WHEELING - As the standing ovation and applause subsided and he stepped to the podium Wednesday at the annual YMCA Light of the Valley luncheon, West Liberty University men's basketball coach Jim Crutchfield got down to business.
The coach, who was honored as the Light of the Valley and recipient of the Dr. Lee Jones Patron of Youth award, had a challenge for former Duke University and NBA player Chris Duhon, who served as guest speaker at the event. Duhon recently accepted an assistant coach position at Marshall University under head coach Dan D'Antoni.
"I did see where Coach D'Antoni is talking about putting in an uptempo, high-scoring system," Crutchfield said to Duhon. "If you're ever looking for a game, we're available. Here, there - we're available. You tell him that we won't slow things down. Guaranteed."
Photo by Scott McCloskey/Former Duke University and NBA player Chris Duhon speaks Wednesday at the eighth annual YMCA Light of the Valley luncheon at Wheeling Park’s White Palace.
Crutchfield knows a thing or two about high-powered offense, with his West Liberty teams regularly scoring in the triple digits on their way to regular NCAA Division II tournament appearances. Duhon can relate, having won a Division I national title at Duke in his freshman year before spending nine years in the NBA. Though he only smiled at Crutchfield's challenge, Duhon was quick to ask the coach for some pointers.
"I had the opportunity to build a relationship with (D'Antoni) and pursue the second path of my career as a coach," Duhon said. "I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited, but I'm also looking for all the knowledge, so (Crutchfield), whenever you want to send me an email and give me tips, I'm more than willing."
Duhon had the chance to learn the role of coach from the best, playing under under the legendary Mike Krzyzewski for four years. Duhon spoke of Krzyzewski's teachings Wednesday, including his notable motivational techniques.
- In high school, was voted Mr. Basketball in Louisiana and made the McDonald's All-American Team.
- Started four years at Duke University, helping the team win a national championship in 2001 and earning the ACC Rookie of Year honor.
- Finished his career as Duke's all-time leader in steals and minutes played. The team went 123-21 during his career, making him the second-winningest player in Duke and ACC history.
- Drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 38th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Helped lead the team to their first playoff appearance since the Michael Jordan era.
- Also played for the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2013.
"We follow this idea of 'the fist,' " Duhon said. "When you're going into battle, you want to deliver the strongest blow, and you're not going to hit somebody with your fingers. You make a fist."
The five fingers, Duhon said, represent the five players on the court and their ability to work together. He said the five best players in the world won't be successful if each individual player is playing for himself. The concept also carries with it five criteria for success, including communication, caring, trust, belief and pride. Duhon said the idea can be applied to any situation in life, not just basketball.
"With pride, everyone has their respective universities, and they are proud of that university," he said. "When you get up and put on that university shirt and people ask, 'did you go there,' ... it's something bigger than you. ... Everyone is striving for the same goals."
Duhon also spoke of the importance of education, and having a backup plan. He said he talks to kids at youth camps about placing importance on areas other than sports.
"Everyone thinks going to the NBA is easy," he said. "There's only 450 jobs, no matter how you look at it. ... I'm fortunate to be the first person in my family to graduate college, and I credit my mom for that. ... You can be great on the court, but you can't be mediocre in the classroom and succeed."
Duhon will begin his first season in a coaching this fall, and acknowledged the job isn't easy. He said having a successful career like Crutchfield has is worthy of praise.
"I know how tough it is to coach a team, but to have the success (Crutchfield) has, he definitely deserves the honor," Duhon said.