Since I returned to West Virginia in 2009, I’ve covered my share of girls high school basketball tournaments. I’ve covered my share of St. Marys and coach Howard Meeks.
The state tournament stage offers coaches and players a taste of the collegiate and professional post-game media setting. There is an elevated platform, microphones and a table with a skirt. A coach will sit with his players and field questions from the media, and this produces a wide range of outcomes because the athletes are teenagers and aren’t used to staring back at media members and cameras.
Meeks, however, has always pumped life into these press conferences. He is known for his candor. He can be blunt. He is certainly opinionated. He cannot stifle his passion for topics related to Class A girls basketball.
St. Marys defeated Madonna easily Thursday night in the last of the 12 quarterfinal games that stretched across two days. On Friday, St. Marys will face No. 1 seed St. Joe, which has won the last seven Class A state titles. St. Marys lost four of those championships.
It is a common opponent for Meeks, so maybe that is why he recently let some words slip that he admitted he shouldn’t have.
Unprompted, Meeks discussed those words with the media Thursday night as the clock drifted toward midnight. He could’ve sidestepped the topic, kept it to himself, but what resulted was a few minutes of authentic human emotion. It was real and good and a breath of fresh air.
Below are Meeks’ words:
I apologized to these girls earlier in the week because I had some words come back to me that I didn’t like. An esteemed coach, a friend of mine, won the conference this year was talking and he goes ‘I heard maybe you got it right, maybe we’re all playing for second place.’The good Lord woke me up last Sunday at 3 o’clock in the morning and said, ‘Coach, I believe in dreamers. You’re a dreamer and you started this. These girls need to have the dream. If you don’t believe they can win it, you think you’re really playing for second place.’
Why are we doing it for? I got down on my knees and cried and prayed and thanked Him for reminding me. It’s about those girls up there. Every one of them are in the gym trying to get better …
It still boils down to one of these days someone is going to get over that mountain, and maybe it won’t be against this St. Joe team, but someone is going to get over that mountain. Hopefully it’s this team tomorrow.
I just thank God that he reminded me that, not only that I still need to climb that mountain, that He put the same mountain in front of me. And so I’m going to do what I teach these girls: give it all I got, they’re going to give it all they got, they’re going to play their butts off, and tomorrow someone is going to win and someone is going to lose and life goes on.
Maybe the Lakers will beat Golden State tomorrow. If not, I’m back to dreaming, we’re going to keep working, and no one can sit there and say that we don’t do it hard and in a special way. If that’s not good enough for anybody else, you want to right something different, that’s OK. That’s OK.
I’ve learned it’s not about me, it’s never been about me, I’m just stupid enough to dream.
St. Marys and St. Joseph will square off at 7:15 on Friday night at the Charleston Civic Center.