witnessed some of the best examples of sportsmanship I’ve ever seen. It also looks like the kids are enjoying themselves, and the coaches are doing their best to teach the athletes the right way to handle themselves. We’re winning some, and we’re losing some. But it’s a long way from the end of the season. Let’s keep working hard and doing the best we can.

I very much liked Bubba Kapral’s article on the OVAC’s 75th Birthday. I think it was especially good when he quoted OVAC Executive director Tom Ratajczak take on the effect the decline in decreasing enrollments has on schools in general. You could read it in this past weeks Sunday News Register.

Paden City and Tyler Consolidated track teams performed very well at the Tyler Invitational on Thursday, at Tyler Consolidated. Despite flood conditions, both schools placed athletes in the top 10 in several events. Looks like by the time they get some meets under their belts and weather clears up there will be several making the trip to the state meet in Charleston. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com