The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 8, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Mountaineers play final show on Broadway

NEW YORK — “Give my regards to Broadway,

remember me at Herald Square.

Tell the gang at 42nd Street

that I will soon be there.”

— “Give My Regards to Broadway,” lyrics by George M. Cohan

If there were any tears Wednesday about West Virginia leaving the Big East they were not because they are leaving for the Big 12, simply over the way they are leaving.

In defeat.

So, yeah, there were tears … tears of sorrow for losing, but maybe a tear or two of joy for getting away from a dying conference that thinks adding Temple is going to save it.

Temple … a team it kicked out once, is now the savior. Right.

The record book says UConn beat the Mountaineers in their last Big East game in the second round of the Big East Tournament, going to overtime, 71-67.

It’s hard enough to win when you play a quality team with a Hall of Fame coach like Connecticut, but when it’s 8 against 5 it’s really tough.

But that’s what it was, the way the game was called. The officials have a tough job, but when a sports writer without a dog in this fight, a prominent one from another Big East city, comes up to you after the game and says, unsolicited, “The next call West Virginia gets will be the first one” … well, what’s to add to that.

Then, he added, “You guys haven’t gotten a call in the last month” … and no, you can’t to add to that.

Put that together with Kevin Jones being left off at least one ballot for all-league. Throw in Jones being beaten out by Jae Crowder of Marquette for the Player of the Year, and you can draw your own conclusions.

Oh, yeah, and as one final going-away gift the conference, on its transcription of the West Virginia post-game press conference, the Big East got in one final dig, titling the page “University of West Virginia.”

It was a very sad Kevin Jones who stood before the media in the midst of the WVU locker room after the game and took his snub by the Big East coaches like a man.

“At the end of the day it was about the team and finding a way to win this tournament,” Jones said when the matter was brought up. “It’s a matter of opinion. The whole thing is. I’ve got to shake it off, because I’ve been dealing with things like that my whole career.”

He’s heard he can’t do this and he can’t do that, yet he stood there as the scoring champion and rebounding champion of the Big East, with 25 points and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes of his final Big East game devoid of trophy and championship. He was empty-handed and, you could tell, broken hearted.

But then he stood a little taller and made a comment that certainly does define him and the way he approaches the game and life.

“It won’t make or break me,” he said.

Someone wanted to know if he did feel disrespected.

“Not disrespected, disappointed,” he said. “But it’s out of my control.”

So much has been out of his control all year, for he has been a magnificent representative of his school and, yes, of the Big East Conference that gave him a boot in the butt as a going-away gift.

It is a shame that it ever came to this, to WVU leaving the Big East. Its hand was forced and it was a football thing, but class guys like Jim Calhoun, the winning coach, know what’s going on.

“West Virginia leaving is sad in many, many ways,” Calhoun said during his press conference.

He thought back to a game a long time ago, March 12, 1988 – see that’s how coaches are, forgetting nothing.

“We go down (to Morgantown) and we’re down two and Tate George makes a bank shot to send us to overtime, and we hadn’t won anything for a national perspective, and we win,” Calhoun said. “We go on to win the NIT that year, beat Ohio State, my second year there and I remember walking around the Coliseum looking at history.

“I’m going to miss them greatly,” Calhoun continued. “I’m going to miss Bobby (Huggins), going to miss the competitiveness, that’s the kind of game you play against them, and he’s heading on his way to being a Hall of Fame coach.

“I don’t think the league needs to be losing Hall of Fame coaches. I know it’s not basketball driven, but I’m going to miss them a great deal.”

And, believe it or not, they will miss playing Calhoun and Connecticut, a team much like their own, a team that plays hard and has a one-of-a-kind coach.

But it isn’t to be, not in collegiate sports the way they are conducted today.

WVU is gone and all you can say it is:

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today ... and give my regards to Broadway.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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