Herd Heaven More Often in ‘7’ Years For Marshall Basketball


HUNTINGTON — Marshall basketball has a great history, back to the early days to this year’s team battling for the top in Conference USA in the 2016-17 season. The Herd, coincidentally, has had many of its best years in the seasons that have ended in 1997, 1987, 1967, 1957, 1947 and 1937. In fact, the Herd’s first documented game was in 1907.

Let’s look back at these great years, and let’s hope the current Marshall team under another former Herd player who had a lot of success in 1967 in Danny D’Antoni will give his three seniors — Ryan Taylor, Stevie Browning and Austin Loop — a “7” year to remember. But remember, it doesn’t always work that particular season, but sometimes a down year has led to better things.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Jan. 21, 2017 Game 920 94-80 win WKU photo by GP, Team happy with win as sings Alma Mater with Marching Thunder

The Herd of 2016-17 hoping for ‘7’ year magic for their current season. (HI photo by Greg Perry)

Take 2007 and the 13-19 final season under Coach Ron Jirsa — 2006-07 saw Jirsa’s final team post the most wins (13) of his career, and also had a couple of wins over ranked WVU during his time at the helm. But the 2006-07 season did lead to Donnie Jones taking the Herd job the following season and posting a record of 55-41 and brought current Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside to the Herd, along with the first postseason action since 1987 in the CIT (1-1) before Jones headed to UCF.

That led to a Tom Herrion hire, earning another CIT spot in 2011 and then to a spot in the NIT as C-USA Tournament runners’ up in 2012. In 2014, Herrion’s teams had slumped for the last two years and that eventually led to the hiring of Danny D’Antoni as the Marshall coach, and the good season for the Herd in 2016-17 hopefully leads to a C-USA title and a shot at the NCAA Tournament or NIT.

Here we go.

MUBSKB 1996-97 Keith Veney, NCAA rec 15 threes vs. MSU

Keith Veney set a NCAA record with 15 threes against Morehead State in December of 1996. (courtesy Marshall University Athletics)

1996-97, 20-9, 10-4 in SoCon (and next year the Mid-American Conference) under first year with Greg White, Herd wins SC North Division, lost in overtime to Chattanooga in SoCon Championship final, senior Keith Veney sets a NCAA record 15 threes in win over Morehead State, and the team won 7-of-8 to open season, opened SoCon season with win over Mocs ih Huntington, 109-82, and won first seven games in a row in league play. In the tourney, MU beat Georgia Southern 78-46 in quarterfinals in Greensboro, N.C.; beat Appalachian State, 84-78, in semis; but lost to UTC in final, 71-70, in OT, on a stick back of a shot by the Mocs that missed so badly no one moved except one UTC player. Veney (19.8 points per game, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists) went onto work in the shoe business, becoming a nation name selling Converse, Reebok and other brands, while fellow senior John Brannen (20.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game) got into coaching, and since 2015 has been the head coach of Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati, Ohio. John Brown averaged 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, Sidney Cole averaged 11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and dished 6.3 assists per game as point guard and Carlton King averred 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. White would be one of the winningest coaches at Marshall, 125 wins and 84 losses, winning the North Division title in the SoCon then finishing second in the MAC in with an 18-9 record in 2000-01 following a 21-9 record in 1999-2000 and semi-final loss, and should have gotten a NIT bid or two in his time.

MUBSKB 1984=88 Skip Henderson

Marshall’s No. 3 is No. 1 in points in men’s basketball, Skip Henderson. He played for Rick Huckabay from 1984 to 1988, going to three NCAA Tournaments and one NIT. (courtesy Marshall University Athletics)

1986-87, 25-6, 15-1 in Southern Conference, Rick Huckabay Head Coach, after 1-2 start (losing the Marshall Memorial Invitational, or MMI, finals to Austin Peay), Herd only lost four more the rest of the way including the NCAA first round loss to TCU in Charlotte (Marshall’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament). Herd lost at WVU, 67-69, then at Baylor, 69-73, in the last two games of 1996 and then won 15 in a row (14 in a row in the SC) until a Feb. 16 loss at Chattanooga, 78-82. Two of the best wins were beating both rivals, Ohio and Morehead State, at the Henderson Center. After the UTC loss, the Herd rallied on three-game road trip to get wins at Davidson (96-90) and at Appalachian State (75-69, OT). In Asheville in SoCon Tournament, Herd beat Appy State again (76-61) in the quarters; beat Furman (77-64) in the semis; and beat the Davidson Wildcats in the title game, 66-64 in overtime. Herd was No. 13 seed, Horned Frogs were No. 4-seed and ranked No. 19 in nation when they beat Marshall, 76-60. The tournament also included David Robinson’s last game at Navy against Michigan in a 97-82 loss (along with W.Va. native and point guard Doug Wojcik), UNC beating Penn (113-82), Notre Dame beat Middle Tennessee (84-71), and Carolina went into the Elite 8 before falling to Syracuse. Huckabay led the Herd to the NIT the following season, losing by one point to VCU in the Henderson Center, and then was let go as his last team in 1988-89 went 15-15 and had some NCAA “show-cause” penalties applied to him. Dana Altman, now successful at Oregon after successes at Creighton and K-State, coached one year. AD Lee Moon moved up Dwight Freeman when Altman left for the Wildcats, the first African-American head coach in Southern Conference and Marshall history (just as Marshall’s Dr. Dorothy Hicks was the first female President of the Southern Conference).

MUBSKB 1976-77 team of Coach Bob Daniels

The 1976-77 Herd struggled win against a top flight schedule, finishing 8-19, and led to the firing of Coach Bob Daniels (top row, right). (photo courtesy of Marshall University Yearbooks)

1976-77, 8-19 as Independent (last year before joining Southern Conference). This was not a great way for the head coach, Bob Daniels, to end up in his final season but the Herd schedule was loaded with great opponents. 10 teams the Herd faced in 27 games either ended up in the NCAA Tournament (Marquette beat UNC for title) or the NIT (St. Bonaventure beat Houston for title). From the NCAA field, Herd took losses at No. 9-ranked North Carolina (70-90), upset Idaho State (98-88 in OT) to win Marshall Memorial Invitational, lost at No. 13 Louisville (85-105), lost at MTSU (87-94), lost to VMI (in Roanoke, 90-97), lost at No. 16 Detroit (where now announcer, then Coach Dick Vitale coaching Titans, beating the Herd 86-122) and were leading “Cornbread” Maxwell and UNCC (Charlotte) at the half as the Veterans Memorial Field House began to fill up at and after halftime. A great game ended in a 4-point loss, 80-84, for “Senior Night” for Dave Miller and Ross Skaggs — with a “Find a Job for Bob” painted sheet in the student section that was confiscated). From the NIT, the Herd lost to Virginia Tech at the Veterans Memorial Field House by three (81-84), lost at 1975 D-II National Champion Old Dominion (87-105) — who moved up to D-I, as former Herd guard Sonny Allen moved on after ’75 to SMU after 10 great years with Monarchs — and lost at home to the Missouri Valley Conference’s Illinois State (91-103). The Herd’s best wins, outside of the win in the MMI over Idaho State, was winning the opening game of the MMI, 79-78, over the Ivy League’s Columbia; a 79-71 win over Ohio at home; and wins over future SoCon mates Appalachian State at home (84-79 in overtime) and at The Citadel (82-73). Juco Greg Young led the Herd with 16.1 points per game and juco Harley Major scored 15.0 points and pulled 9.1 rebounds per game. The Herd also had Dave Miller score 15.4 points and pull 7.9 rebounds per game, Charlie Novak scored 10.9 points per game, Danny Hall scored 9.7 points and grabbed 6.0 rebounds per game and Carlos “Bunny” Gibson scored 9.3 points per game in his first year on the varsity (playing on MU’s last JV team the season before, 1975-76). New Head Coach Stu Aberdeen was hired in 1977 to replace Daniels, and former JV Head Coach and varsity assistant CJ Woolum remained on the staff with another newcomer, Bob Zuffelato, who would become head coach in 1979 when Aberdeen suffered a heart attack on vacation and died after only two years. Bunny Gibson would bloom under Aberdeen, scoring 20.9 points per game as a junior and 16.4 per game as a senior. Coach Z would lead the Herd to the SoCon finals in Roanoke in that first season, 1977-78, and win over 70 games in his career while Woolum then moved to Christopher Newport at Director of Athletics and Head Basketball Coach, a career that recently saw the late Woolum selected for the Virginia State Sports Hall of Fame.

1966-67 NIT Final 4 Herd

The 1966-67 Herd won 20 games and made its way to the Final Four of the NIT under Coach Ellis Johnson (first row, center) and point guard Danny D’Antoni (10), the current head coach at Marshall. (photo courtesy Marshall Yearbooks)

1966-67, 20-8, 10-2 in Mid-American Conference under Coach Ellis Johnson who had taken the Herd from 10-27 his first two seasons to the National Invitational Tournament for the first time in School history with sophomore point guard (and current Marshall head coach) Danny D’Antoni running the “Cam Henderson Fast-Break” that Marshall fans loved so much. The Herd posted the first 20-win season since “The Old Man” (Henderson) saw his 1952-53 team go 20-4 just a year before joining the MAC after leaving the Ohio Valley Conference after just four year. Johnson’s overall record would be just 68-80, but he coached the Herd to the Final Four of the NIT in this season, and earned a return trip for Marshall back to New York City and the Madison Square Garden following a 17-8 season in 1967-68. In ’67, the Herd won 11-of-12 games from Jan. 4 to March 4 (except a two-overtime, 98-112 loss at rival Morehead State), including eight in a row in the MAC to finish second in the league. Herd knocked off Villanova (70-68), then Nebraska (119-88, behind George Stone’s 46-points) to reach the NIT semifinals, but fell to Marquette 83-78, then lost the consolation game to Rutgers (93-76). Bob Redd and George Stone earned first team All-MAC honors (and Redd would again in 1968), while Bob Allen was second team All-MAC. D’Antoni would win second team All-MAC honors in 1968, as did Stone, and D’Antoni was first team All-MAC in 1969).

MUBSKB 1956-57 Cebe Price shoots, Byrd (right) Greer (left) for rebound

Cebe Price (10) shoots a jumper from the corner, as Hal Greer (16, under basket) and Leo Byrd (far left, in No. 13) position for a possible rebound in the 1956-57 season. (photo courtesy Marshall University Yearbooks)

1956-57, 15-9, 8-4 in Mid-American Conference, and the Herd is coming off being the MAC Champs in 1955-56, and advancing to the first postseason tournament since 1948’s NAIA Tournament, and it was a first trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Herd of Coach Jule Rivlin, in his second season after replacing his head coach, and Marshall legend, Cam Henderson. The Herd said goodbye to Charlie Slack, who set an NCAA Record for rebounds in the 1954-55 season (25.6 per game) and is the leading rebounder of all-time. But the Herd returns point guard Cebe Price (who will be a three-time All-MAC selection), Paul Underwood (two time second team All-MAC) and Hal Greer (first team All-MAC in 1958) and young Huntington High standout Leo Byrd (first team All-MAC in 1958 and 1959, and All-American as a senior). The Herd is beat by rival Morehead State in game two, but rebounds with back-to-back 100+ wins against St. Francis and Western Michigan in the MAC opener. Next, the Herd beats Austin Peay (61-60), but falls in the championship game against the home team from East Tennessee State (81-71) at the Watauga Invitational in Johnson City, Tenn. The Herd was up and down the rest of the year, losing twice to MAC champ Miami-Ohio and splitting with Ohio U., Bowling Green St., Toledo, Morehead St. and Morris Harvey, only sweeping WMU and Kent St. The Herd did break 100-points five times, including the final game of the year at the Veterans Memorial Field House against Western Michigan, a 101-85 sendoff for Price, Underwood and Herd seniors.

Marshall Natl. Champs 1947-48 Bob Wright HOF 2010

Marshall is the NAIA (started as NAIB) National Champs in 1947, winning five games in six days at Kansas City. Herd includes Bill Hall, Bill Toothman, Andy Tonkovich, Gene “Goose” James, Mervin Gutshall, Dick Erickson, Bob Wright, Coach Cam Henderson and Jimmy Bakalis. (HI file photo)

1946-47, 32-5, NAIA National Champions, maybe the greatest Herd team of all, Cam Henderson coached the Big Green to a school-record 32 wins and the then National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball (today’s NAIA) National Championship by winning five games in six days in Kansas City, Mo. This Herd team included Bill Hall, freshman Bill Toothman (from Huntington East HS), Andy Tonkovich, Gene “Goose” James (from Charleston, W.Va., Stonewall Jackson HS), Mervin Gutshall, Bob Wright, Dick Erikson and Jim Bakalis — as well as injured captain Albert “Babe” Mazza, Fred Altizer, Ed Little, Jimmy Van Zant and manager Johnny Wellman (Cam’s “right arm”). The Herd raced to a 17-0 start, and stretched its home winning streak to 35-straight (playing primarily at the Radio Center/Vanity Fair on Sixth Avenue in Huntington) before they lost to Cincinnati — who would give the Herd two of its five losses. At Kansas City for only the second time in school history (also in 1938, falling in second game), the Herd beat River Falls Teacher College (today the University of Wisconsin-River Falls) handily, 113-80, as Hall scored 34. Game two went down to the final moments, when Tonkovich hit a free throw with eight seconds to beat Hamline (Minn.) University, 55-54. Eastern Washington State was next, and Gutshall led the Herd with 20 points in the 56-48 win. The Final Four was Marshall, Mankato (Minn.) State (today’s Minnesota State-Mankato), Emporia (Kan.) State and Arizona State-Flagstaff (today’s Northern Arizona), and again the Herd went down to the last seconds as Emporia St. tried to freeze the ball from about 2:30 to play. With 20 seconds remaining, Emporia  missed a shot. The Herd kicked the outlet pass to Toothman, who hit a 50-foot shot that onlookers said, “Never even touched the net,” to give the Herd the 56-55 win. Mankato had nothing for the Herd in the championship, as Marshall cruised to the 73-59 win and the National Championship. 15,000 Herd fans gathered at the C&O Railroad Terminal (today’s CSX Building, at 7th Ave. and 10th St.) to welcome back the champs. Marshall would have three NAIB All-Americans in Hall, James and Tonkovich, while Toothman was second team and Gutshall was Honorable Mention. Tonkovich (first team NAIB All-American in 1948, and first draft pick of second NBA Draft, going to the Steamrollers from Providence) and Henderson (also in the W.Va. Sports Writers HOF) would end up in the NAIA Hall of Fame, and all of those players and the coach are in the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1948, Toothman, Tonkovich and James would all earn AP All-American Honorable Mentions.

MUMBSKB 1940 Jule Rivlin No. 31

Jule Rivlin blocks a shot from behind his opponent in a game at the Marshall College Physical Education Building in 1936-37, Marshall’s first of three Buckeye Conference champions). (photo courtesy Marshall University Yearbooks)

1936-37, 21-8, 9-1 in the Buckeye Conference, and Coach Cam Henderson (who’s first team the previous year was 6-10, 1-9 in the Buckeye) begins to play the kind of basketball that will embody Herd basketball until even now with the fast-break and zone defense the coach developed when he had a leaky roof as a high school coach in 1912. In the fifth year in the Buckeye, the Herd rolled to the first of three consecutive Buckeye titles before the league disbanded in 1939 (some think because Marshall had gotten title in both basketball and football by then under Henderson). As Henderson would do many times, he hit the road to open the season, winning four games in Maryland, then losing at George Washington, Long Island University and St. John’s before getting wins over CCNY and John Marshall, a loss at St. Francis (NY) and win at Newark University before opening Buckeye play with a 7-4 mark. The Herd topped Dayton and Cincinnati, beat Union out of the league then won at Ohio Wesleyan to move to 3-0 in the league. Marshall had three wins out of conference before losing at Tennessee (33-31), then won at Centre College in Kentucky on the way back from playing the Vols. It was almost all Buckeye team left, and the Herd swept Miami-Oh., beat UC again, won big over Ohio Wesleyan in Huntington, won at Dayton before a loss at Ohio U. (40-32). The Herd then took a loss at long-time rival W.Va. Wesleyan in overtime (47-54), but finished strong at home with wins over both of the Bobcats, Ohio (36-33) and W.Va. Wesleyan (57-42). William Best of the Herd was first team All-Buckeye, while Charles Watson and George Ayerman were second team in the mostly Ohio-based league. The Herd also had Honorable Mentions for Lewis Wilcox and Buck Jamison, placing the entire starting lineup on the All-Buckeye team. Henderson would return Ayerman, Jamison, Watson and Wilcox for the next season, plus sophomore-to be Jule Rivlin would help the Herd to two more Buckeye crowns, score 1,093 points and earn AP “Little” All-American first team honors as a senior.

MUBSKB 1916-17

The team for Marshall College in 1916-17, 2-1 versus the Big Green’s No. 1 rival, Morris Harvey College in Barboursville (today’s The University of Charleston), standing in front of Old Main’s entrance on the south side of the building. (photo courtesy of Marshall University Yearbooks)

1916-17, 2-1, Basketball, which had not been played as a varsity sport since the end of the 1914 season (except for Marshall’s intramural program) returns on a limited basis as the Herd matches up heated rival Morris Harvey College. The Golden Eagles are in Barboursville (until 1935’s move to Charleston, where the school is now the University of Charleston), and Marshall and Morris Harvey battle each year in football, baseball and hoops (the first basketball game is 1909). This year, the Herd wins the opener, 35-18, playing and practicing downtown at Vanity Fair (Fourth Avenue at about Sixth St., later the first home of WCMI Radio, then WHTN/WOWK, now housing), then the Eagles win game two in Barboursville, 27-18. Game three is held “on the High School floor” which one would assume would be Huntington High (quoted material from then “Mirabilia” yearbook, later changed to “Chief Justice”). Marshall wins the rubber game, 25-16, to take the series from the Golden Eagles. The Herd starters are brothers Dexter and Jess Echols, Bradley “Brad” Workman (a member of the MU HOF), Dayton “Runt” Carter (of football’s “Tower Play” two years before) and Everett “Chief” Callaway, while subs are Charles Price, brothers Howard and Carl Pettry and Ernest Winters. Archer Reilly will coach the 1918-19 team (and go 8-0 in 1919 as head football coach for one year, also), and basketball is called off for 1919-20 before getting going again in the 1920-21 season through today.

1907 Marshall basketball

The 1907 Marshall College varsity basketball team, who practiced in the gym in the basement of Old Main and played only one game, losing to the Charleston (W.Va.) Taw Club. (photo courtesy of Marshall University Yearbooks)

1906-07, 0-1, Basketball is a varsity sport for the first time for Marshall College, but only one game is scheduled by team manager (responsible for scheduling, handling money and accounting for trips and equipment) L.B. Crotty. The team has M.F. “Miner” Smith as captain and left forward for 1907 and 1908, and includes Will Foster at right forward (and left guard in 1908), Robert Larew at center, E.B. Henson at left guard (a sub in ’08) and Lawrence Hoover at right guard. William Spruce and Harold Tompkins (a left end in football in 1908) are the subs but in 1908 Spruce is among the starters (right forward) and is Secretary of the Marshall College Athletic Association that season. They lose the only recorded game in the winter of 1907, at the Charleston Taw Club (an athletic club in the state’s Capital City) by 13-6. Meanwhile, women’s basketball is played starting in 1906 as an intramural sport among the coeds of Marshall, who also participate in sports like croquet, tennis, golf and baseball as well.

Here are the rules for Marshall College Athletics from the 1907 yearbook, “The Mirabilia”:

All forms of athletics in Marshall College are controlled by the Athletic Association; through an executive committee composed of the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and a fifth member selected by these four. The work of this committee is superintended by a faculty appointed by the President of the College. Under the supervision and control of these committees each particular sport is placed directly under the control of a subordinate committee, composed of a member of the faculty and a manager and a captain elected by the members of the Athletic Association. The following rules have been adopted to govern the organization of all athletic teams:

  • 1. Athletic teams which represent the College shall be composed of bona fide students only. No one is to be considered a bona fide student unless he carry as many as three units in one of the regular courses given in the school.
  • 2. Any student who has deficiencies in scholarship, shall be considered ineligible to any team until such deficiencies are made up. Athletics should promote physical vigor without lowering the educational standard of the College.
  • 3. No member of any team shall receive any remuneration for services in playing on that team.
  • 4. Every contract entered into by any manager of a Marshall College athletic team shall make rules 1, 2 and 3 apply to both parties to the contract.
  • 5. All members of teams and those who accompany them on their “trips” are absolutely forbidden to indulge in alcoholic liquors; and smoking is to be discouraged among active members of teams.
  • 6. All business proceedings of the Athletic Association shall be carefully recorded, to show financial relations from both debit and credit sides. This record shall be open to the inspection of all.
  • 7. A list of players shall be handed to the Faculty before each game, and only those players who are approved by the Faculty shall be eligible to play in that game.
  • 8. ‘l’he schedule of games for each branch of Athletics is subject to the approval of the Faculty. As a rule, it is not deemed advisable to schedule games with (teams) other than college teams.
  • 9. The enforcement of these rules shall lie with the Executive Committee of the Athletic Association, the Faculty Committee on Athletics, or the Faculty as a whole.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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