MORGANTOWN — Yesterday’s Hero was gathered in front of his television, just as so many of us were on that Thursday night, watching the final seconds tick off as West Virginia and Cincinnati were coming down the stretch, watching Today’s Hero do his thing.
Jarrod West felt like he’d been there before.
And he had.
“I felt kind of queasy,” West said as he thought back to the moment when Da’Sean Butler beat Cincinnati with a last-second field goal to avoid overtime and advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
West has trouble believing it was 12 years since that March 19 night in Utah.
He now has gone past age 30, is teaching and coaching in Clarksburg, has started his own family.
He has gone from Mountaineer idol to Mountaineer fan, just a face in the crowd when he goes to games with his child, a child who has over the past few years became a Da’Sean Butler fan.
“My son loves him to death,” West said.
But Jarrod West knows that before there was Da’Sean Butler there was Jarrod West walking in Butler’s sneakers.
If you are old enough, you cannot forget the moment, for it was one of the most intriguing in Mountaineer sports history.
WVU had a really good team under Gale Catlett, a team that at that moment was 24-8, a team with West and Brent Solheim and Damian Owens, a team that had advanced through the first round of the NCAA Tournament, beating John Chaney’s Temple team by 30 points.
But now you had Catlett against his old Cincinnati team, just as you had Bob Huggins facing his former Cincinnati team the other night, only that time Huggins was on the Cincinnati bench, a younger, even more brash coach with dreams of a title with a young star in Kenyon Martin.
As the final seconds ticked down, Cincinnati led by two points at 74-72 and Catlett had a play called, one where West had the ball.
It so many ways it was eerily similar circumstances and West knew it as he watched his TV.
“It was the same area of the court,” West said. “When he shot it, I knew it was going in.”
Let’s hit the rewind button of the mind for a moment and go back to that night in Boise, Utah, when Jarrod West became Yesterday’s Hero and compare it to what the night when Butler because Today’s Hero.
WVU was staring at defeat, no doubt, the clock in its final seconds.
“It was a different situation,” West noted. “Hit it or miss it, West Virginia would have played another game the other night. But we were in the NCAA Tournament. It was win or go home.”
West took the ball at the top of the key, a little deeper than Butler. He had a high screen, just as Butler had.
West saw Kenyon Martin trying to come at him.
“He got hooked on the screen, so I had a good shot,” West said.
But West was a little guy and Cincinnati, as Huggins has, possessed monsters, including Ruben Patterson, a tall, long-armed athlete who saw West and switched toward him.
Patterson leaped, his arm extended skyward.
“I had to shoot the ball a little higher than normal,” West recalled.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Patterson got just a fingertip on the ball, not enough to make it miss, but enough to alter the spin, maybe just enough to make it go in.
Like Butler’s, West’s ball banked off the backboard and went in.
What transpired next is hard to describe, both from those who have viewed it and having experienced it.
“It’s one of those feeling I wish everyone could experience,” West said.
There was a numbness, both of body and mind.
“You turn around and everyone is jumping on you. It was like you were dreaming,” he said.
Butler went through it just as West did, just as Mike Gansey has done and anyone else who has beaten the buzzer with a shot that turned a game around, a season around or made a hero of them.
Oddly, while Jarrod West and Da’Sean Butler are joined at the hip by their moment of greatness, they have not before really had much interaction, Butler being Today’s Hero and West a face out of Yesterday.
“I met him at Midnight Madness,” Jarrod West recalled, “but we do not really have a relationship. I do love his body of work, though.”
Jarrod West also had a chance to meet Bob Huggins, the man he had beaten all those many years ago.
“I was told he wasn’t happy when he met me,” Jarrod West said.
Just as it’s easy to remember heroic moments, it’s hard to forget when they come at your expense.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.