CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It seems to happen all the time.
A significant national sports story appears. And - well, I'll be darned - there's a West Virginian in the mix.
Earlier in the NBA season, Mullens native Mike D'Antoni was trying to manage the mess that was the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now, the biggest NBA story centers on the Memphis Grizzlies, who have made their way to the Western Conference finals against San Antonio. And, sure enough, there's a West Virginian - Buckhannon native Chris Wallace - smiling as the Grizz general manager.
Wallace is a proud West Virginian. ("When you look at the number of West Virginians that's been in the league, per capita, we have to be up there," he said before pointing to D'Antoni, Jerry West, Rod Thorn, Hot Rod Hundley, Bimbo Coles, Jason Williams, Hal Greer, O.J. Mayo and others.)
"I like carrying the flag for north-central West Virginia," Wallace said. "All of the others are from southern West Virginia. I'm representing the Muriale's crowd."
Those in the Mountain State with a taste for Italian food know the legacy of Muriale's restaurant. Wallace, meanwhile, continues to build upon his legacy. As a former Boston Celtics general manager, he drafted future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce with the 10th pick of the 1998 draft. After taking over in Memphis, he grabbed point guard Mike Conley in the 2007 draft.
His legacy, however, has been standing tall through severe criticism and, mostly, proving to be correct.
Observers - including Spurs coach Gregg Popovich - howled when Wallace shipped Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame Brown and a second-round draft pick. That draft pick, however, turned out to be Pau's brother Marc Gasol, now considered the NBA's top defender. ("What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension," Popovich said at the time.)
Wallace signed Conley, shaky at times, to a five-year, $45 million extension in 2010. He's blossomed. Wallace signed defender extraordinaire Tony Allen from Boston that same year.
Shockingly, the Grizzlies sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in the middle of this season for, basically, Tayshaun Prince in a move that saved the team $12 million.
After the initial shock, the Grizz not only came together, but flourished.
"We started the season extremely hot," Wallace said. "Then we flattened out. But once the trade was done, there seemed to be a new focus.
"Our main strength is our inside game with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Most people now consider Marc to be the best center in the game. Zach is an exceptional scorer and rebounder.
"We became more streamlined offensively. We were getting the ball inside. Plus, Conley was given more of a load and has been able to handle it. Defensively, we've been really good for the last couple of years."
Memphis, the West's fifth seed, became only the 10th team in NBA history to win four playoff games in a row after falling behind 2-0, taking out the Los Angeles Clippers in Round One. The Grizzlies then defeated Oklahoma City, which was without injured guard Russell Westbrook, 4-1.