CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IT WAS saddening to hear about the recent death of coach Charlie Coles, who as a basketball coach loomed just as large as any of those football coaches at Miami University of Ohio.
Coles died June 7 in Oxford, at age 71. His funeral was Thursday at the RedHawks' Millet Hall, with several former stars serving as pallbearers.
Of all the "opposing" coaches I've covered in 11 years on the Marshall beat, he was the best - the wittiest, charming, friendliest and most insightful of them all.
Remember this: For many Marshall fans, particularly the older ones, Miami is the Evil Empire. Coles knew this and he knew he was in for a hazing when he came to Cam Henderson Center.
He not only endured it, he interacted with fans in a way to diffuse it. Back in 2002, he told of dealing with a particularly salty heckler in Huntington.
"I wasn't yelling anything bad [back at him]," Coles said. "We had a grumpy guy up there and I asked his wife, 'Is he always this mean?' Normally, Marshall people are much more kind. This guy had a bad day. I don't know who he was, but he was having a bad day. He was all over me, but that didn't bother me.
"But hey, I enjoy it, and I enjoy Marshall."
Really, he did. He was one of two Mid-American Conference coaches who legitimately mourned the Thundering Herd's move to Conference USA.
(The other was Dan Dakich, then of Bowling Green. He succinctly said, "I'm going to miss Marshall. They give a s--.")
"I heard the rumor ... Marshall's leaving and I said, 'Why?'" Coles exclaimed at the 2003 basketball media day. "They're going to play in a football league with UAB? Please, please. Marshall better stay put.