INSIDE THE MONARCHY
For Webb, there’s been no looking back with regret
Paul Webb coached his last basketball game at Old Dominion University 28 years ago. He walked away from the game after winning 511 times, which back then ranked him as the sixth winningest men’s college basketball coach of all time.
Takes a lot to win 511 times, and Webb had given a lot, first at Randolph-Macon College, then for the Monarchs. And for the record, his record was 511-257.
He’ll be honored this October when he enters the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Scope, which seems appropriate at least in Webb’s case for it was at Scope where he pulled off some of his biggest wins, like the time his underdog Monarchs beat third-ranked Syracuse in a regionally televised game. And back then, before ESPN had come into vogue and just about every game was on TV, winning a game against a team like Syracuse could really put a school on the map.
Webb put the Monarchs on the map in a big way. Sure, his predecessor Sonny Allen had won a national championship at the Division II level, but who can remember who the Monarchs beat in that year’s title game?
See what I mean?
Beating Syracuse was big. So was beating the Soviet National team. And really, nothing has ever topped knocking off top-ranked DePaul at their place back in the winter of 1981.
When Webb enters the Hampton Roads Hall of Fame (and he admitted he got tingles when he recently got the phone call), it will be doubly sweet, for he will enter it with a bunch of friends.
Former ODU baseball coach Bud Metheny is being inducted posthumously, and Webb and Metheny were friends and competitors. But Webb will also enter with folks he’s known for more than half of his life. And seeing how he’s 84 years old, that’s a long time.
There’s Leo Anthony, ODU’s second all-time leading scorer. When Webb was coaching at Randolph-Macon, he spent a lot of time trying “to figure out how to slow down that kid Leo Anthony.”
And there’s long-time Maury basketball coach Jack Baker, who also played baseball and basketball at ODU.
“I’ve known Jack since he was about 16,” Webb said. Former Maury High coach “Ted Bacalis used to bring Maury to Randolph-Macon to scrimmage us way back when.”
And there’s even Marty Brennaman, radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds and a native of Portsmouth. Believe it or not, Webb “taught Marty at Randolph-Macon. I had him in a class his freshman year, before he transferred to North Carolina.”
Also in the class of 2013 will be James Sweat, long-time women’s basket ball coach at Hampton University and Norfolk State, and his wife LaVerne, who coached track at both schools as well.
Webb might be 84, but he still gets around town, and sometimes around the state, with regularity. He still runs the Paul Webb Basketball Camp program during the summer with his son Eddie. They just finished seven weeks of camp over a 10-week period.
Most of the camps are held at school gyms in Virginia Beach, but he also returns to Randolph-Macon to host two weeks of team camps that brought 80 teams to camp over the two-week period this summer.
“I’d say during the winter I’m out watching high school teams play two or three nights a week,” Webb said. “Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Hampton Roads. I still make my way around.”
He also takes in the occasional ODU basketball game, sitting high in the stands on the side opposite ODU’s bench and “having some popcorn and a drink. I just enjoy going to the games now. And I’m happy. And I don’t miss prowling the sidelines. When I walked away from it, I was done.”
If there is a moment in ODU history that can be compared to the way Bobby Wilder has taken ODU’s football team and made it the toast of the town and the talk of the local airwaves, it might have been Webb’s time as the men’s basketball coach at ODU.
Webb transitioned ODU’s basketball team into a winning Division I program, which was a real challenge. Some thought it was a bad move for the school at the time. The Monarchs were national champions in Division II. But there were bigger fish to fry and Webb certainly had himself a fish fry, right from the very start.
Wilder’s is a somewhat similar circumstance as the Monarchs step up to the bowl ranks of college football. By the way, Webb had season tickets to that action too, watching Wilder from the comforts of Section 120 in S.B. Ballard Stadium at Foreman Field.
“I believe there are some clear differences,” Webb said. “Bobby has taken that football team and built it from scratch. I might have been moving up a level with the basketball team, but Sonny Allen had established a great foundation for me.”
Webb is modest to a fault, for he won at ODU at about a 67 percent clip over his 10 seasons as head coach and took the Monarchs to post-season tournaments nine times during that stretch, four times to the NCAAs and five times to the NIT.
If there’s someone to compare Wilder to, Webb might be that person. Both made people sit up and take inventory of that school down in Norfolk on Hampton Boulevard, Wilder now and Webb then.
Funny how their last names both begin with “W.”