By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It’s funny, the things that can happen when you’re on a 9:30 p.m. milk run. We go through a lot of moo juice in our household and were running perilously low Wednesday night, my night off, so off to the store I went.
I realized how much easier it is to pick up radio stations at night, because as I was flipping through the dial, it actually stopped on a Huntington station that was airing the postgame show after Marshall’s 79-61 win over Tulsa.
The mood, as you would expect after the Thundering Herd’s abysmal three-game losing streak, was one of cautious optimism after starting Conference USA play with such an impressive win. Tulsa isn’t exactly Memphis, and there are still 15 league games to be played. Nothing short of winning the league tournament will get Marshall (8-8) to the NCAA Tournament, so it was, as coach Tom Herrion would later say, a “small step in the right direction.”
But as the Herd players’ press conference was being replayed, some comments made toward the end really stood out. They came from DeAndre Kane, the junior guard who had just played his second game after missing four straight with a right hand injury. Kane isn’t 100 percent but the Herd needed a leader.
His comments, to me, proved he can lead this team just fine.
Kane, a Pittsburgh native, has at times been criticized for his attitude, no matter that he is the team’s best player. As the Herd trudged through a streak that saw losses of 28 points at Kentucky and 37 at Ohio, with a ridiculous 53-51 home loss to Delaware State in between, the criticism was squarely directed toward Herrion.
Some fans went as far as to call for Herrion’s firing, with assistant Mark Cline taking over on an interim basis.
So Kane and Herrion perhaps share a connection in that regard. Maybe that’s why Kane — unsolicited — came to Herrion’s defense:
“Everybody is beating up the coach. It ain’t coach out there. It’s us. Coach can’t get out there and shoot free throws for us. Coach can’t get out there and hold our hands, dribble the ball for us.
“So don’t beat up my coach anymore. He’s a great coach, a great person. It’s on us.”
Later, in his own press conference, Herrion expressed his regret for the way the first half of the season turned out.
“Nothing bothers me more knowing that I’ve let this fan base down. That pains me,” Herrion said. “As frustrated as everyone can be with our team and with me as the coach because I am the leader of this group, that pains me. That’s what drives me every day to get this team better and hopefully right the ship.”
I’ve only been able to talk to Herrion a handful of times, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who speaks out the side of his mouth. I believe it truly does hurt him to know that, for now, Herd Nation is not on his side.
Maybe the leadership demonstrated by Kane — with a nice long winning streak, of course — will change all that.
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Meanwhile, the football team lost another assistant coach with the resignation of cornerbacks coach Lytrel Pollard.
An informed source said Friday that Pollard, who stayed at Marshall for just one season, will be the linebackers coach at Southern Miss, his alma mater. Pollard helped lead the Golden Eagles to the C-USA championship in 1997. He also spent nine seasons as a Southern Miss assistant.
Marshall’s corners were often criticized for playing too far off wide receivers in pass coverage. The Herd was eighth in pass defense and 10th out of 12 teams in pass defense efficiency.
— E-mail: gfauber@