MORGANTOWN - My lasting on-court memory of Jonathan Hargett isn't that of most others.
Perhaps that's because it came in a sparsely-attended game at Madison Square Garden that didn't warrant much attention. A West Virginia team that had begun the season 7-2 had just been thumped by an average of 25 points in back-to-back games against Valparaiso and Pepperdine in the Fiesta Bowl Classic in Tucson. That marked the beginning of the end, a 1-18 finish that would be the end for both Hargett and Gale Catlett.
On that early January afternoon in 2002, I clearly remember Hargett, on back-to-back possessions, crossing midcourt and launching ridiculous shots, kind of like Archie Talley used to do at Salem. But Archie's always had a chance.
Hargett's first hit the glass two feet to the left of the rim. Undaunted and apparently determined to correct his aim, his second hit the glass two feet right of the rim.
At first I thought perhaps he was trying his signature move, which was bouncing the ball off the glass and dunking the rebound. But he merely watched both shots.
I bring that up, of course, because Hargett is back in the West Virginia consciousness thanks to a story by Pete Thamel in the New York Times over the weekend.
That Hargett is nearing the end of a five-year prison term for drugs in Virginia is not surprising.
Even his insistence to Thamel that he was promised $20,000 a year to attend West Virginia is not surprising. That Hargett was getting money during his brief college basketball career is not a new revelation.
Without rehashing well-documented and thoroughly-investigated reports from a decade ago, suffice it to say that's the reason Hargett spent only a year at WVU. He was being paid, mostly by a runner for an agent. West Virginia investigated everything possible and turned the findings over to the NCAA. The NCAA likewise investigated and cleared WVU of any wrongdoing.
So from that aspect, the Times story - which, by the way, was in no way intended to target WVU, but rather to shine a light on a basketball prodigy's life gone wrong - is an interesting read with some fascinating details as recalled by Hargett. And if he says the figure was $20,000 a year or $60,000 total, fine. But Hargett probably didn't know or care where that money was coming from and can generally say that he was promised the money to play at WVU. The NCAA's probe into it 10 years ago absolved anyone at West Virginia of paying it, so in the absence of anything other than Hargett's prison interview, we'll leave it at that.
Instead, the most curious part of the reporting done by the
Times comes from Dan Dakich, who was hired to replace Catlett in the spring of 2002 and inherited the Hargett mess. Dakich spent about a week on the job, never signed a contract, decided the challenges at West Virginia were just too great and went back to his job at Bowling Green.
Now Dakich is quoted as saying that at West Virginia he found "a culture of dishonesty, and that had been there for a while.'' Even more stunningly, he said that when he learned of Hargett's situation and approached then-WVU president David Hardesty, Hardesty told him, 'If you go any further with this, we'll destroy you.''
Oh, good. Now we have a brand new memory of the Hargett era.
Hardesty, of course, denies ever threatening Dakich.
"I don't believe that I threatened him. I don't believe I used that term,'' Hardesty said Monday during an interview with MetroNews. "If the term 'destroy' came up, it was in a completely different context, which resulted in a misunderstanding.''