At the start of a new year, allow me to take a look back to remember some of the names in sports that our state lost in the last 12-14 months.Mike Barrett - Barrett is one of the best college basketball players West Virginia has ever produced. He deserves to be mentioned in the same club as names such as Jerry West, Hal Greer, Rod Thorn, Leo Byrd and Ron "Fritz" Williams.
The major-college recruiters considered Barrett too thin to recruit at the Division I level, but they were wrong. Out of Richwood High School, he went on to play for the Papa Bear, Neal Baisi, at West Virginia Tech in the early 1960s, and fans flocked to Montgomery to see Barrett play.He became a dominant player in the West Virginia Conference immediately. Barrett led Tech to the WVC tournament title in 1963 and was named MVP as a freshman. He then led the Golden Bears to regular-season titles in 1964 and 1965 and earned all-tournament honors both years.Barrett also played for the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. He played professionally in the ABA for the Virginia Squires.Barrett's passing leaves a void in our state's basketball history. George Ritchie - In the world of southern coalfield basketball in the 1950s and '60s, West Virginia produced many legendary high school coaches, such as Lewis D'Antoni (Mullens), Paul Greer (Oceana), Willie Akers (Logan) and Jennings Boyd (Northfork), who were bigger than life in their communities.
In early December, we lost one of the more underrated coaches from the coalfields with the passing of Ritchie, who coached at Williamson High School. Ritchie led the Wolfpack for 16 years and compiled a record of 268-94. He won a Class AA state title in 1964 in a year that was dominated by coalfield teams. Logan won the AAA championship and Kermit took the Class A title.In 1965, Ritchie's Wolfpack moved up to AAA and lost a two-point state title game to Woodrow Wilson. That was also a coalfield-dominated state tournament as Joe Pendry and Oceana won the AA state title and the Hamilton brothers (Dave and Alan) led Gary District to the Class A title.
Ritchie's Williamson teams might have competed for more AAA state titles in the late 1960s, but they kept running into Lou Romano's great Charleston High teams of that era in the regionals.Ritchie was also a terrific player. He played in a 1955 state championship game for Chattaroy High School. He had hoped to play at West Virginia, but a promised scholarship offer never materialized and he ended up going into the ACC to play for the legendary "Bones" McKinney at Wake Forest. Frank Vincent - In November of 2010, our state also lost former Charleston High School and Glenville State football coach Frank Vincent.
Vincent had sensational athletes and teams at Charleston High in the 1960s and early '70s. His 1968, 1969 and 1970 teams won three consecutive state titles, making them the last AAA team to do so.Interestingly enough, one of his former Glenville players was David Walker from Pineville High School. Walker is now the head coach at Martinsburg and has won two consecutive AAA state titles. Somehow I have a feeling that Vincent wouldn't mind a bit if one of his former players equaled his accomplishment. Vincent coached such great players at Charleston such as Melvin Riggins, Don Megginson, Curt Green, Chuck Green, Ricky Hurt, Richard Richmond, Mike Tyson, Clifford Harris, Dale Kee, Charlie Fisher, Steve Morton, Rick Katzeff and others.
He also had a reputation as a bit of a taskmaster. At the start of fall camp, he might have 70 players out for football. By the time the first game rolled around, he might have 30-35 on his roster. One of his most unfortunate player casualties was Mike Tyson, who may have been the best running back to come out of the Kanawha Valley. Tyson had Olympic sprinter speed combined with size and elusiveness. He had a pre-season tiff with Vincent in the fall of his senior year of 1972, supposedly over a small bit of facial hair, and did not play football. He still ended up getting a full scholarship to play at Iowa State. Barrett, Ritchie and Vincent all contributed greatly to the sport scene in our state. Hopefully, they will not be forgotten. Reach Frank Giardina at email@example.com