Ananias, service academies, coach Cook and Mary O

By Frank Giardina
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Earlier this week, Brian Anania was named a Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-American scholar by the Golf Coaches Association of America. It's quite an honor for the former Hurricane High and current Marshall athlete.Anania has been a Dean's List student at Marshall in all five of his semesters and has a 3.92 grade-point average in business management. He finished sixth at the Davidson Invitational and helped Marshall to three top-three team finishes. You may not remember, or know, that Anania's father Geno was also an outstanding all- around athlete at George Washington.  Although he only stood around 5-foot-6 or 5-7, he cast a pretty big shadow on the Patriots program in the mid-1970s. He was fun to watch as he played  football, basketball and baseball on The Hill. As many local athletes did in those days, Anania went on to play baseball at the University of Charleston from 1978-81. He was a feisty leadoff hitter and center fielder and earned All-West Virginia Conference honors for the late Tom Nozica as a senior. 
  • I have written before about the fact that the head men's basketball coach at Army, Zach Spiker, is a state native and a Morgantown High graduate. Well, our state now has both major service academies covered. There is also a strong West Virginia connection to the men's basketball coaching staff at the Naval Academy.
  • Head coach Ed DeChellis started his career as an assistant at Salem and later went on to be head coach at East Tennessee State and Penn State. One of his top assistants is Philippi native and former Alderson-Broaddus player Ernie Nestor, who is a former head coach at George Mason and Elon.Recently, another state native joined the Navy staff. Former Cabell Midland point guard Jon Perry, who played in the 1996 state tournament with the Knights and then went on to play at East Tennessee State, is now an assistant in Annapolis. Don Perry, Jon's father, played on the Milton High team that played in the 1961 and 1962 Class AA state championship games
  • Saturday was the 87th birthday for former Marshall baseball coach Jack Cook. Cook and former West Virginia baseball coach Dale Ramsburg had one of the friendliest, classiest coaching relationships in state history when both were coaching at our two major state universities.
  • In my years of athletics, I have never worked with a finer man or coach than Jack Cook. He was also a heckuva baseball coach, winning three state titles at Huntington High and then taking Marshall to two NCAA tournaments. His 1978 team was one win away from advancing to the College World Series but lost to Miami (Fla).Whenever he had to cut a player during a pre-season tryout, Cook would always say, "We didn't get rid of him, we just sent him down to the salt and pepper league for a little more seasoning." I always loved that.    
  • Finally, one more thought on the passing this week of former Parkersburg Catholic and Tennessee basketball star Mary Ostrowski. What Babe Ruth was to the growth of major league baseball in the Roaring '20s, "Mary O" was to girls basketball in our state.
  • Our state was very much behind the times with much of the country when we began playing girls high school basketball in the 1970s.  Initially many in our state scoffed at the girls game, made fun of it, and the ladies were forced to play in the fall. Just as Billie Jean King did for women's tennis, Ostrowski began to change some of that perception in our state. She and local star Valetta "Wee Wee" Johnson of Stonewall Jackson began to develop followings. Mary O was a bigger-than-life national superstar type of player who handled herself with class and dignity. She then went on to Tennessee and helped Pat Head Summit develop the most successful program in the history of the sport. Ostrowski was a true pioneer, not just in our state, but also nationally. She paved the way in our state for future college All-Americans Vicky Bullett (Maryland), Susan Robinson (Penn State), Alexis Hornbuckle (Tennessee), Renee Mongtomery (Connecticut) and others.   Our state's sports history owes a great deal of gratitude to Mary O. 
    Reach Frank Giardina at
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