Laughs Highlight WVU Caravan Stop in OV

WHEELING – For the second consecutive year, the Mountaineer Athletic Club’s Coaches Caravan made its initial stop of the season in Wheeling, with coaches and administrators doing a little looking back and a bunch of looking ahead Wednesday evening at Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge.

But mostly, as is the case at nearly all of these stops, they were roasting each other.

Athletics Director Oliver Luck talked about the importance of having quality teams in each of WVU’s 17 varsity programs, saying as the state’s flagship university, they have an obligation and a responsibility to do so.

”We want to adopt the work ethic that West Virginians have,” Luck said. ”We want to work hard, we want to be successful, and we want to do it the right way. Because, ultimately our responsibility is to represent the great state of West Virginia.”

Men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins admitted his guys had a bad year. To that end, it was Wednesday that he announced his sixth recruit – 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward Remi Dibo out Casper College in Wyoming, who will have two years of eligibility remaining – and vowed his 2013-14 team will rebound, both in the standings and on the court.

Football coach Dana Holgorsen talked about how the loss at Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl made everyone in the program re-evaluate everything it was doing.

There was some talk about the WVU baseball team’s surprising run to the top of the Big 12 standings, fitting on a night when men’s soccer coach Marlon LeBlanc cracked the first joke, aimed at Holgerson and Huggins, effectively putting himself on a tee for the rest of the evening.

”Given the seasons you guys had,” LeBlanc said, ”This might be the first time this crowd is more interested in soccer.”

He later added, ”I get the mic so few times, I have to take a couple of swings.”

It was probably a bad idea.

LeBlanc, who isn’t the tallest fellow in the world, first took a rebuttal from Holgorsen.

”Marlon, in case you didn’t know, is the men’s soccer coach,” Holgorsen said. ”And he’s also the guy that came up here and disappeared behind this podium.”

Later, it was Huggins’ turn.

”He’s good isn’t he?” Huggins asked of LeBlanc. ”Tony (Caridi, the event’s emcee) came over and said, ‘I could listen to Marlon talk all night.’ For a while, I thought I might have to.”

Then he poked a bit of fun at the sport LeBlanc coaches.

”We’ve talked about this, too,” Huggins said. ”Marlon wonders why he can’t get people to games? The score is 1-0. Just think, Dana, if we had to play 1-0.”

”I keep telling him to take the goalie out and fast break. If the score was 63-59, somebody would go. How about if we stood a 7-2 guy in front of the rim and just swatted everything that came through? It’s goaltending, Marlon, that’s what they call it. It’s a good basket – except in Syracuse.”

That, of course, was a reference to a late-game play against the Orange that cost the Mountaineers a potential victory in the winter of 2012.

The Caravan, which has a stop planned for this evening in Parkersburg, is aimed as a way for fans to engage on a closer level with the WVU coaches and administrators. The jokes help do that, as it’s a rare opportunity for people to see a softer side of some men and women who work in some high-pressure jobs and always must keep a focused face. It’s also a fundraiser for WVU student-athletes. All monies raised from the event will go to support the MAC’s student-athlete scholarship fund.

Among the money raised was the $4,000 presented to Luck from the Belmont Mountaineer Athletic Club, a local MAC support group that has an endowed scholarship aimed for student-athletes from the Upper Ohio Valley who go on to play and study at WVU.