Ernie Salvatore, the former Sports Editor and columnist for Huntington's newspaper, The Herald-Dispatch, called Herd Insider on Friday to pass along the news about Toothman, a player Salvatore covered for The Huntington Advertiser, the former afternoon paper, and for the MU student newspaper, The Parthenon. "He was the best I saw running the middle on the Henderson break," said Salvatore of Toothman. "He and Cebe Price ran the break best of any of the greats to play at Marshall." Marshall ran the Cam Henderson fast-break under the legendary coach from 1935-55.
The 1946-47 Marshall team won the NAIB National Championship in Kansas City, Missouri, winning five games over six days in what is still the NAIA Tournament. Marshall posted a school-record 32 wins and just five losses and Toothman played a huge role in getting the title. Marshall had beaten River Falls Teacher College (Wisconsin) in game one, 113-80, then beat Hamline University, from St. Paul, Minnesota, 54-48, and beat Eastern Washington State in game three, 56-48.
In the semi-finals, Marshall would face Emporia (Kansas) State and Arizona State faced Mankato State. The Herd was down as many as ten in the second half, but battled back. The Hornets tried to freeze the ball the last 2:30 of the game with a 55-54 lead. With under 20 seconds left, Emporia missed a close shot. Toothman took the rebound and fired up a 55-foot shot that slipped through the rim without even touching the net. While scoring only eight that night, Toothman's final two put Marshall in the title game, 56-55.
Mankato State, the school known today as Minnesota State (the school in the TV show, "Coach"), didn't stand a chance in the title game as MU won 73-59 to win the National Championship. Over 15,000 Marshall fans waited at the C&O Station on Seventh Avenue in Huntington to celebrate the huge win and national crown of small college basketball.
Toothman graduated from Marshall in 1947. He was named captain of the 1943-44 Herd. Following the national title, Toothman was named as the captain of the second-team NAIB All-American team. Marshall placed all five starters on the All-American team, with three (Andy Tonkavich, Bill Hall and Gene "Goose" James) on the NAIB first team and one other (Marvin Gutshall)an NAIB honorable mention.
Bill Toothman passed away on Friday. He was an All-American at Marshall, and helped the Herd to win the 1946-47 NAIB National Championship.courtesy of Klingel Carpenter Mortuary website
Here is the official obit for Marshall basketball great, Bill Toothman:
William Blake "Bill" Toothman, 83, of Huntington, died Friday, July 11, 2008 in the Woodlands Retirement Community. Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Monday, July 14, 2008 at Klingel Carpenter Mortuary by the Rev. Gordon T. Humphreys. Interment will follow in Woodmere Memorial Park.
Bill was born June 14, 1925 in Huntington, son of the late Robert and Elizabeth Blake Toothman . In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by a sister, Betty Jean Toothman and a daughter, Emma Lou Vineyard. He was a United States Army Veteran of WWII; a member of the Marshall University's 1947 NAIB Championship Team and was inducted into the Marshall University Hall of Fame. He attended the Beverly Hill Methodist Church and was a longtime supporter of the YMCA youth basketball program. Bill is survived by his wife of 62 years, Helen Elizabeth Peters Toothman; a son and daughter-in-law, Jerry and Billie Jo Toothman of Hurricane, W.Va.; two daughters and sons-in-law, Mary Beth and Gary Hesson of Proctorville, Ohio, and Nancy and Jim Lewis of Renton, Washington; a son-in-law, Gary Vineyard of Nashville, Tenn.; as well as eight grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and a host of friends. Visitation will be noon until service time prior to the funeral. Expressions of sympathy can be made to Hospice of Huntington.