APTOPIX NCAA Purdue Virginia Basketball

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett celebrates after defeating Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

MORGANTOWN — While this is a story about West Virginia football, we are going to begin off on a tangent that works into our theme today.

We are going to talk about Virginia basketball — not necessarily how it avenged last year’s No. 16 vs. No. 1 upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by reaching the Final Four — and father-son relationship that the NCAA’s Andy Katz reached into at the end of the Cavaliers’ victory over Purdue.

Indeed, it came 19 years after Dick Bennett coached Wisconsin to the Final Four with a young assistant on his staff named Tony Bennett, not the singer but his son who was in the early stages of his coaching career that led him to the Final Four with Virginia.

Tony Bennett pulled the victory off with his father there in the stands and when he met with Katz for a post-game interview he admitted “I’m probably more excited now than I was after our own game [19 years earlier].”

The elder Bennett went on to add:

 “To see your son and the kids he loves ... I tell his kids that Tony is in our heart and so are you.”

There was a strong emotional pull there for what had gone on within the Bennett family, and that is about our subject for today.

As you all so well know, West Virginia brought in a whole new coaching staff this year after Dana Holgorsen decided he would accept an offer to coach Houston following what was a disappointing season.

In the transition, Holgorsen’s offensive line coach Joe Wickline lost his job.

Wickline has a son, Kelby, who had transferred to WVU a couple of years ago and who was playing for his father as an OT.

Certainly, it affected both.

Kelby Wickline had a talk with his father when it happened.

I told him I loved him for what he did for me and I loved playing for him. I told him I just wanted to finish my career the right way and I wish him the best,”

 Wickline, the coach, opted to sit this year out as he was still being paid. That certainly will make this a year unlike very many in his life for a coach who had coached over the last 37 years at such schools as Florida, Tennessee, Baylor, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.

 Kelby Wickline said he was unfazed, though.

“He’s fine. That’s just the way the business is. It’s the coaching carousel,” he said. ‘I enjoyed playing for him. As a coaches kid, I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”

Kelby Wickline could have left, but that would have been a real hardship.

 “First, I was a little unsure,” he said. “But Coach (Neal) Brown and all these guys, they’re great guys, and they care about their players. Not to say the former staff didn’t, they were a great staff, too. All-in-all, I feel really comfortable with how the staff is here now.”

“As far as me, this is my last year; I am a redshirt senior. So, I just assume, in my fifth year, I know all the guys here, the relationships. I just thought I’d stay put. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he explained.

 He expected to be a key contributor in the offensive line.

 “Coach Moore moved me to the right side and Colton McKivitz to the left side. It’s going well. I was on the left last year. I’ll go where they want me,” he said, referring to Matt Moore, who replaced his father.

 The incident, he said, “helped me grow as a person ... a lot of life lessons.”

 And the largest of those life lessons was?

 “Take everything with a grain of salt. It is what it is,” he said.

 And, in a way, it offers both he and a dad an entirely different aspect to their relationship for this year Joe Wickline will be able to sit in the stands and watch him play without having to grade him out in the post-game film review or chew him out at halftime.

— Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel




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