The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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College Sports

June 26, 2012

Byrd adds another honor

MORGANTOWN — Dr. Leland E. Byrd, one of West Virginia University’s all-time basketball greats, has added another honor to his lengthy list.

He was inducted recently into the Glenville State College Sports Hall of Fame. After coaching two years at Hinton High School, Byrd moved on to Glenville in 1955 for about a 10-year stint.

Besides serving as head basketball coach, he was an assistant in football, director of athletics and physical education department chairman.

Byrd remained at Glenville through 1966, with some time off to work on his doctorate at WVU. He already had received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there and then served two years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

While he was a native of Lynch, Ky., Byrd spent most of his early years growing up in Matoaka. That’s where his father, Roy Byrd, was coaching basketball in high school.

After earning all-state status, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound forward led West Virginia to a sparkling combined 72-15 record. That was in 1945-46-47-48, the last three years under Lee Patton. He had been coach at Princeton High.

Byrd, who is on the WVU all-time team, was named the team captain as a junior. That season he also made the prestigious Helms Foundation All-America first team.

In his basketball book, “Legends,” journalist Norman Julian wrote that WVU was ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time in its history when 19-1 for the regular season.

Julian also noted that Byrd was so fundamentally sound in his play probably because of his father’s coaching him.

Byrd played in the National Invitational Tournament three years. He also made the all-tourney team and performed in a NIT all-star contest.

He is listed in some statistical records as the first Mountaineer basketball player ever to finish his career with 1,000 points.

Byrd was nicknamed “The Hammer” because of the slant of his well-aimed shots. Some folks just called him “Lefty.”

Byrd, who was inducted as a charter member (1991) into the WVU Hall of Fame, has enjoyed an outstanding career in intercollegiate athletics and it was varied and interesting.

A highlight was Dr. Byrd’s return to his alma mater in 1972 as Director of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. He guided an expanding program for seven years before leaving.

He also spent several years in administrative positions at Miami-Dade Junior College in Florida, where his teams were highly successful.

Later in his career, he helped form the Eastern Eight and Atlantic 10 organizations as president and commissioner.

Byrd still serves on the WVU Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.

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