By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Mountain State’s loss to Oklahoma Baptist would become the last basketball game ever played for Mountain State University.
The school lost its accreditation in the summer, which, in turn, killed its athletic programs.
Bob Bolen was notified via a phone call on July 23 that he would be one of many MSU employees who were being terminated.
Bolen was in North Carolina helping one of his players find a new school.
Along with being the head coach of MSU’s men’s basketball program, he was also the athletic director, overseeing men’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s cross country, and cheerleading.
“It was rough,” Bolen admitted. “It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. We had 10 returning players (from a NAIA Final Four team) and had four really great recruits coming in. We had winning another national championship this season on our mind. It couldn’t have been more disappointing.
“MSU meant so much to me personally and to the entire community.”
The former MSU players and recruits have landed elsewhere and are thriving, said Bolen.
“I’m proud that every (former MSU) player signed somewhere and got scholarships,” Bolen said. “I’m on the computer following them every night, and they’re all doing real well. They still call me and check in, too.”
But the termination of the program was still disappointing news on many levels, especially since Bolen had just set a new record for most wins by a college men’s basketball coach in the state of West Virginia, surpassing legendary Fairmont State coach Joe Retton.
On Thursday, Jan. 6, Bob Bolen led his Cougars to an 84-67 victory over Talladega, netting the historic career win No. 479.
Bolen would take his career record to 489-125. Mountain State advanced to the NAIA Fab Four, where it lost to Oklahoma Baptist 77-56.
“It was a great honor to break the record,” Bolen said. “But it was really a team record. We’ve had great assistant coaches and we’ve been able to recruit some great players. But looking back on it now, I’m very proud.”
Bolen finished his career at MSU with a .865 winning percentage in 12 seasons — the highest of any NCAA Division I, Division II or NAIA school.
On top of his wins record, Bolen was the 2004 NAIA National Coach of the Year and the West Virginia AP College Coach of the Year. He was named the NABC National Coach of the Year in 2010. Bolen led the Cougars to 14 straight NAIA National Tournament appearances between 1999-2012, winning the championship in 2004.
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The University of Charleston will officially take over the former MSU campus on Jan. 1. UC-Beckley officials are reportedly looking into the application process to restore collegiate athletics in Beckley through the NAIA. A decision is expected some time in 2013.
“The University of Charleston has a great academic reputation,” Bolen said. “Hopefully it won’t be long before it’s built back up in Beckley, because the (MSU) problems didn’t have anything to do with athletics.”