Valentine Learned Right Here

MOUNDSVILLE – John Marshall baseball coach, and longtime Ohio Valley basketball official and baseball umpire Bob Montgomery, loves this time of year.

Not only is it when he sends his players on the field – where they’ve helped him win 800 career games – but its also when he retreats home to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, where one of his prized pupils is generally among the best-known people at a given arena.

Ted Valentine wasn’t always college basketball’s most recognized official. Thirty-nine years ago, he was a 10th-grade student at John Marshall who happened to have Montgomery as an English teacher.

”Not a lot of confidence,” Montgomery said of Valentine. ”Like all kids at that time, he was wondering ‘what I’m going to do with my life.’ ”

Valentine, who was featured in Sports Illustrated last week because he turned that lack of confidence on its ear and most certainly found something worthwhile to do as one of the game’s most respected officials, hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

Earlier this year, when one of his JM teammates Joe Garcia passed away, Valentine returned to Moundsville to pay tribute, turning down a Georgia-Arkansas game he was scheduled to work along the way.

He’s also been quoted many times talking about his mentor – Montgomery.

Montgomery’s first order of business when he met Valentine was to get him on the baseball team. He played three years and eventually made his way to Glenville State college to play.

When Valentine was at Glenville, he started working intramural, middle school and junior high basketball games as an official. After graduation in 1981, he returned to John Marshall where he became a Physical Education teacher, summer Driver’s Ed teacher, assistant coach, and an Ohio Valley basketball official.

”We did varsity high school basketball games together (sometimes as far away as Jackson County),” Montgomery said, ”and talked all kinds of basketball to and from.”

They did the same thing on the buses to baseball games, where Valentine was an assistant to Montgomery. While Montgomery was trying to sort out the baseball side, Valentine was asking basketball questions.

”We were always talking basketball,” Montgomery said.

Along the way, Valentine moved up the ranks as an official, where today, it’s the only job he has.

”He was a natural,” Montgomery said. ”I can tell if someone can referee in 10 seconds. We see the end result now. Major colleges. Championship games. Lots and lots of Regionals. I would think he’s probably a future Hall of Fame. From Moundsville, West Virginia.”

Fame followed Valentine only after he had a run-in with legendary Indiana coach Bob Knight. Nearly anybody who saw it still remembers it. Those who didn’t have likely heard about it.

The little-known part of that story is that when Valentine left the arena that night on his way to Indianapolis to referee a Notre Dame-Georgetown game the next night, he called Montgomery. The conversation lasted two hours.

”He threw Robert Montgomery Knight out of the game, then he called Robert Montgomery to talk about it,” Monty said.

The two have maintained a relationship during the years, though Montgomery prefers to keep to himself and his small-town ways.

”About the time he was in high school, I had D-1 offers,” Montgomery said. ”I don’t fly. He comes along, gets on a plane, and he’s had a great career. He’s out in that world. I’m getting $70 to do Magnolia-Paden City. They get quite a bit more each night.”

But you can still see Montgomery’s imprint when you watch Valentine do games.

”Lot of talking to coaches,” Montgomery said. ”I talked about him about doing that. I’ve always liked that, and I’ve always been able to do it.”

And to think, 39 years ago, ”(Valentine) was a youngster, a 10th grader in high school, not thinking about Final Fours,” Montgomery said.