There is much reason for optimism as the curtain falls on the 2012-13 high school basketball season in Madison. The Scott Skyhawks, while losing a driving force in their program, are a young team whose dreams and goals sit just beyond the horizon.
Everyone knows senior star Matt Dolan will be nearly impossible to replace. His skills, leadership and courage have been role models for the Hawks during the past four years. Dolan is the type of athlete who comes along once in a decade or so, and he will be sorely missed by his teammates, coaches and fans.
Still, the young Hawks have shown determination and have definitely improved as the year rolled along. I have always maintained, with respect to coaches, one can judge them by the improvement their squad shows over a season. A good coach will make his team better as the season rolls along. He or she cannot win games for them but he or she can get them to show improvement.
I generally liken coaches to my own vocation of political consulting. My job, and the coach’s job, is to see that our folks have the best circumstances under which they CAN win. In other words, we are to twist the dials and turn the knobs to set up a best-case scenario for our players and candidates. If they still lose, we’ve nevertheless done our job well.
Scott Head Coach Nick Cabell is passionate and certainly knows his x’s and o’s. It is difficult, as I have said here before, to follow an act like Jason Kingery, the coach and promoter extraordinaire. Still, Cabell did a good job at it and his team will be a force to reckon with for years to come.
So, while it was sad to sit at the Charleston Civic Center and watch the clock click to zero on Dolan’s career, there was still optimism for the future of the Hawk team. And, make no mistake about it, Dolan will succeed wherever he is and whatever he does in life. Matt Dolan is a winner.
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As I mentioned in previous columns, the state boys and girls tournaments are great opportunities to revisit and renew acquaintances made over the years. Legendary Harts/Chapmanville Coach Harry Kirk often speaks of going to tournament games solely to visit with some of his former colleagues and it is great to do just that.
I had the real pleasure of spending tourney time with Kirk and his coaching nephew, Richie McCann, as well as several others. There is nothing finer than watching a game with the Chapmanville crew which includes Ted Ellis, the legendary baseball coach; Greg Dalton, the best insurance man in the state; Danny Godby, the retired Chapmanville athletic director and former major league baseball player; and others in what Kirk affectionately refers to as the “amen corner.”
Here, too, was former Kentucky and Williamson legendary Coach Allan Hatcher and his son, Logan Coach Supreme Mark Hatcher. The senior Hatcher is now coaching at Chapmanville Regional High, where he hopes to be the first coach to take a Chapmanville team to the state tournament.
It is actually incredible to consider how many great teams the old Chapmanville High fielded without making it to Charleston. Of course, the road was likely tougher then and the bumps in the course just managed to keep the Tigers out.
In addition, the current Chapmanville Regional High, a consolidation of the former Chapmanville and Harts highs, likely should have gone to the state field a few times itself.
Hatcher is certainly a skilled enough coach to take the Tigers to Charleston, if coaching is all that is required. I guess we’ll sit back and see.
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I often joke with Chapmanville friends that I’d like to know what THEY did to the goat. My reference is to the supposed “Curse of the Billy Goat” that is believed to prevent the Chicago Cubs from ever playing in the World Series.
The legend is that in 1945, Cub fan Billy Sianis brought his pet billy goat to Wrigley Field where the Cubs were playing Detroit in the series. Sianis became irate, the story goes, when management asked him to leave the park because other patrons were complaining about the odor of his pet.
So furious was Sianis, it is told, that he wrote a letter to Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley (of the famous Wrigley Gum fortune) and told him the Cubs would not only lose the 1945 Series but would never make the showcase again. In the 106 seasons since, Chicago’s National League squad has never won a pennant.
So, tell me, if any reader knows, what and when the Chapmanville leadership offended a goat owner to the point of putting this curse of them. Maybe we can do something to get it removed.
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Folks from Hamlin were wondering aloud if there was a chance Lincoln County High could score a major coup by luring former Harts and Marshall star Andy Paul Williamson to their town to coach varsity basketball. Williamson, whose children include standouts Andrea Williamson and Paul Herbert “Bub” Williamson, has been fairly well known as the coach at Harts Middle School.
Although Odell Dingess is officially listed as the Harts coach, it is clear that the team is largely influenced by Williamson, whose youngest son is in the seventh grade at Harts this year.
The Hamlin theory is that if Williamson can be coaxed to come coach at Lincoln County High, his son will logically follow. Andi Williamson starred at Chapmanville Regional after Harts High was closed but her brother, Bub, went on to star at Logan High. Many thought the younger Williamson would also head to Logan although that is apparently in doubt now.
When Brad Napier left the Logan staff to become the coach at Mingo Central High, he also acquired Tracy Dempsey as a freshman coach. Dempsey just happens to be the husband of Williamson’s mother and, thus, the grandfather of Williamson’s children. Those in the know say Andy Paul Williamson will travel with his younger son to Matewan when he enters ninth grade.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) rule is that a freshman can attend any school he or she chooses without penalty. Although it would be much more than an hour drive from Harts to Matewan, apparently that is no problem for Grandpa Tracy and would not be seen as an impediment for the youngster.
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Nevertheless, the Hamlin whispering makes it clear the powers-that-be in Lincoln are fed up with current Head Coach Rodney Plumley. Plumley, who hasn’t won at any level in his coaching career, downgraded the Panther schedule this year in the hope of making some noise. Although LCHS won as many games as it lost by defeating Class A and AA teams, they lost in the Triple A sectional first-round by 30 points.
Under former Hamlin High Coach Bill Elkins and now Plumley, the Panthers have been the doormat of Triple A ball. Some in Hamlin recall the days when their old Bobcats were usually contenders in Class A.
The general feeling in Charleston was that if the folks in Hamlin could find a really qualified coach from the outside, Plumley would join football Coach Cory Beck in the discharge line.
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Whispered discussion among those in the media know at the tournament surrounded John Raese’s drive to keep West Virginia University from leaving his MetroNews empire in athletics.
Raese claims favoritism in the awarding of a new contract that would take media rights from his company. Most agree that if there is a “sweetheart” deal with the new company, Raese has enjoyed such a relationship for years and made millions from Mountaineer sports.
I never got the opportunity to discuss media deals with the SSAC administrators who were in Charleston last week, but MetroNews has always enjoyed an advantage there too. Only MetroNews can broadcast games from the tournament, for example.
In addition, the rules say nobody except a MetroNews reporter can interview a coach on the floor. That gives them several additional minutes to spend with coaches over other media representatives. Eventually, coaches and some players are led into a media room where they are available to all members of the press.
I suspect the SSAC bid the media contract at some point and MetroNews won. At least I would hope that is the case. I will ask, sometime soon, when the contract expires and what the plans for rebidding are.
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Absent from the one-hundredth boys state tournament was coaching icon Willie Akers. Akers, who took a tumble earlier in the year at the Civic Center, is said to be recuperating well at a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta.
Some friends said Akers plans to be back in West Virginia in late April before going back for more treatment. He should then return in June, they say.
Akers is also a Logan County commissioner.
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Tips, questions or comments, readers can contact me on my cell at 304-533-5185.