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Rich Stevens: Maybe the coaches are not the problem at Riverside

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is more than one way to look at the resignation of Riverside High School boys basketball Coach Dusty Herscher.

The embattled second-year coach of the Warriors resigned effective Aug. 1, and is now a health teacher at South Charleston High School, far away from Kanawha County's easternmost high school.

Either he chose not to fight another day, or there is a shred of truth to the allegations about his coaching practices. Or, a little bit of both.

Riverside Principal Valery Harper confirmed in February that an ineligible player participated in a Jan. 30 home game against Parkersburg, resulting in a forfeit loss.

What followed is nothing short of bizarre.

Allegedly, Herscher and his staff - Matt Kelly and Pat Jones - instructed players to lie and answer "yes" to any questions regarding the number of practices the ineligible player participated in. Each player must participate in 14 practices before playing.

A hearing was scheduled in April, after which Herscher was reinstated.

Shortly thereafter, a new set of allegations surfaced with Herscher being accused of belittling and degrading players. The suspension was upheld and another hearing was slated for July 31.

The Warriors were making ground on the rest of the Kanawha Valley, and the state, in becoming a competitive basketball program.

While it's not all about wins and losses, off the court Herscher and Kelly and Jones - according to returning guard Tyus Wood - kept the players under their thumbs.

Upon talking with some players after Riverside was eliminated in the postseason by Beckley, none of them were interested in seeing the staff leave.

While the players weren't interested in speaking about the situation, they were more than willing to give the coaches a hearty pat on the back for what they accomplished and acknowledge what they meant to the players themselves.

The situation was supposedly cleared up in April following a meeting of Kanawha County school officials. The coaching staff was reinstated and Herscher and his staff felt vindicated.

Herscher wouldn't talk specifically about the situation, only that he decided to resign and he's going to take some time off before returning to coaching.

Make no mistake, he didn't give up. Instead, he lives to fight another day.

The Riverside basketball team has not had a winning season since the 2002-03 campaign, but Herscher appeared headed in that direction. Through 19 games, the Warriors were 8-11.

Harper acknowledged that three people approached her about being Riverside's head coach, but is "not at liberty to say yet."

The plan is to post the position in the future, Harper said.

"My focus right now is opening up the building and getting the school running," she said.

This is yet another short stint for a coach at Riverside, which has not had a winning season since Jim Fout coached the Warriors more than a decade ago.

Still, Riverside has had five coaches in five seasons without winning more games than it has lost in any one campaign. If you include Scott Garretson (two games last season) and Chad Metten (four games last season), that's seven in five seasons.

David Starr (09-11), Duane Estep (08-09) and Tom Watkins (04-08) came before Herscher and none had a winning record. The last time the Warriors won 10 games was in 2005-06.

I'm not privy to the particulars of this specific situation, but I have to wonder, do we really think it's the coaches?

Maybe something else is the problem.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at or 304-348-4837.



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