It will be a big night of basketball on Saturday night in Marshall’s Henderson Center. In a game with Conference USA ramifications, the Thundering Herd will host the Golden Knights of UCF at 7:00 p.m.
Many of you basketball fans know the story. UCF is coached by state native Donnie Jones. Jones was Marshall’s head coach before heading south to Orlando. Last year when these two teams played, the drama before the game was a bit of a circus.
You know how it is when a coach leaves a school in our state. It rankled WVU fans when football coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan. The same thing happened for Marshall fans when Jones left for UCF. All of a sudden, Jones went from being a good guy to becoming the villain.
Last year, Marshall’s fan base was as amped as it has been in a long time before a game. The atmosphere was electric as Marshall rolled to the victory.
It was also an emotional and awkward night for Jones. Everyone that knows Donnie Jones likes Donnie Jones. I have known him since he was a young graduate assistant coach. He was a great kid and has grown into a terrific coach, husband and father. He has a Master’s Degree from Marshall. His hometown, Pt. Pleasant, is 40 minutes away. One of his assistants, Shawn Finney, is from Mullens. Another assistant, Tim Thomas, is from Wheeling.
So now it is a year later and Jones and UCF return to Huntington again. Will it be a big time atmosphere in a sold out buildijng? I hope so. Will it be a great game between two teams that have NCAA Tournament aspirations? It should be.
Will it have the same venom and personal verbal attacks against Jones as it did last year? I hope not. I hope that Saturday night is a great atmosphere, but also a classy atmosphere.