Ex-West Virginia coach Stewart dies at 59

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Ex-West Virginia coach Stewart dies at 59

From Comcast SportsNet
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Former West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart, who was hailed as Rich Rodriguez's successor but wound up leaving the school in a messy split, died Monday of what athletic department officials said was an apparent heart attack. He was 59. Stewart's family notified the university and said Stewart had been out golfing with the longtime friend who hired him as head coach, former athletic director Ed Pastilong. West Virginia spokesman Michael Fragale said he had no further details, and Pastilong couldn't immediately be reached for comment. "Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer," athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement released by the university. "His enthusiasm and passion for his state's flagship university was infectious. We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing." U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time Stewart became head coach, said Stewart was a longtime friend who "leaves behind a lifetime of memories and love for our state." "Bill was a proud West Virginian in every sense of the word," Manchin said, "and he was the best cheerleader this state ever had." The West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association held its annual golf tournament Monday at Stonewall Jackson Resort in Roanoke. Ryan Crook of Beckley said he was playing in the tournament behind a group that included Stewart and Pastilong. Crook said he saw Stewart collapse on the 16th hole. Members of Crook's group drove their carts to Stewart's side, and ambulances were called, Crook said. Calls to the resort and to tournament organizers weren't immediately returned. Stewart went 28-12 in three seasons after taking over when Rodriguez left for Michigan after the 2007 regular season, but resigned last summer and was replaced by Dana Holgorsen the same night. In December 2007, Mountaineer fans unleashed their fury on Rodriguez for breaking his contract early and taking the Michigan job. He left the Mountaineers not long after a painful loss to rival Pittsburgh cost them a shot at the national championship and two weeks before the Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma, taking recruits and assistants with him. It was Stewart, a deeply religious family man, who stepped in and guided the team to a surprising 48-28 victory over the Sooners. In the euphoric aftermath, he was given the job full-time -- to the surprise of many -- but the Mountaineers didn't go to another BCS bowl under his leadership and Stewart couldn't match the production of Rodriguez. In Stewart's three seasons, West Virginia averaged at least 79 fewer yards per game than the 2007 team. In December 2010, Luck -- then just months into his tenure -- decided to hire Holgorsen as offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting for the 2011 season. Holgorsen would run West Virginia's offense while Stewart would coach the team one final season before moving into an administrative job. Wins and losses weren't the only issue for the coaching change. Luck said season-ticket sales had declined in the year after Stewart became head coach. Luck said he'd modeled the transition after those done when Bret Bielema took over at Wisconsin and Chip Kelly assumed control at Oregon. Luck said he had no doubt it would be handled professionally, noting both coaches said they supported the idea. And Stewart was diplomatic about the hire, saying the team would let Holgorsen "implement ideas and schemes in preparation of getting the finest offensive staff we can compile." Six months later, the arrangement had fallen apart, and Stewart's departure became difficult. Both he and Holgorsen made unwanted headlines in the weeks leading up to the shake-up. An intoxicated Holgorsen was escorted out of a casino, then a former newspaper reporter said that Stewart had approached him shortly after Holgorsen's hiring to "dig up dirt" on his eventual successor. "At the time I thought it made a lot of sense, I thought it was good management practice," Luck said last June. "With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree." In Holgorsen's first season, the Mountaineers went 10-3, were Big East co-champions and beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. "The State of West Virginia, our University and our football program has lost a true Mountaineer who gave his native state university a decade of coaching service and a lifetime of guidance and inspiration to thousands of young men over a 33-year career," Holgorsen said Monday. "Though Coach Stewart achieved many great milestones on the field, we will most remember his kindness and compassion." Former West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, who entered the NFL draft after his junior season in 2007, said he was at a loss for words. "I am honored to have had him as a friend and coach," Slaton said. "I know every player that has had the opportunity to be around him would say the same." Stewart, a native of New Martinsville, attended Fairmont State and earned a master's degree in health and physical education from WVU in 1977. He had assistant coaching stints at seven colleges before becoming head coach at VMI in 1994, going 8-25 in three seasons. After a two-year stint in the Canadian Football League, Stewart was hired by Don Nehlen as an assistant at West Virginia. "Bill was such a great Mountaineer and a great addition to our staff," Nehlen said. "It was a terrific hire -- he did a great job not only for me, but for Rich and as a head coach. Bill was such a great husband and a great father. Bill Stewart was a great Mountaineer." Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got his first coaching job when Stewart hired him as an assistant at VMI, and Tomlin was elated when Stewart got the West Virginia job. "We are saddened by the passing of Coach Stew," Tomlin said in a statement released by the Steelers. "He was a great coach and a tremendous person. We not only lost a good football person, we lost an even better family man." Stewart and his wife, Karen, have one son, Blaine.

Remembering Jim Vance, a Washington institution and the city's guiding light

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NBC Washington

Remembering Jim Vance, a Washington institution and the city's guiding light

Washington, D.C. is a city of great institution, and in its human form, there was no greater institution than Jim Vance. 

For 45 years -- the longest of any newscaster in the region -- Vance treated every Washingtonian with courtesy, respect and the ability to not just read the news, but talk with you about it. The latter is an important distinction in this city, one ruled by political grandstanding and ruthless social posturing.

On Saturday, the nation's capital lost its kindest, most charismatic and respected voice of news and information, as Vance passed away at the age of 75.

I am not writing this as an employee of NBC Universal, nor am I writing this as a former intern at NBC4.  I am writing this as the son of a Washingtonian. I am writing this as a 32-year old who was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Someone who took the local bus to high school every day, the same bus adorned with his NBC4 headshot.

I am writing this as someone who loves Washington, D.C. as not the seat of American politics, but the greatest local community in the country.

And Vance was the face and the voice of the local community.

But what made Vance great was not what he did, but how he did it.

Vance was as charming a newscaster as you will ever see. He was polite but direct. He could make you laugh and make you cry. He made you care about the community, whether you grew up on a metro line or simply spent a summer interning on one.

I did not know Jim Vance on a personal level. I met him on several occasions as an intern, and as incredible of a journalist as he was, what always shined was his urbane sophistication and truly warm demeanor.

He was the same person on television as he was in the newsroom, and was that very same person when you ran into him at the local florist. He was Washington D.C.'s guiding light. The city's voice of knowledge and community.

It's why despite hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians not knowing Jim Vance on a personal level, each and everyone felt like he was a part of their extended family.

We welcomed him into our houses every day.

We discussed the local happenings and important world issues.

We groaned when local teams were eliminated from the playoffs and shared imaginary yet all-too-real hi-fives when the teams won. 

He wasn't just a newscaster. He was a Washingtonian. He was the guy whose photo you saw on the wall at local delis and the guy who stood behind you in-line at the very same place. 

Death is human, but influence is forever. Jim Vance truly is a Washington institution, one that will never die.

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John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

John Wall and Wizards' partnership is a display of commitment rarely seen

No player has defined the Washington Wizards organization since they rebranded 20 years ago quite like John Wall, a superstar point guard who has developed from a first overall pick into a perennial All-Star and pillar of playoff success. Wall has etched a unique legacy within the franchise's history in just seven NBA seasons. Now he has ensured them of at least six more.

It's the yearly terms that stand out most in Wall's new contract with the Wizards, a four-year extension worth $170 million. Four years does not sound long, but that will take Wall through at least the majority, if not all, of his prime. He will enter his Age 27 season this fall, but with two years left on his current deal Wall's new contract will keep him in Washington through 2023. He will be 32 by the time it expires.

If Wall complets those 13 seasons with the Wizards, barring a trade or something unforeseen, he will have played as long for one team as Wes Unseld (Bullets), Larry Bird (Celtics), Kevin McHale (Celtics), Magic Johnson (Lakers) and Isaiah Thomas (Pistons). Dwyane Wade spent 13 seasons with the Heat before leaving. Michael Jordan played 13 in Chicago. 

Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs, 19 years), Tony Parker (Spurs, 16), Manu Ginobli (Spurs, 15) and Udonis Haslem (Heat, 14) have been with one team longer than 13 years.

[RELATED: NBA reacts to John Wall's new contract]

Only Unseld has spent more than nine seasons with the Wizards/Bullets franchise. Wall is two years away from matching the six players tied for second with nine seasons including Phil Chenier, Gus Johnson and Elvin Hayes. Those guys were all Bullets. Wall is a Wizard through and through.

Evaluating this partnership from Wall's perspective is interesting. Naturally, the Wizards would be willing to retain him for the longhaul. He is one of the best players in the NBA and has the off-court comportment any team would covet as the face of their franchise. But for Wall to make this commitment is a rare display of loyalty in an age where NBA superstars jump teams like never before.

Loyalty may not be the perfect word, as ultimately Wall will make much more money in Washington than he could elsewhere. But his devotion to the city of Washington and finishing what he started with a franchise that has experienced many lean years for decades is nearly unparalleled in this day and age. 

Think about it. How many players in today's NBA more define the franchise they play for, not just in contemporary terms but in the team's history? Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, Paul George left Indiana, Gordon Hayward left Utah and Chris Paul left the Clippers, all within the last 13 months. Meanwhile, Wall has never wavered publicly about his commitment to the Wizards.

[RELATED: Is Washington a basketball destination now?]

Wall's firm allegiance to the Wizards has helped the team hold up a point majority owner Ted Leonsis made during Wednesday's press conference to announce Otto Porter's own max contract, that he prefers "no drama" in contract negotiations. He boasted how there was no drama in Wall's first max deal signed back in 2013, nor was there any with Bradley Beal last summer or Porter this year. Now, with Wall's second contract, the Wizards have been able to get these deals done without any sort of realistic doubt for fans about their favorite players leaving. That is no small feat.

That is of course in great contrast with many NBA superstars between Dwight Howard's days in Orlando, Paul's time in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony's tenure in both Denver and New York, LeBron James in both of his stints in Cleveland, etc. Some of those players left, some didn't. But all had drama that lasted for years and weighed heavily on everyone involved.

Wizards fans, on the other hand, had no serious fear of seeing Wall go. That is an unusual sense of security in most places but even more so in the city of Washington. Between Kirk Cousins and Bryce Harper, the thought of losing a franchise cornerstone is a very real thing for D.C. fans. Cousins and Harper have done nothing wrong and they shouldn't be faulted for playing their hand in what is ultimately a cutthroat business, but it's hard not to notice how Wall has gone out of his way to make D.C. his home, embracing the city in every sense.

Keeping great players and the longevity of stardom is something even more foreign to those who have rooted for the Bullets and Wizards over the last few decades. It's not that they haven't acquired superstars, they just haven't been able to keep them.

Chris Webber could end up in the Hall of Fame someday, but Washington traded him at the beginning of his prime. Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace all became stars after leaving D.C. and helped win a championship for the Detroit Pistons. Gilbert Arenas was a sensation, but his tenure was brief and ultimately catastrophic. 

Wall's career in Washington has already gone much differently than those. And because of his new contract, fans can dream about the future knowing he will be a part of it.

[RELATED: Wizards are building something special in Eastern Conference]