By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
There is more to Bluefield boys basketball than the players who make it happen on the floor.
There is also the coaches who teach and mold those athletes into what they hope is a championship team.
“We have got quite a few in football,” Bluefield assistant coach Tony Webster said. “Now it is time for one in basketball.”
Buster Large is Bluefield’s head coach, but Large is quick to acknowledge the presence of his assistants, including Webster, Don Jones and David Hubbard, all of whom contribute in their own ways.
“Our coaching staff is a really close-knit coaching staff,” said Webster, who has been an assistant with the Beavers in basketball and football, while also having coached the West Virginia Blazers’ ABA club and several AAU basketball teams through the Bluefield Recreation Center.
He has been a big part of many of the 10 state championships won by the Beavers on the football field.
All four Bluefield coaches contribute. Jones led Graham to the Group AA state semifinals a few years back, and then took over the program at Bluefield State. Hubbard is a past baseball coach at Princeton, while Large is also the middle school football coach at Bluefield.
“We all feed off of each other, each one of us has our strengths and weaknesses,” Webster said. “If one of us can’t do one thing, then somebody else can pick up the slack.
“We do have a real good coaching staff. It is a privilege to be on this coaching staff and be with this team.”
Bluefield has won two state championships in basketball, in 1995 and ‘96, both under the tutelage of Danny Gaither. The Beavers have been to the finals four other times since then, but lost in ‘97, ‘99, 2006 and last season.
Webster was an assistant under Ernie Gilliard when the Beavers lost to Ravenswood in 2006, and was there last March when Bluefield lost to Tug Valley in the final game.
That team lost two starters in K.J. Manns and Harley Trimble, but the Beavers have been able to plug in D.J. Edwards and Graham transfer Corey Coppola with Lykel Collier, Anthony Eades and Michael Yost and compiled a 22-3 record and three wins from that elusive state title.
Webster said it is too early to compare the two teams.
“That team we had last year, they worked hard with K.J. and Trimble and they worked really hard and it is the same with these guys,” Webster said. “It is not much difference, but these kids have to get to the finals like that group did last year, then we can compare them.
“If they don’t get to the finals then there is no comparison.”
That task begins today with the Beavers playing North Marion, with the winner advancing to Friday’s semifinals against Tolsia or Robert C. Byrd.
“This group here has worked really hard and the group we had last year has worked really hard,” Webster said. “In order to get that opportunity that is what you have to have.”
Bluefield has worked for this moment since losing to Tug Valley last March, and the Beavers may have peaked at the right time, winning its last three games by a combined 90 points in the sectionals with James Monroe and PikeView, and in the regionals against Wyoming East.
“We need to have team chemistry,” Webster said. “I think that second half against Wyoming East was one of our best games we have played all year and the PikeView in that sectional game. I watched film on that and it looked like our kids were just having fun.
“These kids have all been there and they know what it takes to get to the finals. I don’t think there is a lot of pressure, but being number one, you have to come and play because everybody wants to get you.”
That’s been an issue all season, as the Beavers have been the top-ranked Class AA team in West Virginia for much of the year, and that continues as the top seed in the state tournament. That is fine with Webster.
“There is a bulls-eye on us being number one, but I enjoy it,” Webster said. “I would rather be number one than be anywhere else.
“Our kids understand what has to be done in order for us to be cutting down the nets come Saturday.”
—Contact Brian Woodson