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From the Bench: Late "Timbuck" Shields Chance to Young Coach Showing Brilliance 600-Plus Wins Later

By Jeff Toquinto on December 10, 2017 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It may seem hard to believe that there was a time when West Virginia University women’s basketball Coach Mike Carey couldn’t get a coaching job. Considering he’s won nearly 350 games as the Mountaineers head coach and has nearly 650 wins total during his years spent at Salem College that may seem like a bit of a stretch.
 
Heck, some may say what I’ve just printed is clickbait. Truth is, Carey literally couldn’t get a coaching job.
 
Here’s the thing: I’m not talking about a Division I men’s or women’s coaching job or a high profile Division II gig in the collegiate ranks or even a job at one of the country’s prestigious prep schools.
 
Mike Carey couldn’t get an assistant job at the high school level in North Central West Virginia for the boys or the girls. Fresh out of school from his playing days at Salem where he led the now defunct West Virginia Conference in scoring, Mike Carey was dying to coach.
 
There weren’t any takers.
 
Instead, Carey was forced to be content with his day job. And that job had him teaching physical education to students at West Milford Elementary.
 
Finally, an opportunity came from a man well known in Bridgeport, Harrison County, Taylor County and throughout large parts of West Virginia. The man in question was the late Robert “Timbuck” Shields.
 
“Timbuck gave me my first opportunity to coach. When I came out of college I couldn’t, no matter what I tried or where I went, get a coaching job in the beginning,” said Carey. “That changed thanks to Timbuck and Greg Zimmerman.”
 
If Zimmerman’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been the head coach at Alderson-Broaddus for approaching nearly two decades now. As fate would have it, he was coaching at Flemington High School back when Timbuck Shields was the principal there.
 
“He came to me and wanted to know if I wanted to coach the (girls) and be the assistant to Greg on the (boys) side of things,” said Carey. “That got things going because no one was hiring and, back then, there weren’t a lot of jobs available.”
 
Some may not remember, but back when Carey began his coaching in the early 1980s it wasn’t like it is today. There weren’t as many sports and there weren’t as many job openings available. Today, the state has actually had to go to a system to allow individuals who aren’t educators to be tested to be allowed to coach because there simply aren’t enough applicants to fill them.
 
“Everyone was going into teaching and coaching when I got out of school to make matters worse,” said Carey. “It was hard and I was very fortunate to get a coaching job there.”
 
Carey jumped at the opportunity even though Flemington wasn’t considered a state power in basketball – boys or girls. Carey not only didn’t care, he also found out something that most that dealt with Timbuck Shields before he passed away in 2012 was that if he supported you then the support was 100 percent.
 
“Timbuck as a great administrator and he was very supportive of his coaches,” said Carey. “Make no doubt about it, he loved athletics so it was a great way to start to have an administrator backing you 100 percent. Having him and then having Greg Zimmerman serve as a mentor to me who, ironically enough, learned all of his stuff from Charlie Huggins (WVU men’s Coach Bob Huggins’ father). That proves it’s a small world.”
 
When asked if Timbuck offered advice as to what needed to be done to win or what he’d like to see, Carey laughed. He said it happened frequently.
 
“He would call me in all the time and tell me to try this or try that,” said Carey. “I’d look at him and say, ‘Timbuck, that worked 20 years ago and it doesn’t work now.’ At the same time, he’d call you in to talk and he became a friend to me and showed me that by being strong as an administrator you can do great things for those you’re responsible for like those kids at Flemington.”
 
From 1980 to 1983 Carey coached at Fleming. Then, Carey’s second break came at the hand of another administrator – one he knew quite well. Carey got on as the girls basketball coach and eventually coached boys as an assistant and varsity coach at Liberty High School.
 
“I had a relationship with Wilson Currey who was my principal at Liberty and he gave me the opportunity to come back there and that’s when things really started to pick up,” said Carey, who praised both Shields and Currey to the public recently when the City of Clarksburg dedicated a sign in his honor late last month. “Again, I had an administrator that backed me and what a privilege it was to work for Wilson Currey.”
 
After one year as the boys’ basketball coach at Liberty, Carey took an assistant coaching job at his college alma mater as an assistant under Jim Spicer. From 1989 to 2001, he served as the head coach of the Tigers where he posted an astounding record of 288-102, which is a winning percentage of roughly 74 percent.
 
“You know, Harry Hartman was the athletic director at Salem when I got hired,” said Carey. “He was another great mentor for me and helped me along the way.”
 
When the WVU women’s job came open, Carey may not have seemed like an obvious choice. The athletic director at WVU at the time was Ed Pastilong who was a previous coach at Salem College and he was already aware of Carey.
 
From there, WVU’s basketball program went from a doormat to one that is regularly ranked among the NCAA’s top 25 and frequently makes the big dance. And this year, despite a boatload of injuries, Carey’s Mountaineers are ranked No. 10 in the country and moved to 8-0 on the year.
 
“What’s funny is that I don’t know if I’d be here today if it wasn’t for Greg (Zimmerman) and Timbuck,” said Shields. “When they first called, I told them I wasn’t going to Flemington. Greg actually came to my house and talked to me about it.
 
“I finally said if I want to give coaching a try, then I need to do it,” he continued. “If not for Timbuck Shields giving me that phone call to get this starting, who knows where I’d be.”
 
Timbuck Shields did make the call. He saw something in Mike Carey no one else initially did.

Shields got it right. And Mike Carey has 600-plus wins to prove that’s the case.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mike Carey as the coach of the Flemington girls baketball team in the early 1980s, while Robert "Timbuck" Shields is shown having some fun as the principal at the same school in the second photo. In the third picture, Carey shows the "Magnum P.I." look during his earliest days as a coach. In the fourth photo, Timbuck Shields is shown watching a Bridgeport High School baseball game shortly before his passing. Bottom photo is of Carey during his time on the sidelines for the WVU women's basketball team. Top three photos courtesy of Robert Shields. Bottom two photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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