Bying(ton) A New Coach

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Greetings from The Booth!

It’s a great time to be a fan of the JMU Dukes. On the heels of an 11-2 season, which included a spot in the Armed Forces Bowl, the Dukes’ basketball team, at the time of this post, is 29-3 and 2 wins away from a Sun Belt Tournament Championship, which would insure them a place in the NCAA “Big Dance.”

On the other hand, these are not good times for WVU fans like me. In recent years, about midway through the football season, fans long for the basketball season to begin. This season, it’s been a complete one-eighty. The Mountaineer football team posted a solid 9-4 campaign (boy, would we love to have that Houston game back!), earning Neal Brown at least another season at the helm.

Meanwhile, the WVU basketball team has been an unmitigated disaster. The Mounties finished the regular season  at 9-21, and if optics are any indication, will be one and done in this week’s Big 12 Basketball Tournament. The season began unraveling before it even started, when former Head Coach Bob Huggins made inappropriate comments on various radio shows, and later was found drunk in his SUV on a Pittsburgh street, unaware of how he had gotten there. His resignation and subsequent transfers left WVU basketball in shambles. Assistant Josh Eilert was named interim HC, and although Eilert was dealt a bad hand, you can only ride that pony so far. He has been way over his head, and in recent games it appears his  players have quit on him.

With this lost season just about over, it’s safe to say that WVU Athletic Director Wren Baker already has some names in mind for the Head Coaching job, and one of them is surely JMU’s Mark Byington. He 47-year old Byington is at the top of a lot of the lists of Mountaineer fans and followers, and why not? After compiling a 131-97 record at Georgia Southern, the one-time Virginia Tech assistant has led the Dukes to a 79-35 mark, and has returned the Harrisonburg school to basketball relevancy.

Byington currently makes a mid six-figure salary at JMU, and with bonuses will probably make in the neighborhood of $650k this year. You can make a pretty good living in the Shenandoah Valley on that kind of income. But what coach wouldn’t want to try his hand with a brand name program in arguably the best college basketball conference in the country, the Big 12? Not to mention, make a seven-figure salary. In Mark Byington, WVU would get a bright young basketball mind who could turn the Mountaineers around quickly. And at just 47, he could be a long-term hire for West Virginia.

For Baker and Mountaineer fans, it’s time to “By” in and get this guy hired!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO EERS!

RW

 

 

The Sports Dogs’ Top 5 for 2023

As 2023 comes to a close, The Sports Dogs reflect on their Top 5 sports stories of the year.

For a full breakdown of Randy and Ryan’s Top 5, check out the latest Sports Dogs Podcast here.

Randy’s Top 5:

  1. The sale of the Washington Commanders from Dan Snyder to Josh Harris, Magic Johnson, and their group.
  2. The Orioles stun the MLB to win the AL East and over 100 games.
  3. The Bob Huggins Era comes to an end in Morgantown after using homophobic slurs on a radio interview and then arrested for drunk driving.
  4. Martinsburg High School secures their 10th WV state championship since 2010
  5. Alderson Broaddus, Randy’s alma mater, closes it’s doors in Philippi.

Ryan’s Top 5:

  1. The debut of The River Rivalry trophy for the Warren County-Skyline football game.
  2. Millbrook High School alum Nazeeh Johnson plays a crucial role in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl run.
  3. James Madison University’s final transitioning year to the FBS features Top 25 rankings, College Gameday, and after threats of lawsuits and litigation, the first bowl appearance in school history.
  4. Local schools earn state championships including Clarke County girls’ soccer and basketball teams and James Wood volleyball’s second consecutive title.
  5. Skyline basketball’s 26-1 season featuring the school’s first state semifinal appearance, a regional championship, and Zack Diggs becoming the first 1000 point scorer in Skyline history.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Sports Dogs Podcast: Top 5 of 2023

In our final Sports Dogs Podcast of the year, the R-Dog and the Duke share their “Top 5 Sports Stories of 2023” and compare notes. From local stories to national ones, this past year was an eventful one in the world of sports, and the Dogs recap it for you…

 

Huggy Bear

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Greetings from The Booth!

I will start by saying I hate writing about the non-sports side of sports. The reason I watch sports is to escape the problems of the everyday world. The problem is that the everyday world has found it’s way into sports, and I can’t tell the difference between the two. It’s to the point now that I rarely watch a sporting event unless it involves the Washington professional football team (usually not a pleasant experience) or my beloved WVU Mountaineers.

Speaking of the old Blue and Gold, the Mountaineers’ legendary Hall-Of-Fame basketball coach Bob Huggins is now in hot water for (twice) casually using a homophobic slur during a recent radio interview on Cincinnati’s 700 WLW. In case you don’t know the backstory, Huggins was once the coach of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, who had a fierce rival with Xavier, also located in Cincy. During the WLW interview, Huggins weighed in on the Xavier fans–you can look up what he said exactly–using the anti-gay term. Four hours later, “Huggs” released a statement of apology, and WVU said it was “reviewing the matter”

It now looks like there will be no firing of Huggins by the University. Instead, he will lose $1 million in salary, serve a suspension, and have to complete a sensitivity training course before he is allowed back on the sideline. Reaction on social media fan boards was mixed, with some wanting everyone to “move on,” while some wanted Huggins fired outright. Many thought the punishment amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist.

I love Bob Huggins. He bleeds Blue and Gold. But there is no good excuse for what he said, and Huggins admitted as much. Today’s coaches have to be aware of the day and age in which we live. That being said, I don’t believe in cancel culture. Bob Huggins has done a lot of good for the University and the state of West Virginia. That has to be considered when arriving at a just punishment. It’s easy to come out of the woodwork as so many pundits have done and reach for a rock to throw. The greatest Man to ever walk the Earth once said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Huggins has built enough equity to deserve a chance at redemption.

There are many who think that Huggs is a dinosaur, and that the game has passed him by. Those people now have some fuel for their fire. It does seem at times that Huggins is disinterested and devoid of energy as he sits on his courtside stool on game day, and has complained over and over about navigating the current landscape of college hoop as it applies to NIL and the transfer portal.

Huggins has since found a way, with the help of a wealthy coalition of West Virginians, to embrace the portal, and the Mounties have had one of the best off-seasons in the country. Until this incident, Mountaineer Nation was counting the days until basketball season in Morgantown. Now, we hold our collective breath hoping that the new players don’t jump ship. Time will tell.

It should be an interesting 6 months for Mountaineer fans…

Until the next visit from The Booth, GO EERS!

RW

 

 

Sports: Thursday, May 11, 2023

Nats Take 2 Of 3 In SF, O’s Beat Rays 2-1, Huggins’ Punishment Announced

Ildemaro Vargas strokes a 2-run triple in the Nats’ 11-6 win over the Giants. Courtesy of the Nationals Radio Network…

Lane Thomas pads the lead with a solo HR.  The call courtesy of the Nationals Radio Network…

 

 

Sports: Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Nats Drop 4-1 Decision To Giants, O’s Even Series Against Rays, Huggins Under Fire

Dominic Smith drives in the Nat’s only run in a 4-1 loss to San Francisco. The call from the Nationals Radio Network…

Tougher Than A Weekend At Your In-Laws

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Greetings from The Booth!

Last Friday, I got to do something I hadn’t done in probably 20 years–broadcast a basketball game. At the same time, I did something I maybe have never done–reverse roles and provide color analysis. For over 40 years I have been a play-by-play man, and that is my comfort zone. But for this season’s high school basketball coverage, the very capable Ryan (The Duke) Rutherford has been handling both roles up until now, as we move into the VHSL State Tournament and follow the fortunes of the undefeated Skyline Hawks.

Friday’s game took me back to my first play-by-play gig doing Alderson-Broaddus College (now University) women’s basketball while attending that school back in 1977-78. You gotta start somewhere, and that is where I started learning my craft, soaking up knowledge from anyone who was willing to give me tips. At some point, I will hang up the headphones as a new generation of sports broadcasters like Ryan take over the Booth. I just hope he’s learned a few things from me, as I learned from others.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about my West (By-God) Virginia Mountaineers basketball team. It’s been a tough year to be a Mountie. Football coach Neal Brown told us a few years ago to “trust the climb,” but after another year with no bowl game, we couldn’t wait for basketball season. Surely, Bob Huggins’ charges would give us our Mountaineer Mojo back. And, after a 10-2 start, folks were already starting to talk about NCAA seeding.

Then came the Big-12 part of the schedule. Playing in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball, WVU lost it’s first 5 league games, and their record started to drift back toward .500. Since then, West Virginia has righted the ship somewhat and has gone 6-6 in their last 12 games in a conference where you’re playing a ranked team just about every time you take the floor. The ‘Eers are as of this writing 17-13 with one league game and the conference tournament remaining before the Big Dance. Bracket King Joe Lunardi has WVU a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Mounties can knock off number-11 Kansas State this Saturday in Morgantown, they are probably in.

It’s said that a team takes on the personality of it’s coach, and after some rough patches, I think that’s happening now with the Mountaineers. Hall-Of-Famer Huggins has had some challenges dealing with the brave new world of college athletics, but has brought together a group of strangers and turned them into a team that is tougher than a weekend at your in-laws. In the mold of Huggins (and his beloved state), WVU is gritty, and capable of hanging with anyone in the country. After a season of more ups and downs than a ride along Corridor H, the best could be yet to come for this team. So, grab a pepperoni roll and a jar of shine, and CUE COUNTRTY ROADS!

Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HAWKS, GO EERS!

RW

 

 

Sports Dogs: Coach C On College Hoop

In this edition of the SDPC, The R-Dog (Randy) is back from vacay and talkin’ college basketball with Mike Costello, aka Coach C, about our regional teams building their resume for The Big Dance, plus some thoughts about the transfer portal and NIL…