Cam Henderson Film Available On DVD

"Cam Henderson: A Coach's Story" premiered Tuesday, March 13, and also was shown Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m. on West Virginia Public Television (WBPY Channel 33). The award-winning producers "Ashes To Glory" (about MU football 1970-71) and "Hearts Of Glass," Deborah Novak and John Witek, present the story of the legendary MU coach. Fans of the film can now pick it up on DVD around Huntington.

The DVD, which includes extras about Sr. Sam Clagg (who played and coached for Henderson); Ernie Salvatore (who covered Henderson for The Parthenon at MU, then for the Huntington Advertisers and The Herald-Dispatch newspapers); Huntington in the 1950s (some film recently recovered by Witak and Novak) and some material cut from the production, is available at Borders Bookstore in the Huntington Mall as well as Stadium Bookstore and Stadium Frame and Art near MU's Joan C. Edwards Stadium and Empire Books in Pullman Square in downtown.

Henderson, who coached at Marshall from 1935-55, was the innovator of the staples of basketball worldwide, the fast break and the zone defense. The film looks back at how Henderson developed both systems in a home-made gym at a high school in Bristol, West Virginia in 1913 due to leaky roof and wet spots on the pine floor. Henderson would go on from that humble start to develop Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia into a national power in both football and basketball before moving onto to the Thundering Herd of Marshall College in 1935.

In over three years of research, visits to 25 libraries and talking with hundreds of Henderson's contemporaries and former players and assistants, Witek and Novak have unearthed film footage of D&E from the 1920s, the earliest Marshall football footage ever found from the 1930s, actual film of Henderson at practice with Marshall in the late 1930s and footage of Henderson's National Championship team at Marshall in 1947, when the Herd surged to a 32-5 mark and won the NAIB (today's NAIA) title in Kansas City, Missouri, where that tournament is held even today.

Henderson played a national schedule at both D&E and Marshall, facing such large schools as West Virginia and Navy with the Senators and Cincinnati, CCNY, Tennessee, Long Island University, South Carolina, Loyola, Virginia Tech, California, Colorado, Wichita State, Indiana, Miami, Penn State, Louisville, Xavier, Creighton, Idaho, Syracuse, Denver, Kansas State, Pepperdine, BYU, Virginia and Wake Forest with the Herd. He won 362 games in basketball and 68 in football, taking the Herd to its first bowl game on January 1, 1948 when MU played in the second-annual Tangerine Bowl. It would be another half-century before Marshall reached another bowl under Bob Pruett, who is the only coach at Marshall to win more in football than Henderson.

In basketball, Henderson won three Buckeye Conference championships and traveled to the NAIB Tournament in Kansas City on three occasions. His 1946-47 team won its first 17 games of the season and stretched a home winning streak to 35 games over three seasons before suffering a loss to the Bearcats of Cincinnati. Marshall would go onto win a school-record 32 games and five games in six days to win the only National Championship in basketball for the Thundering Herd. Henderson's teams became the darlings of the Kansas City crowds with the dazzling warm-up of between the legs and behind the back passes that were the inspiration for the Harlem Globetrotters "King Drill" that has thrilled fans for over 60 years.

Henderson also broke the color line in the state of West Virginia, and possibly for any team south of the Mason-Dixon line in the "traditional" South, when he recruited Hal Greer to Marshall. Greer, who attended Huntington's "black" high school, Douglas, signed with Henderson to play for the Herd in the summer of 1954, just weeks following the Brown versus Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that started the long process of desegragating schools nationally. Greer stared for the Herd from 1955-58, eventually becoming one of the NBA's Top 50 players of all-time and winning a title with the Philadelphia 76ers. He was the first African-American athlete to play for any formerly "white only" college or university in the Mountain State.

Witek and Novak also look at the problems Henderson suffered from health-wise, that were often mistaken for alcoholism. Medical documents and interviews will show the coach suffered from diabetes and sugar attacks, which often makes the person appear under the influence. Lengthy interviews with former Henderson players like Dr. Sam Clagg, Danny Clark, Don Gibson and Andy Tonkovich will paint a picture of an exacting, hard-pressing coach who expected his teams to perform at a high level, no matter the opponent. Long-time sports writer Ernie Salvatore, who covered Henderson for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, will look back at the triumph and tragedy of Henderson's life.


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