In honor of International Women’s Day, sports writer Andy Katz ranked the top combined men’s and women’s basketball programs of this season.
And slotted at No. 4 in the nation? West Virginia University.
It got me thinking. You know how Mountaineer women’s coach Mike Carey complains about a lack of media coverage for his team? He may just have a point.
I’ve probably covered the women’s team through the years as much as anyone. I knew the program’s first coach, Kittie Blakemore. She was a fine woman who was given the task of building a program back in 1973 after Congress put forth Title IX.
I’d just graduated from the school when, in 1983, WVU’s team joined the NCAA. I witnessed the women’s basketball earthquake after 6-7 Mountaineer Georgeann Wells took to Elkins’ Randolph County Armory floor, accepted a full-court pass from Lisa Ribble and rocked a one-hand dunk – a college basketball first – on Dec. 21, 1984 against the University of Charleston.
I was there covering Rosemary Kosiorek in 1992 when WVU thrilled a crowd of 8,000 at the Coliseum in Morgantown by downing Clemson in the NCAA tournament. (They finished 26-4 and ranked No. 14. Blakemore retired after the season.)
Just suffice it to say I’ve been around, watching the reins go to Scott Harrelson then Susan Walvius then to…
Mike Carey. The point of this blog.
His program does indeed deserve more coverage – and I’ll tell you why.
First, when taking over the program, Carey was stepping into a world he knew little about. Yes, he was a former hard-nosed player and then head coach at Salem College. But when he took the job in the spring of 2001, he didn’t know the recruiting landscape. He had, in fact, much to learn about women’s college basketball.
But, wow, did he learn. And, wow, did he flourish.
He built until the 2013-14 season to remember, when the Mountaineers went 30-5, earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and finished No. 7 in both polls.
There was the Mountaineers’ electric 2017 championship in the Big 12 tournament.
Overall? WVU’s women have appeared in 12 NCAA tournaments. Ten – plus five WNIT appearances – have come under Carey.
That’s impressive. Sure there have been great players pass through Morgantown through the years, names like Kosiorek, Cathy Parson, Meg and Kate Bulger, Teana Muldrow, Tynice Martin, etc.
But Carey has been the glue, the instructor.
While we – deservedly – praise the job Bob Huggins does with the men’s team, we also have to look at Carey.
Why? Consider that the Mountaineers have now been ranked in the Associated Press poll 121 times through history. All but eight have been under Carey.
And one last nugget to go on. This season’s WVU team – led by senior guard Kysre Gondrezick – has steadily improved. The Mountaineers didn’t even enter the A.P. Top 25 until the 10th week of the season. Yet they enter the Big 12 tournament at 19-5, ranked No. 17 and the No. 2 seed in the league event.
Certainly worthy of praise.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.