Nov. 23, 2008
Mike D'Antoni is coming back to Huntington. The famous Thundering Herd point guard of the early 1970s and the current head coach of the NBA's New York Knicks, will speak at the Big Green Scholarship Foundation Dinner on May 21, 2009.
Marshall University men's basketball coach Donnie Jones visited D'Antoni when the Knicks opened their training camp in Saratoga in early October and Jones says D'Antoni is eager to visit Huntington and to help the Big Green raise scholarship funds for MU's 350 student-athletes.
Jones said D'Antoni told him the best time of his life was as a player for Marshall and the memories of the great games at the Memorial Field House. "He cherishes his great relationships he had and still has for people here."
Director of Athletics Bob Marcum said the Marshall athletic family is looking forward to D'Antoni's appearance. "We are all so proud of his accomplishments and appreciative that he is coming here to help the Big Green."
Complete details and reservation information on the May 21 dinner will be forthcoming says Big Green executive director John Sutherland. "This dinner is always one of our biggest fundraisers and this one has the potential to be the best ever. We are very grateful to Mike for coming back home to support all of our Marshall student-athletes."
Jones said D'Antoni's commitment to the Big Green "stands as his acceptance of our basketball program."
When Jones and assistant Coach Shawn Finney--like D'Antoni a native of Mullens, W.Va.--spent two days at the Knicks training camp, Jones said "he passed on to us a lot of his concepts he uses in his fast break.
"Mike's a great teacher and a great basketball offensive mind," said Jones.
Mike played his college basketball for the Herd from 1970 to 1973. In three seasons he led Marshall to a 59-21 record and invitations to both the NCAA and the NIT post season tournaments. The 1971-72 team had a 23-4 record and at one time was ranked No. 8 in the nation.
He still holds the Herd single season assists record of 241 in 1971-72, averaging 8.9 per game. He scored 1,227 points, 26th best ever at MU, and was twice named to the Academic All-American team.
After a five-year playng career in the NBA, Mike moved on to start a great European career in the Italian League, pacing his team to five titles and he was named the league's top point guard of all time. As a coach he won two Italian League titles and twice was named Coach of the Year.
He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2005, leading the Phoenix Suns to a 62-20 record and a Pacific Division title. He left the Suns after five years to become head coach of the New York Knicks this season.
D'Antoni was also selected for the coaching staff for Team USA Olympic Basketball squad which won the Gold Medal in the 2008 summer Olympics. With all this success, "he's the same guy as he was when he played here," said Jones after his return from Saratoga. "He's kind and giving and willing to share his basketball knowledge."