Column: Everhart treats basketball community like family

Column: Everhart treats basketball community like family

The sight was common.

Ron Everhart would be seething.

He’d be pacing the Northeastern men’s basketball sideline. His red tie would be close to undone and his voice would be hoarse.

There was fire and passion in the West Virginia native’s movements. He patrolled his space like a seasoned veteran, motioning to his NBA-bound point guard Jose Juan Barea and his reliable big man Shawn James.

There was assurance in the head coach’s looks and words, as well as a bit of irate fanaticism. Fans close enough to his bench eyed him as much as they eyed the action on the court. Husky reserves were quiet, but engrossed, observers. There was a reason for that: they were learning something.

Many basketball coaches like to put on a demonstration near the court. Wearing plush suits and proudly flashing their championship rings, gametime is showtime for them.

For five years, the show on Huntington Avenue was Everhart’s. Unlike the quick, mostly forgettable departures of many other Northeastern coaches, it’s obvious that Everhart’s departure will be significant.

We were all reminded of this last month when the eyes of the sporting world were focused heavily – and prematurely – on college basketball, due to a shooting after an on-campus dance at Duquesne. Everhart’s response was typical to those who knew him from Boston. There was dignity and warmth in his words – and an honest integrity in his actions, such as the shot of him pushing his player Stuard Baldonado, in a wheelchair, out of Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital.

There was his affection for Barea. Northeastern hadn’t seen this type of father-son relationship since Calhoun-Lewis. They were the Belichick and Brady of the university. Everhart was the proud, respected disciplinarian and Barea was the ultra-talented director of a revamped Husky offense.

Never was Everhart’s unyielding devotion to his All-America honorable mention player more obvious than when Barea was suspended following the 2005 America East Championship loss to Vermont for an altercation on the court with a Catamount player.

“By suspending [Barea], you’re saying he embarrassed our program,” Everhart told The News at the time. “I’m 100 percent behind my player. He’s never not stood behind me. I wholeheartedly disagree with this decision.”

The start of the 2005-06 season was perfect for Husky fans and followers of the dynamic between Everhart and Barea. After Barea missed the team’s first-ever appearance in a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) game following the Vermont contest, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who thought he would actually come back. There were rumors of him pursuing the NBA even before his suspension.

Fans were subjected to more rumors surrounding Everhart’s departure as interested teams such as Cincinnati were knocking on his door. Somehow, both Everhart and Barea returned and brought an excitement level to NU not seen since the Calhoun days.

There was Everhart’s class and general decorum.

More like a friendly neighbor than a typically self-possessed collegiate coach, Everhart interacted with the Northeastern community like a common, everyday friend. If he didn’t know you, that was fine. Very quickly and very pleasantly, he was going to become familiar with you.

There were his dealings with the media.

In a March 30 letter published on gonu.com, Everhart was responsible for the following: “Lastly, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Boston media and The Northeastern News. The bonds I formed with print, radio and television personalities alike are hard to come by and your efforts in covering our program do not go unnoticed.”

Call him the anti-athletic personality for those comments alone. Unlike many coaches, who tend to uneasily plod their way through interviews, Everhart took an honest pleasure in pre and post-game interviews, treating media members as an extension of his basketball family.

There were, above all else, four winning seasons in a row. Criticize the lack of a deep postseason run in Barea’s final year all you want, but the Huskies, following a 7-21 opening year campaign for Everhart, went on to win 16, 19, 21 and 19 games, respectively, in the proceeding four years.

Everyone knows Northeastern is a mid-major and that its conference isn’t a powerhouse. Everyone knows the next big star isn’t jumping for the opportunity to come to NU. But Everhart, like any good college basketball coach, did his part to extend NU’s recruiting boundaries and hit the jackpot in luring in players with the talent levels of Barea and James.

Lack of any championship banner in Matthews Arena or not, the Northeastern men’s basketball program was effectively turned around under Everhart’s watch. He did his part to leave a mark and was rightfully rewarded with a coaching invitation to the Atlantic-10 conference at Duquesne.

Even under the most trying of circumstances, Everhart’s already winning in another city. Slowly but surely, the rest of the nation has found out.

– Jeff Powalisz can be reached for

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