Rally in the Alley welcomes D’Antoni

PARKERSBURG – During Thursday’s Rally in the Alley, Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick discussed how Dan D’Antoni was not his first choice to take over the men’s basketball program when he made the hire this past April.

Tops on Hamrick’s list when he flew out to Los Angeles for a a four-day trip was to offer the position to D’Antoni’s younger brother, Mike. Either way, Hamrick figured it was a win-win situation that one of West Virginia’s very own try to resurrect a program which has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1987.

Raised in Mullen, W.Va., Dan D’Antoni begins the rebuilding process at the age of 66. This is his first job at the collegiate level. He plans to institute a style reminiscent of the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat in the NBA.

“We’re bringing fast-break basketball to southern West Virginia- that’s the way we played when I was at Marshall,” D’Antoni said. “When I went from coaching high school to professional basketball, it’s the same thing. Basketball is basketball.”

D’Antoni replaces Tom Herrion, who resigned in mid-March following a four-year stint where he led the Thundering Herd to a 67-67 record. Mediocrity doesn’t exist in D’Antoni’s vocabulary.

“Someone asked me if there is a ceiling at Marshall, and I said ‘I don’t know. I’ve never looked up,'” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to do the best we can. We expect the best. If it comes to Kentucky or North Carolina, we play them and try to beat them.

“When Mike and I played at Marshall there really wasn’t anybody we couldn’t line up against. We were competitive with everybody in the country and hopefully we can get Marshall back to that point.”

Joining D’Antoni on the Parkersburg stop for the Marshall University’s Big Green Coaches Tour were Hamrick and football coach Doc Holliday, who explained to the audience that the football program can’t get complacent now that it’s turned the corner.

Last year in his fourth season, Holliday guided Marshall to 10 wins and a Conference USA East Division title. The Thundering Herd received an invitation to play in the Military Bowl and didn’t let their fans down after defeating Maryland, 31-20. The final USA Today Coaches Poll had Marshall ranked 29th.

“We have a lot of guys back and expectations are extremely high, and that’s what we want,” Holliday said.

Several players in particular give Marshall reason to believe last year’s season was not an anomaly. Wide receiver Tommy Shuler could become the first college player to haul in at least 100 catches three years in a row.

Returning for his fourth year at starting quarterback is Rakeem Cato, who is on the verge of rewriting the school record books. The Miami, Fla., native ranks second with 91 career touchdown passes and is third in both career completions (886) and passing yards (10,176).

“What Rakeem has done the last couple of years, he is already out there – people know about him and he has a lot of exposure from ESPN to everybody,” Holliday said. “When you win football games, things like that are going to happen and he understands that. He’s a good player.”