When to hang'em up.
For every Lou Gehrig and Joe Theismann, one's for whom the decision was made, there's a Willie Mays and Brett Favre who continue playing far past their prime and into a decline. So it was when the decision was, if not thrust, then perhaps hinted at within the last two years for West Virginia great Mike Gansey. It wasn't from anybody, per se, but rather the subconscious voice that says perhaps it's time.
The decision for Gansey came after a career that spanned two colleges, five countries, a couple NBA chances and one Team USA gold-medal winning effort.
"I was playing with a couple guys, and they mentioned how I'd be ready to play, and I just said ‘I'm not playing,'" he explained. "It was hard. You never really want to stop playing. But I just felt it was time. Most players, you kind of know. I just decided that was it. But I didn't want to be away from the game."
Just as his fortunes turned when John Beilein was named WVU's head coach, spurring the Ohio native to transfer from St. Bonaventure to West Virginia, Gansey's life again changed on a chance meeting with a representative of his almost-hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I said I'd do anything," Gansey said. The Cavs offered a scouting position – albeit a low-man-totem-pole one complete with D-League responsibilities. Gansey jumped at it. That was that, and so it was that Gansey, fresh off his first year on the purely mental end of the game, received an invitation to help with Bob Huggins' Fantasy Camp. Assigned an assistant coach position on Da'Sean Butler's squad, Gansey was, naturally, responsible for the opposing team scout.
"I just love basketball," he said. "I just want to be around it, and to be able to do it after I finish playing is pretty special. Now I'm watching some smaller level college games, but I also got to see Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio State. I watched West Virginia against Marshall and Pitt – both wins. So maybe I need to come to more games."
He's based in the Canton area, working daily with Cleveland's D-League team, the Charge, as well as traveling within a localized area to scout.
"The lottery didn't go as planned," Gansey said. "We would have liked to get the No. 1. But there's a lot of things we can do. Trade up, trade down. We only have six guys on contract for next year, and we have cap space. But this is what's fun, meeting the players, having them now come to us, working them out, taking them to dinner."
Gansey does know the scouting report on Kevin Jones, and where he might go in the draft, but cannot reveal that information. He did do a self-scout, however.
"Mike Gansey, eh, not the biggest player, tough, always plays hard, competitor, good shooter. Well, streaky shooter. Understands how to play," he said.
Gansey will still occasionally stumble across some of his collegiate highlights on a scouting film review service he uses. His destruction of Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA Tournament is a personal favorite, the game being high profile and close to home, and arguably the most significant boost to West Virginia's emergence onto the national scene.
With Gansey in scouting, Patrick Beilein the head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan, J.D. Collins a basketball fitness trainer, Darris Nichols an assistant at Northern Kentucky, Alex Ruoff still playing in Europe and desiring a coaching career and Rob Summers and Joe Mazzulla assistants at Glenville State, the influence and coaching tree of Beilein and Huggins continues to grow.
"I just think we knew how to play, and we played together," Gansey said. "We all loved the game. We still do. When I watch WVU, I'm trying to control myself. We go on a little run and I have to calm myself down. Sometimes, I'm still a fan first."