CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The views from here, while happily winging back to the Mountain State from Spokane: Congratulations to Mullens native and former Marshall standout Mike D'Antoni, who landed the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Mountain State has always had a strong link with the Lakers, harking back to the playing days of Jerry West and, subsequently, his work as general manager. (We'll skip his coaching stint.)
The initial backlash against D'Antoni by Laker fans wasn't surprising. Phil Jackson, who was passed over, is a proven winner and fan favorite. What was surprising, however, was the media backlash. Those supposedly knowledgeable in basketball panned the move like an Elizabeth Berkley film.I understand some of the questions. But Steve Nash loves D'Antoni. Kobe Bryant is happy with the move. And half the battle with gifted athletes is getting them on board with the coach. My hunch is D'Antoni will fare well. If owner Jerry Buss wants a return of "Showtime," D'Antoni's offense is the best option.My question: Did Buss huddle with West? Perhaps? While considering the plight of WVU's football team - and its immediate future - it occurred to me maybe Mountaineer athletic director Oliver Luck should focus extra attention on the men's basketball program.
You've read the city of Morgantown has given WVU grief about game-day parking on Monongahela Boulevard. Perhaps Luck should put plans for a baseball stadium on the back burner and work on a multi-level parking garage for the Coliseum.Mountaineer fans will buy tickets for WVU basketball games. As it stands, though, they seem to only show in full force for games against "name" teams.Part of the reason is because it's a pain to get there and park. If a parking garage would be erected and a few capable traffic cops employed, WVU could draw more fans. It would be easier. It would be more fun. It would be more profitable.Again, fans have proven they'll show for hoops. Are they really going to show for WVU baseball? WVU's basketball team, on the other hand, didn't show up Monday night/Tuesday morning against Gonzaga.
The hosts pasted the Mountaineers 84-50 in Spokane, Wash., and we learned a couple things.One, with the way West Virginia's team is shooting the ball, it will see lots and lots of zone this season. The Zags started in a man-to-man defense but settled into an effective 2-3 zone, partly because of foul problems. It worked like a charm."We weren't in the right place at the right time," said WVU guard Jabarie Hinds. "We weren't flashing. We were perimeter passing. We made their zone look better than it was.""I feel we played as bad as we possibly could," added Juwan Staten. "We can only go up from here. It was a tough environment and we probably won't face any team that executes as well as [Gonzaga]. We just have to get better."WVU also needs to get the ball inside more, especially to Aaric Murray, WVU's only double-digit scorer Monday. Back on the subject of West Virginia University fans, the gut feeling from here is they'll still show and support this season's football team - for one more game. They'll show to see if their Mountaineers can upset Oklahoma. If they can't, good luck drawing for the Kansas game.
It will be interesting to see, however, what happens after the season. Luck has said he wants accountability. It will be surprising if some of Dana Holgorsen's coaches aren't fired. The question came up the other day if Holgorsen should sit early-season Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith. Perhaps, the thought went, it would serve Smith well.
My response: absolutely, positively not. Smith has been too good and has represented WVU too well to make such a move at this point. It would be a slap at one of the Mountaineers' finest all-time football performers.And based on the late-season defections, Holgorsen and company seem to already have team discord with which to deal.Besides, what - beside one strike thrown against Oklahoma State - makes anyone think Paul Millard is ready for the duty? While on quarterbacks, can ESPN please, please, please stop harping on the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow issue? The Jets are 3-6. Sanchez is the best they have. End of story.
And while you're ditching that, attach the Michael Vick talk. The Philadelphia Eagles are likewise 3-6. Neither Vick nor Sanchez are "elite." They won't be. Move on please. And finally . . .
While asking ESPN to retire things, I'm sure Holgorsen wouldn't mind if the World Wide Leader would mothball the "Stare Down" commercial that served the WVU program well early in the season. Oddly, it's been running a lot lately.You know the one. The punch line has Lee Corso asking Mountaineer mascot Jonathan Kimble, hidden in the corner with a musket, ready to defend his coach, what he's looking at.It also, though, leads into that with Kirk Herbstreit asking Holgorsen about his defense."Yeah," Holgorsen says, "[it's] playing pretty good. I had some new guys step up."If only . . .Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.