Moundsville Native Was an NBA Scout

At this time of year if you wanted to write about sports you could choose from several, as at least four major sports are playing, and within six weeks baseball’s spring training will get under way.

It just so happens that John Trent, who was a two-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year and the press secretary to former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, has compiled some interesting information on an individual from Moundsville who for six decades was actively involved in basketball as a coach and an NBA scout. In fact, his career covered eight different levels.

This individual happens to be Sonny Allen, who now makes his home in Reno, Nev.

I recently received an update on Allen’s achievements, some of which I already knew, but there was other information which had nothing to do with wins and losses, but instead the changing of the game of basketball.

While Trent starts out by stating that Allen had won at every level of coaching and had a national championship with Old Dominion University to his credit. Trent had researched long and hard and had failed to find another coach who had coached at all of the different levels that Allen had over his six-decade career – his first head coaching job was in 1959 at Marshall High School in Huntington – and his last coaching position was in 2001 was with the Sacramento of the Woman’s National Basketball Association.

He continues, ”Perhaps more importantly, he has been a vital figure in changing the college game forever, and for the better.”

He said, ”I would like to highlight these innovations, which have affected the strategy and popularity of the game while also helping deeply humanize the game in ways that we, as a society, can be proud.”

– In 1966, Allen developed what is now commonly known as the ”numbered” fast break, which helped enrich the effectiveness and options available in a typical fast break, while adding a paradigm-shifting nomenclature (i.e., the number ”1” becoming the way a coach refers to the point guard, ”2″ to the ”big” or ”shooting” guard, etc.) that forever changed how coaches strategically envisioned all of the players and their relative positions on the floor.

– Allen was a strong advocate and was a driving force behind the adoption of key rule changes in the college game, including the elimination of the jump ball and development of the alternate possession rule (1981) and the recognition by the NCAA of the assist as an official statistic (1982).

– Coach Allen was one of the first coaches in the South to recruit, embrace and play African-American athletes during his time at ODU in the 1960s, an act which peacefully and courageously helped bring the final steps of integration to the South.

A footnote to this being that when Allen played at Marshall he roomed on the road with Hal Greer of Huntington, who went on to become an outstanding performer in the National Basketball Association.

– During a coaching career that has seen him win 613 games while losing 393, Allen has been honored as a national, district, conference or state Coach of the Year 10 times. He is a member of three collegiate halls of fame. His name is synonymous with the numbered fast break. His ideas have helped pave the way for the modern-day version of basketball that is enjoyed the world over.

– His contemporaries have held him in the highest esteem

Trent goes on to say that Allen’s influence on the modern-day game doesn’t stop with the numbered fast break, as during his tenure at Southern Methodist University, he convinced the rules committee of the Southwest Conference to experiment with the elimination of the jump ball-a rules practice that had been in place since the invention of the game. The change took place in 1976.

Thanks to Allen’s strong advocacy of the elimination of the jump ball, beginning with his time in the Southwest Conference, the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee approved the change and instituted the alternate possession situation in 1981 that still characterizes the game today.

Allen also had direct influence in the institution of the assist as an official NCAA statistic. Until Allen’s time at SMU, the NCAA considered the assist an ”unofficial” statistic.

Allen did not understand why official statistics were kept for scoring and rebound, but not for an equally key component of the game-the pass that led directly to a team’s basket.

Allen again convinced the Southwest Conference to recommend that the NCAA accept the assist as an official statistic. The request was approved by the NCAA in 1982, and the assist remains one of the key indicators of an offensive efficiency today.

Allen also played a key role in the adoption of the 3-point shot. The Sun Belt Conference had experimented with the 3-point shot, and Allen came to quickly understand how the shot’s importance could change the way the game was played. It not only offered fans a more exciting brand of basketball, it presented coaches with a key weapon in attacking the many zone defenses in the college game.

During Allen’s tenure at the University of Nevada, 1981-87, he went to the athletic administrators of the Big Sky Conference and convinced the league to experiment with the 3-pointer. The request was perfectly timed.

The Sun Belt Conference and the Big Sky Conference, located in two distinct regions of the country, gave the NCAA the perfect opportunity for coaches and officials to evaluate the request.

Trent said, ”Allen’s Nevada teams used the 3-point shot with great effectiveness, and with it home attendance for his team’s games soared.

Other teams using the 3-point shot shared similar success stories. With such positive data, the evaluation done by the NCAA Rules Committee led to the only decision possible: The 3-point shot was formally adopted, along with the shot clock in college basketball, the 3-point basket remains one of the most important rules ever made in college basketball.”

The 53rd annual ”Songs of Christmas” program by the Mound City Band will be held at 6:30 p.m. today in the community room of the Golden Towers.

The band is composed of college and high school students and adults with Joseph Komorowski the program coordinator.

Today’s program is free and open to the public. It is being sponsored by Centenary House and the Marshall County Commission.