Governor Justice or Coach Justice. Pick One.

Governor Jim Justice loves kids, and he gets great joy from coaching high school basketball.  He coached both the Greenbrier East boys and girls teams from 2010 until 2017 when he gave up the boys, but kept the girls.

Now Justice wants to take on the responsibility of the Greenbrier East boys team again.  The Governor told MetroNews’ Carrie Hudousek that he applied for the job at the request of the school principal and county superintendent.

However, the Greenbrier County School Board Tuesday tabled the decision whether to hire Justice.  The board is expected to take up the issue again at its next meeting.  Perhaps the school board is considering the obvious—this is a bad idea on several levels.

Justice insisted that the additional coaching responsibilities would not interfere with his duties as Governor. “There is no chance,” Justice said.  “I’m going to stay dead on top of it.”

West Virginia may be a small state but serving as the chief executive is a full-time position.  That was never truer than now.

The Covid-19 infection rate is rising again just as public schools and state colleges are reopening.  Hospitalizations are on the rise and as of yesterday, 101 Covid-infected individuals were in intensive care, the most since last February.

The vaccination rate is stagnant.  West Virginia once led the nation in vaccine distribution, but according to a New York Times estimate, the state will not reach the 70 percent vaccination level until early 2023.

Beyond Covid, our state’s challenges range from trying to grow the economy, adjusting for the decline of the coal industry, dealing with an opioid epidemic that has worsened since the pandemic, reversing the trend of a declining population, improving the state’s infrastructure, expanding broadband service, training a reliable workforce, on and on.

Roll in the occasional flood or severe storm damage and you have more than enough to keep any Governor occupied from dawn till dusk and beyond.

The bulk of the high school basketball season overlaps the regular session of the Legislature—early January through mid-March. The session is when the state’s Governor has the greatest opportunity—and responsibility—of working with lawmakers to develop policy for the state.

How many times will that business have to stop because Justice must leave to drive to Greenbrier County or somewhere else in the state to coach a basketball game?

Apparently, Justice is going to skip practices and only coach when it counts.  “I’ll coach the games,” Justice said, while relying heavily on his assistants for practice.  From a basketball perspective, that begs the question: Wouldn’t an assistant who prepared the team in practice be better suited to coach the team in the game?

Public service, especially at the highest levels, has an element of sacrifice. Individuals must give up or curtail an avocation or even family time to fulfill their obligations.  By definition, the service to the public supersedes private ambitions.

Justice loves coaching high school basketball and, as he often reminds us, he ran for Governor because he loves West Virginia.  That is all fine, but Justice should pick where he wants to devote his energies and let the other go.




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