Herd fans gather at annual event

Photo by Josh Hughes Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni speaks to local Marshall fans, while football coach Doc Holliday looks on during the Rally by the River Thursday at the Dils’ Riverfront Park.

VIENNA — For the 52nd year in a row, Marshall University athletics stopped in the Mid-Ohio Valley for festivities around the community.

Dils Riverfront Park played host for the Thursday evening event for the kelly green and white faithful, as coaches Doc Holliday and Dan D’Antoni mingled with the packed crowd. Athletic Director Mike Hamrick reflected on the importance of visiting the area.

“I always love it,” Hamrick said. “We’ve got so many great Marshall supporters here. I went to college with so many from the Big Reds and Parkersburg South. We get great support, and this group does such a great job welcoming us.”

Once the coaches arrived, the excitement level picked up. In particular, Holliday was glad that his team’s success on the gridiron led to such a big following across the Valley.

“It’s always great to be back here,” he said. “This is one of our favorite areas in the state.”

Last season, the Thundering Herd picked up their seventh consecutive bowl win (sixth consecutive under Holliday) with a 38-20 win over South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

Freshman quarterback Isaiah Green anchored the team under center, and the 9-win Herd saw a lot of improvement out of him heading into this Fall.

“Anytime you play a true freshman quarterback, there are going to be some growing pains,” Holliday admitted. “It was really fun to watch him grow up as the season went along, so anytime you’ve got a quarterback like that, you’ve got a shot.”

Holliday later went on to say that Green is better at this point than standout Rakeem Cato was during his freshman year. Cato won 33 games over his final three years at the school.

On the hardwood, D’Antoni’s ballers fell short of making another NCAA tournament run and found themselves at the top of the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament. After defeating Green Bay in the championship, D’Antoni said goodbye to NBA prospects Jon Elmore and CJ Burks. Both senior guards re-wrote the record books, and Elmore became the school’s all-time leader in points and assists along the way. Now, pieces such as Jarrod West and Taevion Kinsey will look to pick up where those two left off. As for the program’s plans this summer, D’Antoni and his group are staying busy.

“We’re basically just working kids out, making sure they get ready,” he said. “Basketball is mostly my life. I center my life around coaching, but I may spend a little more time on the back porch.”

Hamrick addressed the crowd later in the evening on the need to help fund a baseball field near campus. Marshall played its home games at Kennedy Center Field a few miles off of Huntington and Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. Hamrick said it was “embarrassing” that a Division I program didn’t have its own facility near campus. This event has helped raise money for the cost of the new facility, and Hamrick hopes to have a whole network of venues for Herd fans in the future.

“Marshall is growing. The campus is continuing to grow with everything being built,” Hamrick said. “There’s the soccer complex (which opened in 2013), the new indoor practice facility and the hall of fame. (The baseball field) is going to be right beside the practice facility. We hope to start that soon.”