There are virtually no certainties in life, but if ever I felt something was a slam dunk it was naming the basketball floor at Mullens Middle School after late Mullens High School coach Don Nuckols.
Now, Nuckols could be the cantankerous sort during his coaching career, depending on what side of the county you resided.
I have retold the story he once told me about the lady in Oceana who bent over the railing at the old Oceana gym and poured pop on the coach during a game.
“I thought it was a big waste of that pop,” Nuckols said.
Nuckols was the kind of old-school coach that opposing fans loved to hate. And if he took the heat, well, that was OK by Nuckols, it was less heat on his players.
Nuckols was known by the many hats he wore, not only as a coach but also as an educator, an administrator, a mentor, a friend.
A group led by Nathan England, which included one of the greats from the school, Herbie Brooks, along with a few other representatives felt it was a just reward to name the court at Mullens Middle, formerly Mullens High School, after Nuckols.
He was a Wyoming County legend, winning five state titles during his career, including three straight (with Brooks) in 1982-83-84. He also won titles in 1970 and 1972. His 1981 team lost in the state title game.
But he was also known outside of the county lines, a coach against whom other coaches around the state loved to match up. He was a state coaching great.
Here in southern West Virginia, aside from Northfolk and Jennings Boyd, only Dave Barksdale at Woodrow has as many state titles at Nuckols.
Northfork no longer exists. Barksdale’s name adorns the court at the Raleigh County Convention Center.
So yes, I thought it was a slam dunk that Nuckols’ name would be on the court at Mullens.
I was wrong. Really wrong.
The Wyoming County Board of Education unanimously opposed naming the court after Nuckols.
Like the members of the committee to rename the court, I was shocked.
The reasons were interesting — not wanting to give individual accolades to one individual and too much emphasis being placed on sports.
Like it or not, Nuckols was the face of Mullens basketball for years. But his name is synonymous with the program, so while it would bear his name it really represented the program.
And, there is precedence for the county naming athletic venues for coaches. Back in 1951, Pineville’s football field was named for Clarence Shufflebarger, who they say built the old field.
In 2006, Perry Cook led a contingent that renamed Oceana’s football field after coach John Beckelheimer.
The “too much emphasis on sports” angle is interesting.
You go to a game at Wyoming East, check the signs as you drive down Warrior Way. There are signs or every state title or runner-up finish by Warriors athletic programs.
Including three basketball state titles.
And you know what? It’s deserved. The history, the achievement and sense of accomplishment, should be decorated. It’s deserved.
Now, it seems as if any history not relating to Wyoming East or Westside didn’t happen. A shame because Wyoming County has as rich an athletic history as any of the 55 counties.
And a nice piece of it was created by coach Don Nuckols.
Forgetting history is bad business.
It’s almost as bad as acting like it didn’t happen at all.
I do get separating the histories of the old schools — Mullens, Oceana, Pineville, Baileysville and the ones who went before — from Wyoming East and Westside.
I see allowing them to create their own legacy.
But this is not that.
Mullens is now a middle school.
The days of the old county rivals is over. Simply naming a Mullens Middle School court after Nuckols isn’t going to open a Pandora’s Box wanting something named for everyone.
I would hope the Wyoming County Board of Education reverses this decision.
The group vows to fight on.
They still teach history in school. Well, this is history a little closer to home. And like those signs along Warrior Way, it should be celebrated.
Even the pop-dousing lady in Oceana would agree with that.