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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The death of Don Vincent, who was integral part of what made up the Golden Age of West Virginia basketball and a complementary player to both Hot Rod Hundley and Jerry West, carried with it a message that fits all too well into modern day athletics.

You can have your star players, be they named West or Hundley or Jordan or James, be the sport be named basketball or football, but just having a star doesn’t guarantee you a championship.

Ask West Virginia’s own Jerry West, who went witn the Mountaineers to the Finals of the NCAA Tournament and eight times got his NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to the NBA Finals before he finally took home the trophy and it took pairing him with a fellow named Wilt Chamberlain to do it.

You might say no man is an island, even a member of the NHL Islanders.

That is what makes coaching and/or sitting in the chair of the general manager of a professional team so challenging and interesting, for you become a kid with a puzzle in front of you, trying to find the pieces that fit together. You can’t force it, round pieces don’t go into square holes, so you need to figure out why this player goes along with the system you have installed, with the culture of your program ... and that he can work with the star around whom all else orbits.

We bring this up because we are in an intriguing time at West Virginia, in the midst of the recruiting season when football coach Neal Brown is trying to put together a roster for two and three years down the road while, in the basketball office, Bob Huggins is trying to put this year’s team together without really knowing the personnel he will have.

Here’s the deal. It’s easy to spot the Pat Whites and Steve Slatons of the world, although both LSU and Maryland might argue, for they had White and Slaton all but wrapped up at their schools before letting them get away to West Virginia.

What’s hard is finding the supporting cast, the Don Vincents of the world, good players who are team players and who fit what you are trying to do.

You have Michael Jordan, yes, but you put him with Dennis Rodman and it’s a match made in heaven, even though it’s hard to see that at a surface glance.

I was working in Cincinnati when they were putting the Big Red Machine together. They had Johnny Bench and Pete Rose and Tony Perez on the way to the Hall of Fame but they couldn’t get over the top, not until they brought in not Joe Morgan, who did all the things those guys didn’t do and was coming to the place that could bring that out of him, and added a clutch pitcher and centerfielder to go along with it.

They went from a locker room of talented players who couldn’t win it all to a locker room full of winners who couldn’t be stopped.

That is why it’s important to Bob Huggins that Sean McNeil opts to return for another year.

Would he like to have Deuce McBride back, too? Of course. He would be the star that this team would be built around, but it’s highly possible that he will wind up in the NBA, such is his talent.

If he returns, McNeil becomes even more important than if he doesn’t for he is that kind of complementary player who can lift the level of the team with his outside marksmanship and effort while keeping opponents from being able to guard an offense that consists of McBride, McNeil and Taz Sherman.

If McBride leaves for the NBA, Huggins will be breaking in a new point guard, one who doesn’t have the experience or scoring ability that McBride takes with him to the NBA, so McNeil’s presence becomes even more important ... balancing off the scoring of Sherman with an equal threat that must be covered with an attitude that oozes confidence and a work ethic that will help push the whole team forward.

This is something Huggins has always understood. He loves role players ... the Joe Mazzullas, Juwan Statens, Casey Mitchells, Gabe Osabuohiens of the world.

It’s no different with Brown’s football team. Zach Frazier is a star being born in the middle of the line, but he’s no better than the guards on either side of him and what’s important with him is that he knows that and accepts it.

It goes for every player on the field, really. A quarterback is no better than the people he throws to or than those who give him time to make those throws. Leddie Brown, as you saw two years ago, can’t go it without blockers.

That’s what makes sports so much a part of our fabric as a nation, for we can worship our superstars while, at the same time, understanding that someone has to pass them ball, someone has to screen for them.

Golf and tennis are wonderful games but they are one man against the world while team sports are a community activity, they mirror the family you live in, the office you work in, the church you belong to because of that you identify with them and while you may cheer loudest and longest for the star, it is the hard-working supporting cast you can identify with the most.

It’s good to be reminded about that sometimes.