'I've just enjoyed the ride'

MHS coach Yester's views on team and tournament


The Dominion Post file photo

Tom Yester:"It's going to be a great tournament."


The Dominion Post

He's been in the business of coaching high school basketball for more than 20 years, but never before perhaps has Tom Yester had a team that was looked upon by the rest of the state as a favorite to win it all.

That's the way his Mohigans are looked at now, as they sit alone at the top of the Metro News Power Index ratings entering this week's state boys' basketball tournament.

Yester has been to many tournaments, but this one is a little more special, has a little more meaning -- for himself and his players.

Yester took a team that wasn't expected to do much to the top and he sat down with The Dominion Post to talk about it.

THE DOMINION POST: What has this season been like for you?

YESTER: I thought we would have an above average season, simply because I saw the dedication of the players in the off-season. I saw how hard they worked. To me, 15 wins is a good season and I thought we would have a good season. Anything after 15 comes from ge tting in a groove or getting a few breaks here and there. It's been a season with a lot of twists and turns and I've pretty much just enjoyed the ride that the kids have provided so far.

DP: When did you first see things coming together?

YESTER: After we lost the first game to Fairmont Senior by 19 points, I thought it would have been real easy for the kids to fold it up. That made us 8-3, and they could have rode out the rest of the season and got their 13 or 14 wins. They were embarrassed by that loss and they knew they could play better than that. It made them work harder, and that's when I sort of thought that we may have a special team.

DP: After that first loss to Fairmont Senior, did you think there was a chance for the state tournament?

YESTER: At that point, no. I thought it would be the same old thing of Fairmont Senior being too tall, too fast and too talented.

DP: With no Capital or Woodrow Wilson, is the Class AAA tournament as wide open as people think?

YESTER: I think it's going to be a great tournament if you like up-and-down basketball. We like to run; so does Robert C. Byrd. Everybody knows that Parkersburg South is going to run. Martinsburg, Cabell Midland and South Charleston, I think, are the favorites in most people's eyes. It's going to be a great tournament.

DP: Is today's generation of players more difficult to coach or get along with?

YESTER: I think moreso on the college or pro level than at high school. Kids here are pretty much the same. They talk about the same things, whether it be girlfriends or whatever. They're still goofy just like they've always been. Living in Morgantown, there ce rtainly are drugs here and what have you, but kids' problems aren't on the same level as what you see in other parts of the nation. For the most part, kids are pretty good here.

DP: How would you set up the state basketball tournament?

YESTER: I really like what they do in football. I don't think that system has hurt anybody. I would like to see as many of the higher-ranked teams in Charleston as you could get. Even though we beat Fairmont Senior, nobody can tell me that team doesn't belong i * the state tournament.

DP: With the success of the MHS football program, how has that affected the basketball program?

YESTER: I coached football for many years over at University High and I go to all of our football games. I love the success they've had. The only thing, though, I see a kid who is a good football player and he will specialize in that sport in hopes of getting a scholarship. I'm not a big fan of specializing. I would much rather see a kid go out and have fun and experience a little bit of everything.

DP: Finally, somebody 10, 20 years from now will ask you about this team. What will you remember?

YESTER: This team has been one of the unique examples where chemistry is better than size. These kids just play so well together and they're such a great group of kids. We have some emotional ones and some quiet ones and some spiritual ones. It's really been a good mix of everything, that's what I'll probably remember the most.