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Mountain State sports heroes I wish I had met

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IN MY YEARS of covering sports in our state and around the country, I have been blessed to meet and work with some incredible individuals. I have worked with football legend Joe Paterno, become friends with the first black coach to win the Super Bowl and broadcast games with Lindsey Nelson. I have been to multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Indy 500s, Final Fours, Brickyard 400s and every major bowl.

But there is much I have not done. And while I have met many of the great names in sports from our state, there are many that I did not meet. Here is a list of some of those names.

  • NEIL BAISI - I did meet the coaching legend at West Virginia Tech, but I never had a chance to really talk with him. He may have been our state's most innovative coach. Coaches came from all over the country to meet the man they called "the Papa Bear."
  • ROY "LEGS" HAWLEY - He is in virtually every sports Hall of Fame in the state. He was the athletic director at both Marshall and WVU and did an incredible job at both places. He was an incredible visionary for sports in our state from the 1920s-'50s. He was crushed in 1954 when the newly formed ACC would not take WVU and he died a short time later.
  • KEN JONES - The former sports director of the old WHTN-TV (Channel 3), Jones was killed in the Marshall plane crash. I watched him on the air but never met him. I still remember the sense of loss in the television community when we lost him.
  • GENE MOREHOUSE - A legendary Beckley sportscaster and the play-by-play voice of Marshall athletics, Morehouse was also killed in the tragedy of 1970. I sat in Gene's chair, but never knew him. We all know his son, Keith. I would love to have known Gene.
  • GEORGE RITCHIE - I knew a lot about him. I knew many of his former players, but I never met the long-time former Williamson basketball coach of the '60s and early '70s. Everyone respected him. A former player at Wake Forest, he was a strong man of faith and instilled life values, as well as basketball, into his players.
  • CHAUNCEY ROBINSON - Growing up in the DuPont community, long-time Panther fans spoke Robinson's name in hushed tones. Panther stars who followed Robinson were always compared to Chauncey. He must have been special when he starred for the DuPont teams of the late '50s and early '60s.
  • FRED SCHAUS - This mountain of a man was good at everything he did. He coached WVU basketball to the Final Four in 1959. He later coached the L.A. Lakers and Purdue. He was a beloved athletic director at WVU. His son, Jim, is one of the best athletic directors in the country at Ohio University. I was around Fred many times, but never really had a chance to talk with him.
  • GEORGE SPRINGER - The former commissioner of the WVIAC was respected by practically every coach and media person in the state. At the end of the tournament every year, as he announced the names of the all-tournament team, you knew you had witnessed something special.
  • RON "FRITZ" WILLIAMS - The former Weirton High and WVU star may be the Mountaineers most underrated star. There is a statue of West. There soon will be one of Hundley. There should be one of "Fritz", the Mountaineers' first black basketball star who helped integrate the program at a crucial time in school history. Many consider him the player who built the WVU Coliseum, even though he never played there.
  • LAWRENCE "PREACH" WISEMAN - One of several Beckley coaching legends, along with Jerome Van Meter and Dave Barksdale, Wiseman sometimes gets overlooked. He guided the Flying Eagles to glory and state titles in the 1960s and '70s.
  • MARK WORKMAN - One of the greatest basketball players in our state's history, one of the state's rare post players, Workman was a star at Charleston High and an All-American at WVU. For years, his large picture was the first thing you saw when you walked in the old CHS.

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