CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I was saddened to hear the news this week of the passing of longtime coach, teacher and administrator Billy McCoy.
He was a pitching star on the 1970 Charleston High baseball team that was one of the best in Kanawha Valley Conference history. He earned all-state honors, then pitched at Davis & Elkins and West Virginia State. Featuring such players as McCoy, Kenny Shock, Whitey Ferrell, Duke Haddad and Chuck Green, the Mountain Lions were poised to win a state title in 1970 when their best player, Ralph Jean, tragically drowned during sectional tournament play.
Inexplicably forced to play a sectional game on the same day as Jean's funeral, the Mountain Lions could not shake off their sorrow and were upset by Stonewall Jackson.
McCoy also could have been an outstanding high school quarterback, had he gone to school anywhere else. In junior high at Thomas Jefferson he was behind Trippi Adams, who would go on to great success at George Washington. At Charleston High, he would have been behind Ricky Hurt, who never lost a game in high school, won three state titles and won the Kennedy Award in 1970.
Not long after the state basketball tournaments, I received a small package in the mail from longtime state sports writer Gary Dove from McDowell County.
In it was a copy of the 1965 state basketball tournament program. As I looked at some of the teams and players that participated in that tournament at the old Charleston Civic Center, there were certain names that stood out.
Tim Brinkley, Clarksburg R-W: The former Roosevelt-Wilson President is considered one of the best athletes in Harrison County history. He was a multi-sports star in high school, and in college at Alderson-Broaddus he earned all-conference honors in basketball and baseball. He later coached at West Virginia Tech and recruited future NBA star Sedale Threatt to Montgomery.
Bill Craig, Williamson: Craig led the Wolfpack to the AA state title in 1964. After moving up to AAA, Craig led Williamson to a 25-0 record before the Wolfpack lost the state title game to Woodrow Wilson. Craig became an executive with Exxon and his son, Billy, was an outstanding baseball player, pitching at Huntington East and UCLA.
Dale Craycraft, Ceredo-Kenova: Many remember that C-K was a AA football power for many years under head coach Carl Ward. What is sometimes forgotten is that Ceredo-Kenova was also a basketball power in the 1960s under Craycraft.
Paul Greer, Oceana: Greer's 1965 team finished a perfect 26-0. In the great history of coaching names in the coalfields, Greer sometimes gets overlooked.
Dave Hamilton, Gary District: Hamilton led the Bulldogs to a Class A title and went on to West Virginia Conference greatness at State and played briefly with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Joe Pendry, Oceana: Pendry as an incredible multi-sport athlete who went on to WVU and was going to play football and basketball there before being injured. Football fans now know Pendry as one of the best offensive line coaches in college and the NFL. He is retired now, but not before he helped Nick Saban win his first national championship at Alabama. His college roommate in Morgantown was Joe Manchin.
Ellwood Pennington, Oceana: He was well known in Wyoming County as one of the stars for the 1965 Indians, but he would be best known for being the father of Chad Pennington, who earned fame as a quarterback with Marshall, the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins..
Billy Pierce, Bramwell: The Millionaires lost to Fort Ashby in the Class A semi-final game. A sophomore on that team was guard Pierce, who led Bramwell to a state title the next season. He went om to play for Lefty Driesell at Davidson when the Wildcats were a top-10 program and the main Southern Conference rival for WVU.
Reach Frank Giardina at firstname.lastname@example.org.