Marshall Athletic Director, Mike Hamrick, shocked most Thundering Herd fans with the hiring of Dan D’Antoni as the school’s new basketball coach.
This move made some diehard fans happy, especially those who remember the heyday of the Herd hoops in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Although many thought Marshall might try to hire the higher profiled younger brother Mike, who is the current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Since that didn’t work out, and it has been nearly a month and a half since former coach Tom Herrion was asked to resign, many top candidates have accepted other jobs.
Dan is a Mullens, W.Va. native who played at Marshall and helped lead them to wins in the NIT tourney back in the mid-1960s.
As a high school player in nearby Wyoming County, D’Antoni was an All-State first team selection at Mullens. At Marshall, he was the starting point guard on Ellis Johnson’s “Iron Man 5” that played in the NIT in the 1966-67 and ’67-’68 seasons. The ’66-67 team reached the NIT semifinals, and D’Antoni led the tournament in assists.
As a senior, he was an All-Mid-American Conference first team selection in 1968-69, when he led the Herd in scoring, at 17.5 points per game. D’Antoni was All-MAC second team his junior season.
After D’Antoni graduated from Marshall in 1970, he joined the Herd staff as the head coach of the freshman basketball team, where he coached his younger brother, Mike, before becoming an assistant coach of the Herd varsity.
D’Antoni has helped his younger brother as an assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He also served as an NBA assistant coach for the past nine seasons with Mike in Phoenix (2005 through 2008). He then spent four seasons on the New York Knicks’ staff.
During his career, D’Antoni, 66, also served as the head coach of the Knicks’ and Lakers’ NBA Summer League teams.
D’Antoni was named head basketball coach at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1975. After coaching 30 years at Socastee (1975–2005), D’Antoni had accumulated over 500 wins and multiple coach of the year honors, while founding the popular Beach Ball Classic. This has become one of the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments in the country.
He is one of Marshall’s 49 players to score 1,000 career points, with 1,109, and ranks 13th on the Herd’s career free throw percentage list, at .774 (301-of-389).
D’Antoni, whose given name is Lewis Joseph D’Antoni II, was inducted into the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990. He and Mike played for their dad Lewis, a legendary coach at Mullens.
Mike D’Antoni had this to say about his older brother. “Danny has been invaluable in the development of players at the high school and professional level. If you have the desire he will get everything out of you. He is a great coach. Players love playing for him and the style will be fun to watch. The Henderson Center will be rocking with excitement.”
A true “son of Marshall” has returned home.
Knott County Central All-State guard Camron Justice, a top candidate for 2015 Mr. Basketball honors, committed to Vanderbilt last Sunday.
The 6-foot-3 Justice, an excellent shooter and perimeter player, made his decision after an unofficial visit to Vanderbilt last weekend. Vandy has been well-positioned with Justice ever since he withdrew a commitment to Tennessee earlier this season.
Justice is the son of former Belfry coach Raymond Justice and Beth Justice a former athletic trainer who worked for a local hospital.
Vandy’s style of play is a good fit for Justice and the style he plays.
Huntington St. Joe girls basketball sharpshooter Rachel Lee will be playing for UPike next season. Lee played in the recent Consol Energy All-Star game up a Mingo Central. Lee was a consistent scoring option for the Irish during their run to a sixth consecutive Class A state championship and was rewarded with Class A first team and all state honors.
Lee is one of the top students at Huntington St. Joe and has aspirations of becoming a doctor like her parents, Patricia and Paul. Her decision on where to sign to play became more clear after opening a letter from the University of Pikeville accepting her into the pre-med program there. This past Thursday morning, she made it official, signing with the Bears to start her journey as a college student-athlete.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)