For a few days in late March and early April, Mike D’Antoni of the Rockets won’t be the only basketball coach in Houston with ties to West Virginia.
Williamstown girls basketball coach Fred Sauro has been selected to coach the East team as part of the McDonald’s All American game scheduled for April 1 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
According to West Virginia Sports Writers Association records, Sauro is the second-winningest coach in state girls basketball history with 504 victories, just 38 behind longtime John Marshall coach Stan Blankenship. Including coaching at the boys level, Sauro has manned a sideline for 51 years.
Sauro’s selection came from years of working at camps run by former DeMatha Catholic coach Morgan Wootten, who was one of the founders of the McDonald’s All American games. Wootten passed away early Wednesday morning at the age of 88.
“I’ve been around coaching so long, I never considered myself a gifted, talented coach, but I was a hard-working one. I’ve put a lot of time into it,” Sauro said.
“I’ve been working at Coach Wootten’s camp for 32 years and had a connection because of that. They’ve seen me over there for years. We go over there and come from this area and do our best for those people and they’re wonderful.”
When it came time to select assistants, Sauro chose two with West Virginia ties of their own. Gilmer County coach Amy Chapman will join, as will one of Sauro’s former players — Ann Ferguson, now a head coach at Thomasville High School in North Carolina. Ferguson (previously Ann Seufer) also played at Guilford College, where she eclipsed the 1,000-point mark.
Sauro and Chapman are the only two coaches at public schools to win a Class A girls basketball state title since 1990, with Williamstown claiming the 2003 championship and the Titans winning in 2016.
They’re both proud of that, and Chapman said when she got the offer from Sauro, it was something she could have never expected.
“I almost passed out right there in front of him,” Chapman said. “I don’t know if I have the right words on how to express how I feel to have an opportunity to be a part of something so great and so big. I’m so happy for Fred Sauro, he is very deserving of this honor, and to coach this incredible talent, I’m super thrilled. I can’t wait. I wish it was March 28th.”
That is when the team will meet and practice for the first time, giving Sauro and his staff three days to prepare with the team before the game scheduled for 4 p.m. on April 1.
It will certainly be a different task, coaching a roster full of the country’s best talent, which was announced on ESPN Thursday afternoon.
But it’s something that, like Chapman, Sauro is very much looking forward to experiencing.
“There’s going to be between 100 and 200 NBA and WNBA scouts there watching games and practices,” Sauro said. “A lot of those girls are AAU players and they play a lot on instinct. Anything you do has to be simplistic — high ball screens, down screen here and there and something that uses spacing and allows penetration more than set plays. Things need to be simple because you’re working with players coming from varied backgrounds.
“We will probably go five and five and substitute like that and they’ll give us rotations because they’ll want to pair teams up. I think we want to divide it as evenly as we can. We will be coaches, but we will also be facilitators too.”