Tournament full of Tri-State, W.Va. connections
HUNTINGTON -- Through the first full week of action, NCAA's March Madness had a bit of flavor for all tastes.
What Tri-State college basketball fans will find, however, is that several teams remaining in the men's tournament feature a local flavor, too.
In all, half of the remaining 16 teams have ties to the Tri-State or West Virginia.
Four of the 16 teams battling for an NCAA Championship are led by head coaches who have seen significant time in their careers in the Mountain State.
Three of those coaches spent time at Marshall University while the other -- Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein -- was the head coach at West Virginia University for five seasons from 2003 to 2007.
Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman received Southern Conference coach of the year honors while at Marshall for the 1989-90 season. Oregon assistant coach Brian Fish was a player on Marshall's last NCAA tournament team in 1987. Fish became a Thundering Herd assistant coach under Altman and Dwight Freeman.
Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and assistant coach John Pelphrey, a Paintsville, Ky., native, were both at Marshall together for the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons -- Donovan as the head coach with Pelphrey as an assistant.
One of the Marshall assistant coaches on the staff of Greg White, who followed Donovan, was current Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. Marshall, who was a Herd assistant from 1996-98, also coaches Nick Wiggins, who is the brother of Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated player in the Class of 2013.
White also has two more assistants at teams who are still in the running for a title: Ohio State's Jeff Boals (Herd assistant from 1999-2003) and Louisville's Kevin Keatts (2001-03). Both were on staff for White's final two seasons with the Herd.
In addition to having an assistant coach there, Louisville also is led by center Gorgui Dieng, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, who played for Huntington Prep as a senior in 2009-10.
Marquette guard Todd Mayo is also a Tri-State native, having grown up in South Point.
Mayo, who shined for the Pointers before transferring to Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, is averaging 5.6 points in 14 minutes per game since joining the team after sitting out the first semester for academic reasons.
The other Mountain State connection -- Florida Gulf Coast's Chase Fieler -- has become somewhat of a media darling during the Eagles' run to the Sweet 16 -- the first-ever for a team seeded No. 15.
Fieler, now a junior for Florida Gulf Coast, was a standout at Parkersburg South and won the Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year award in 2010-11 before signing with the Eagles.
Other outlying connections include Michigan men's basketball strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, who served in the same capacity at Marshall in 2003-06.
Miami also has a pair of connections. Director of basketball operations Mike Summey was the head coach at Bethany College in 2008-09 while Chris Yandle, director of communications for the Hurricanes, was a graduate assistant for Marshall's sports information department from 2005-07.
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