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Christian’s Sports Beat: State’s chief executive still loves coaching

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By Christian Deiss

Christian Deiss chats with Gov. Jim Justice recently at the state Capitol. Courtesy photo

Most high school and middle school coaches wear two hats, one for their day job and one for when they are coaching student-athletes.

Here in West Virginia, a unique situation is going to take place during the upcoming basketball season. The state’s governor, Jim Justice, not only will be making sure the state is operating during the day, but will also be courtside, again coaching the boys and girls basketball teams at Greenbrier East High School at night.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be governor and dealing with the pressure of the job on an everyday basis and then tossing in coaching both girls and boys high school basketball teams. During a recent interview in the governor’s office, Gov. Justice explained how he plans on fitting everything in.

“It (basketball season) falls at a good time of the year, to tell you the truth,” he said. “My job as governor will always have to take precedence over the basketball. My job as governor will always come first, but the basketball deal is mostly a November, December, January deal, at which time we are just starting to get into the legislative session and basketball is quickly ending, which looks like it will work out. I love the kids and I love coaching, but I won’t ignore any of my duties as governor.”

Justice guided the Greenbrier East girls’ team to victory in the state Triple-A championship in 2012.

Justice has been involved in youth sports in some fashion for over 25 years, including coaching Greenbrier East girls basketball since 2000 and East’s boys basketball team since 2011. It was clear from our chat that coaching is special to him.

“It seems like I have coached all my life and I love it to death. I love the game of basketball, because I think basketball is a lot like life -- it can take you to the highest highs and it can also take you as quickly to the lowest lows. But if you just hang in there and hang with it, it will cycle back and life is the same way,” the governor said.

The state’s highest elected official picked up career basketball win 1,000 on Nov. 29, 2016.

Every community across the state has youth teams to root for during the various seasons. The governor made it clear to me how the teams help the communities, saying, “Our communities rally around their sports programs in lots of ways. It provides us with a rallying point where everyone can come together for a common cause. It also teaches our kids how to participate and function on a team and work together with one another and that is what sports is all about. It gives you the ability to think you are part of something that is bigger than you.”

Justice enrolled at the University of Tennessee on an athletic scholarship for golf but transferred to Marshall University. At Marshall, he was a two-year captain on the Thundering Herd golf team.

Justice has coached hundreds of student-athletes at Greenbrier East High School. Being a student-athlete myself, I wanted to know what advice he has for us.

“First and foremost, make your grades, because, at the end of the day, sports is going to end for all of us at some point in time, but the one thing no one can take away from you is your education. You can’t be a dummy in this world; you always must try as hard as you can to get your grades. Sports gives us a lot to celebrate in our lives, but you have to have a foundation and your education is most important by far.”

Knowing how busy Gov. Justice is daily, I will always appreciate him giving me some time to talk about something we both love and that’s sports.

Christian Deiss, 13, of Scott Depot is a student at Hurricane Middle School.


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