One night after what he considered his team’s best performance of the season, Notre Dame High School boys basketball coach Jarrod West was following along Thursday with the girls basketball state tournament online.
West, whose younger son Jaidyn West is an all-state caliber player for the Irish, then received a text message. It was from his older son, ‘Little’ Jarrod West, the starting point guard at Marshall.
“He said, ‘they canceled our conference tournament,’” the elder West said. “The father in you is trying to console your son, but as I’m having the conversation, our assistant coach and athletic director Steve Petitto calls me and says, ‘It’s not looking good.’”
Petitto was referring to the status of the boys and girls basketball seasons, which were postponed Thursday and appear highly unlikely to finish due to coronavirus.
“It feels like you’re in a fantasy world and it’s reality,” West said. “You’re just trying to figure it out. The first time I got scared was when they said (Utah Jazz center) Rudy Gobert had the virus. I knew we were in trouble, because when a prominent figure gets it, it’s a trickle-down effect.”
A point guard at West Virginia University from 1995-1998, West has spent more than a decade as head coach of the Notre Dame boys team. He was beginning preparations for a state quarterfinal against Wheeling Central after the Irish defeated Moorefield on Wednesday, 85-42.
But before West could give much thought to another matchup with the Maroon Knights in Charleston, he was paying close attention to the Thundering Herd. Marshall won its Conference USA Tournament opener against UTEP and was to play Louisiana Tech late Thursday. Although MU needed to win the league tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, it never had the chance to do so.
“Jarrod understands the window comes and goes fast,” West said. “He’s been a leader on the team and had a pretty successful season. He was excited to have a chance to help carry this team to a championship run and it’s snatched away. It’s that way for everybody. It’s something you can’t get back. He has one year left and some don’t get that year back, but now you only have one year.”
As frustrating as it is for the high school and college basketball seasons to likely have come to an abrupt ending, West understands the logic behind the decisions.
“People are asking me if it’s an overreaction and that’s a loaded question,” he said. “It is maybe in terms of deaths, but you can’t let 20,000 thousand people come together and expect to control this. The only way you can control it is to stop the gatherings.”
West’s coaching career reached a climax in 2017 when the Irish won the Class A state championship and ’Little’ Jarrod garnered the Evans Award as the state’s top player.
Three years later, Jaidyn West was hoping to bring home more hardware for Notre Dame, which was to be the No. 4 seed.
“Jaidyn has lived in his brother’s shadow for years and before last year, Jaidyn thought he was going to win it all every year,” West said. “But we’re not in the NBA here. You don’t get to play 10, 12 or 15 years.”
West also understands what this means to seniors, whether they be in high school or college.
During his senior season with the Mountaineers, West’s buzzer-beating three-pointer sent West Virginia to an upset win over a Bob Huggins-coached Cincinnati squad for a berth in the Sweet 16.
To this day, it’s considered one of the more important and improbable shots in program history.
“My senior year of college molded me for the rest of my life,” West said. “From a sports perspective, I’m just Jarrod West. But to many people in this state, I’m a legend because of what happened in that tournament. We had six seniors that year and those runs don’t come around all the time. It’s heartbreaking for the seniors, because there’s nothing you can do.”