The Times West Virginian

Opinion

November 9, 2012

Fairmont State basketball begins this weekend with lofty expectations

Fairmont State University’s past and present in basketball converge this weekend.

Before the FSU men play their first game under new coach Jerrod Calhoun at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Joe Retton Arena at the Feaster Center, the school will pay tribute to legendary coach Joe Retton.

Before the Falcons’ game against Ohio Eastern, the university will unveil a new banner to be hung in the arena that illustrates the numerous accomplishments of Retton during from 1963-82, a period of sustained excellence in Falcon basketball.

Retton, following a successful run as the coach at Barrackville High School, won 12 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season championships and eight conference tournament titles. Fairmont State advanced to the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City on 12 occasions and finished as the national runner-up in 1968 after a well-played 51-48 loss to Central State of Ohio. The Falcons reached the Final Four on three other occasions. Retton was twice named NAIA Coach of the Year and finished with a career record of 478-95 at Fairmont State, winning 83.6 percent of his games.

No fewer than nine All-Americans played at FSU during Retton’s tenure — Dwight Conaway, Dave Miller, John Jamerson, Dave Cooper, Lerman Battle, Bill Lindsey, Dave Moore, Vance Carr and Leroy Loggins. A 10th, Tim Murphy, played as a freshman under Retton.

Retton’s 1970-71 and 1975-76 teams had undefeated regular seasons. He is a member of the Fairmont State Hall of Fame, the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the NAIA Coaches Hall of Fame.

The recognition of Retton is a highlight of a weekend when the FSU men’s and women’s teams play amid high expectation.

The Lady Falcons, with five starters back and the preseason No. 1 pick in the conference, get things started today in the opening round of the WVIAC/PSAC Challenge at the Joe Retton Arena. Action gets under way at 1 p.m. when Concord University battles Indiana (Pa.) University. IUP got a number of votes in the recently released USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 poll. Fairmont State will tangle with Clarion (Pa.) University in its opener at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Concord and Clarion will square off at 2 p.m., while Fairmont takes on IUP at 4 p.m.

Veteran FSU women’s head coach Steve McDonald combines optimism with his hard-driving approach.

“I think we have talent and experienced talent,” he said. “I think our coaching staff works extremely hard, and I like our X’s and O’s. All of that is good. Right now, though, we have to get better as a unit and play with more of a purpose instead of just playing. I think we have a chance to be very good, but in all honesty right now after three preseason scrimmages, we’re not as good as I thought we would be at this point.”

FSU’s men, meanwhile, were picked third in the preseason poll of WVIAC coaches.

Calhoun, who left Bob Huggins’ staff at West Virginia University to take the FSU position following the 2011-12 season, had high objectives even as he looked at the campus before interviewing for the job.

“I looked at that campus, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this place in unbelievable,’” Calhoun recalled. “I said we just have to upgrade these athletic facilities a little bit, and this is going to be one of the best Division II jobs in the country.

“This is a place where I can come, if I get a good staff that will recruit and get good players, where we can win a national championship.”

WVU, naturally, receives tremendous attention in these parts during basketball season.

There is plenty of room, though, for success by both the Falcons and Mountaineers from now until March. FSU’s men and women appear in position to compete within the WVIAC and on the national level, and it all gets under way his weekend.

Enjoy, Falcon fans.

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