By KYLE LOVERN
HUNTINGTON - There is an old Willie Nelson song titled “On the Road Again” and that could be the motto of Marshall assistant basketball coach Mark Cline.
Cline, a former All-American from Williamson, logs hundreds of miles as the top assistant for the Thundering Herd. Whether it’s heading out on a road trip, like Marshall’s recent conference games, or traveling the country recruiting, Cline is a busy man.
The 47-year-old is heading into his third year at the Huntington, West Virginia school. After his stellar college career at Wake Forest, where he played against players like Michael Jordan, Len Bias and many others, Cline decided to get into coaching.
“I’ve been all the way around the country and then back home,” Cline said of his move back to the region. “We stay busy year around.”
Depending on the NCAA rules for visitations to see high school recruits, Cline and the other coaches log frequent flyer miles or put the rubber to the road.
“I’m going to Houston to check on Elijah Pittman,” Cline said of the Covington, Ky. Native who has signed with Marshall. The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the top five JUCO players in the country, according to Cline. He currently attends junior college in Texas.
“I’ll be going to watch an AAU tourney in Louisville or Clemson,” Cline added, “then I’ll be going to Virginia Beach for another tournament.”
“Tom (Herrion) will be going up to Pittsburgh and then down to Washington, D.C.,” Cline said. “We try to see as many kids as we can. One guy can’t recruit by himself, it take the entire staff.”
Cline said that schools have a list of 10 to 15 players that actively recruit. “The biggest part is for elimination,” Cline said of the recruiting travels. “We have a list and continually change it.”
For various reasons the list of potential recruits can change from week to week. It could be because of grades, or that a player commits to another school, or that a college fills up their available slots for the year.
Marshall has already signed three players, Pittman, 6-foot-1 Long Island, New York point guard Kareem Canty and 6-foot-4 swingman Tamron Manning out of Scott County, Ky.
“April is a time you can make some visits during the last two weekends of the month,” Cline said. “It’s important you stay in compliance.”
The coaching staff is also allowed two hours per week with each returning player for individual workouts during part of the spring semester. Then the workouts halt and academics takes precedence once it is time for semester testing for the student athletes.
The Herd coach said the NCAA rules are constantly changing. For example, now high school juniors can make official visits. “But that really doesn’t help us,” he added. “It helps the larger schools like Duke or Kentucky.”
During May and June, Cline and the other coaches are busy with camps. Lately he has been helping coach Herrion with the schedule by making calls to some of the contacts he has made over the years.
Before joining Herrion’s staff at Marshall, Cline was the lead assistant at Oklahoma. There he recruited current NBA all-star Blake Griffin. Cline still stays in contact with Griffin, who has become a media darling, not only for his slam dunks, but on TV commercials, as well.
“He stays pretty busy,” Cline said of Griffin. “But we talk from time to time. I went out to California on a recruiting trip and flew into L.A., so I talked to him then.”
But Cline still tries his best to fit in some quality family time with his wife, daughter and mother. His mom lives in nearby Teays Valley. He also stays in close contact with his brother Rod Cline, a former teacher and coach here in Mingo County and his cousin Stan Elkins, who is currently an assistant coach at Tug Valley.
“My family has always been important to me,” Cline said. “I also try to fit in a little golf here and there.”
Cline definitely keeps up the grind with his coaching duties. But now all roads lead back home to West Virginia.
The Cline coaching file:
After a brief stint playing pro ball over seas, Cline got his first coaching job at Fayetteville State in North Carolina.
Cline was as also an assistant coach for Virginia Commonwealth under Jeff Capel, Jr. From there he transitioned with Capel to North Carolina A&T and then to Old Dominion where he spent five seasons with the Monarchs. He helped ODU reach the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and 1997.
He then went to Oklahoma with Capel. His most recent job saw him join the staff at Marshall.