SPORTS DOCTOR- Coach Shaver: 'You're dead to me, Fredo.'
My momma is thrilled George Mason beat William and Mary on Monday night. In my neck of the woods, she's not alone. The moment Tony Shaver left Hampden-Sydney, William and Mary's fan base became virtually Southside-free.
It's not that Southside doesn't like Tony Shaver, quite the contrary. Coach Shaver is the nicest guy on the face of the earth, and no one will tell you differently. Personally, Mr. Shaver has gone out of his way to remedy my basketball ignorance, and for that he deserves a medal.
Coach Shaver's earnest façade hides something rarely found in high level sports: an earnest person. Unfortunately those of us who live west of the James River, Shaver's earnestness and coaching prowess don't abide with us anymore.
According to my momma and many many others, Coach Shaver is a turncoat: the Benedict Arnold of college basketball.
Coaches and players alike are nomadic by nature, seeking ever larger and more prosperous oases by which to pitch their tents. I've learned not to get too attached to my favorite Cubbies; it's a cinch they'll end up in San Diego.
When a college coach's average stint is shorter than the lifespan of a fruit fly, his seventeen years at Hampden-Sydney made Tony Shaver the Mike Krzyzewski of Division III. Coach Shaver wouldn't leave us; he couldn't. Shoot, under common law, he was ours after seven years.
We should have known better. Tony Shaver's 75 percent win percentage at Hampden-Sydney was bound to attract bigger programs with deeper wells. Eight ODAC championships, seven trips to the Sweet Sixteen, and two trips to the Final Four, while good for H-SC, were even better for Mr. Shaver.
In 2003, William and Mary, a much larger oasis than Hampden-Sydney, offered Coach Shaver a place to pitch his tent. While not King Midas' gold, $125,000 a year can buy a lot of camels, so Shaver packed his skins and left for Williamsburg.
W & M's men's basketball program was in the tank, as Hampden-Sydney's soon would be. The Tribe hadn't had a winning season since 1997-1998, and Tony Shaver was the man to turn it around.
Turn it around he did.
On a William and Mary sports blog, one fan tells the tale.
"Tony Shaver's already done the unthinkable, my friend. He's brought hope to the hopeless."
Charitable people would say we should be proud of Tony, bringing his magic to a school whose program was in dire straits. Some would be pleased he advanced W & M to its first-ever C.A.A. Championship Game.
As long as our old friend Tony Shaver is doing well, we should be happy for him.
It ain't so.
Sports fans are about the most uncharitable bunch of folks in the neighbourhood. Woe to the one who fails to acknowledge their zeal, especially if fans feel jacked.
If a uniform design change sends fans into a tailspin, imagine what happens when a successful coach becomes someone else's success.
You're dead to me, Fredo.
For my momma to prefer George Mason to William and Mary, my grandmother's alma mater, shows just how dead to her Tony Shaver is. George Mason is in Northern Virginia, "the other place", and normally Southside Virginians wouldn't spit in that direction.
Bubba Smith took over as head coach at Hampden-Sydney and while his 79 wins is the most-ever for a Tiger basketball coach through his first four seasons, he's no Tony Shaver.
Smith's .699 career winning percentage is second in the Hampden-Sydney record books.
Tony Shaver's winning percentage with the Tigers was .859.
Personally, I'm sorry William and Mary lost to George Mason, not only because the Patriots are Yankeefied, but because to me Tony Shaver will always be Hampden-Sydney's basketball coach, just as George Welsh will always be UVA's football coach and Chuck Robb will always be Virginia's governor.
Just like Mark DeRosa will always be a Cub.
Pretty pitiful, huh?