By Bob Hertzel
MORGANTOWN — C. Vivian Stringer is a Hall of Fame basketball coach, which probably gets her free admission in Springfield, Mass., when she goes there.
That is not, of course, the only perk that comes with finding a way to win 839 basketball games.
There is also a matter of people listening when you speak.
That is not afforded to everyone, not even West Virginia women’s coach Mike Carey, who on Tuesday night put his 100th Coliseum victory into the books by outlasting the Hall of Famer and her Rutgers team, 55-51.
Considering the pedigree of the Rutgers players, which includes a number of All-America mentions at the high school level, it is somewhat surprising that Carey can tag his rag tag outfit and makes Scarlet Knights look as bad as he did.
Which brings us back to Stringer and the idea that people listen, for when it was over and when she was through lecturing on the technical side of the game that her team failed in, she was asked about Carey and how he had been able to mold his team into No. 8 or 9 in the nation, depending upon which poll you prefer.
“What Mike Carey has done, putting this team in the Top 10, is nothing short of incredible,” Stringer began.
Now let us get straight immediately that she was not taking a shot at the talent that Carey’s team possesses. Quite the opposite, for Stringer understood that he has gathered a talented, if unheralded, group of young ladies and mixed and matched to turn them into a dangerous opponent.
Stringer would next go through the team, beginning with Sarah Miles, who was an off guard last year converted to the point by Carey, a slender, greyhound of an athlete who is faster with the ball than anyone else on the floor without it, even faster than the Rutgers player named Speed.
Miles would hit the key free throws down the stretch, lead WVU in scoring with 16 points, collect six steals and in a game with 41 turnovers would not be charged with a single one.
“She is steady, calm and a good ball handler,” Stringer would note.
She moved on Korinne Campbell, the forward who finished this game with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“She is playing great,” said Stringer. “She seems to hear him and respond in a positive way.”
She couldn’t help but hear him Tuesday night when she walked into the locker room at half time with one shot made in nine attempts.
“Can’t say,” was Carey’s answer to a question regarding how he inspired her. “Just say I tried to motivate her. The way she played the second half is the way she can play for 40 minutes.”
“I knew I’d done wrong, so I was not surprised when he yelled at me,” Campbell admitted.
Everyone on the team has it happen at one time or another, it’s part of playing for Carey.
As for surviving it … “We have friendship on and off the court. We all have each other’s back,” Campbell said.
Hard-working Liz Repella is part of the mix and the leading scorer, but she spent much of this night nursing foul trouble, scoring only eight points. Then there is Madina Ali doing a lot of the dirty work, playing hurt at times, and young Asya Bussie in the middle, learning the game as she goes along.
None of them probably could start at Connecticut, but here they are at 23-3 and 10-2 in the Big East.
“Obviously, they have the right disposition and they believe in each other,” Stringer noted. “Coach Carey should be given all the credit, he and his staff. It’s not like there’s a bunch of All-Americans there.”
As for Carey, when you ask him how he’s done it, he answers like he coaches … straight forward.
• “First, they like each other,” Carey said.
• “Second, they bought into defense,” he added.
• “Third, they bought into the style of coaching.”
That may be the most important part, for they accept Carey for what he is and believe in him as much as they believe in each other.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.