Honor For Former Player Highlights Everhart’s Joy of Coaching
By Bob Hertzel
A few weeks back, Ron Everhart’s phone rang.
Everhart was well on the road to recovery then from serious back surgery that sidelined him as a Bob Huggins assistant at West Virginia University last season, surgery during which they put more hardware in his back than you can find in a home depot.
The surgery was a success but the road to recovery was slow and difficult. He religiously approached the rehabilitation and just this past week, Everhart found himself going out on the road for the first time in a year, still suffering nerve pain in his leg and concerned about going out to recruit on commercial flights.
But Everhart reported all went well and on Wednesday, he left Morgantown for a second week on the road, a second week as he came back into coaching. This is what he has loved to do ever since he left Fairmont and went on a journey that would take him to McNeese State, Northeastern and Duquesne as head coaches and to WVU as an assistant to his childhood friend.
“Like anything else, when you do it so long you take it for granted. Then, all of a sudden, when you can’t do it, you really miss it,” Everhart admitted. “It’s been exciting to get back.”
But back to that phone call, for he used it as an example of why coaching means so much to him and to virtually all those who get into the profession.
“I got a phone call from a kid I coached back at McNeese State back in 1994,” Everhart said.
This was a kid he had taken out of Brooklyn, New York, and brought to Louisiana, a kid with the wonderful name of Fabulous Flournoy.
He went by Fab.
“Since he was at McNeese he went over to Great Britain, became a really good player, got on their Olympic team, and became general manager for the Newcastle, England, basketball and soccer club,” Everhart said.
“I guess it’s been about a month or two now, but he was given the highest honor you can get from England for success and community service from the Queen,” Everhart said, referring to being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to British basketball and the community in the North East.
Flournoy’s success there at his adopted country, where he has gained citizenship, is best summed up in this brief article that was written there:
”Fab arrived in Newcastle to be a player for the Newcastle Eagles basketball team and in 2002 became the player/manager of the team. Since then the Eagles have become the most successful team in the history of the British Basketball League, with more League Titles and cup wins than any other team; and Fab is credited with all their success.
”Before coming to England Fab had played for NCAA Division one side, McNeese State University. A combination of him being a terrific player and manager, huge personality, and his community work soon made him a favourite among Newcastle sports fans. He organised out-reach programmes to take basketball into schools on an organised basis for the first time, and visited Young Offender’s Institutions to mentor the inmates, and to promote his sport as a way of keeping out of trouble.”
This, Everhart says, means far more than his paycheck that comes with coaching.
“When kids call and tell me you meant a lot to me or you helped me get to here or there, it does mean a lot,” Everhart said. “It is gratifying to know you had a hand in helping a kid get to somewhere where other people didn’t ordinarily think they could get to.”
You are judged on wins and losses, but it isn’t really whether you win or lose games that matters compared to whether you win with the players. As a coach, you take in many kids that could go either way.
Some grow up and straighten out, some don’t.
“That’s the other end of the spectrum. Because we had success with kids who could go either way, you come to think you can save everybody, you can change everybody, you can make everybody better,” Everhart said. “The fact is sometimes you can’t do that. Those are the tough parts of coaching. It’s not so much the losing, the game preparation … it’s all in the kids.
“They all have flaws,” Everhart continued. “They are 19 to 22 years old when you get them. They all have the ability to stray or go in a different direction if they are not held accountable every day. Even if they are, some stray.”
You become the parent away from home of that athlete, maybe the only male “parent” he has known.
“There’s no getting around that. You have to be a little bit of everything for all these kids because they are away from home and at college for the first time,” Everhart said. “That’s hard for most kids. I have two children going to college. You look at orientation day or move in day at college.
“Make it a kid who is competing at a BCS level in college athletics. For the lack of a better term, it’s about one step below playing professional athletics. You have a whole different set of problems on your hand coaching in terms of academics and social issues because now you have time issues.”
And what you have to remember with many of them is that they are there to become athletes, not students … and you have make sure they understand that’s the wrong approach.
“The biggest message any kid has to get coming in is you can’t allow the system to take advantage of you,” Everhart said. “You have to take advantage of the opportunity you have so can get your degree. That has to be top priority.
“But you can’t forget, every kid who comes here to play a sport, that sport becomes his top priority, so you have to balance that a little bit.”
And it’s different as an assistant than as a head coach for you become closer to the kids.
“One of the many things that makes Coach Huggins successful is that he has a close relationship with his players,” Everhart said. “I’m not so sure that happens across the board with every coach.
“As an assistant coach, one thing I’ve enjoyed a whole lot more is having a much better relationship and having more time to develop that relationship with players.”