I had to smile the other night while watching both the Kent State-WVU men’s basketball game and Twitter.
In the hoops game, won, by the way, by the Mountaineers 63-50, Golden Flashes coach Rob Senderoff was assessed two technical fouls for arguing a call and was ejected with 7:54 left. Sean McNeil then sank four free throws and capped a 14-0 run with a layup for West Virginia’s largest lead, 54-37, with 5:55 remaining.
WVU director of athletics content John Antonik, a.k.a. the pride of New Martinsville, recalled on Twitter that Temple legend John Chaney was known for getting tossed from the WVU Coliseum. Antonik also recalled an incident I was involved in. And it may have been my most fun column to write.
The date was Jan. 3, 1991. West Virginia was hosting St. Bonaventure in an Atlantic 10 conference game.
The Mountaineers weren’t great that season (Chris Brooks, Chris Leonard and Mike Boyd led the team to a final 17-14 record), but they were still much, much better than the reeling Bonnies.
Like 125-64 better. The decision broke the all-time high ever scored against the Bonnies as WVU forced them into 33 turnovers, including 23 Mountaineer steals.
Anyway, West Virginia led by 37 – 50-13 — before halftime. That was 14 seconds after St. Bonaventure coach Tom Chapman was ejected for receiving his second technical foul.
The 5,336 in the Coliseum that day loved it and the blowout. My charge, though, was to write a column for the local Morgantown Dominion Post that would be consumed. Simply writing about a 125-64 rout probably wouldn’t do the trick.
When Chapman got tossed out of the game, however, something clicked in my brain. I always wondered what coaches do after getting ejected. Here was my chance to see. What the hell, right?
It was funny because as I descended from the press area (WVU seats the media high rather than on the floor) WVU fans seemed to understand what I was doing.
“Go get him, Mitch!” someone said with a smile.
I walked down to the Coliseum floor and around to the visiting locker room area.
Where I saw a security guard standing outside the St. Bonaventure locker.
For a second, I wondered how to handle the situation. But then again, I was a young 30 years of age. I simply smiled, said hello to the security guard and walked past him. Easy peasy.
Then came the moment of truth. I was at the locker room door. Would this work or would I have to go back and come up with another angle of a 125-64 rout?
I pushed the locker room door open just enough to peek in and see if Chapman was there.
He was. He was sitting alone on a bench inside. He looked up to me and I introduced myself.
“I’ll talk to the press after the game,” he said.
“OK,” I said before a slight pause. “I just thought you might want some company.”
Of course, many coaches at that point would have cussed me out and told me where to go. But I’d picked my ejected coach selectively. I’d heard Chapman in press conferences. I knew he had a great sense of humor.
He smiled and said, “Get in here.”
For the rest of the half and for a little of the second I just shot the breeze with Chapman. I don’t even think we talked much about basketball. We just… talked.
Looking back, it’s a wonderful memory. Unfortunately, Chapman only coached at St. Bonaventure through 1991 and was fired with a 22-62 record. His Bonnies finished last in the Atlantic 10 each season. The good news is he pivoted to public education and ended his career as the superintendent of the Reading (Pa.) School District.
Indeed, times have changed. For instance, I saw when Chapman was hired at St. Bonaventure, he’d signed a five-year contract worth $50,000 per year. Compare that with that of Bob Huggins today.
And, of course, I’m now working for Wheelhouse Creative, which continues to help businesses with their marketing.
But when I look back, and especially when I see a coach getting ejected, I harken back to that fun day on Jan. 3, 1991.
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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.