I don't need to recall the events that transpired throughout that season though. We all were there with the painful losses, then the saga that went on following the season. When the dust settled, Sally and Schifino remained, but Hargett had compromised his NCAA eligibility. When Hargett left, Sally wasn't just losing a teammate. The talented pair both hailed from Richmond, and had grown to be best friends during high school and their freshman year at WVU.
Then when Drew stepped up to be our go to guy, things turned sour yet again. Again, a member of that heralded recruiting class left the program, and all that remained was Sally. This trio that was expected to bring Mountaineer basketball to a whole new level was now down to one guy.
So maybe Tyrone's career in Blue and Gold hasn't gone the way everyone expected it to. This is the first of his four years that the team goes into the final week of the season with a good shot at making the NCAA tournament. As the old saying goes though, "Everything happens for a reason."
Tyrone has had a reputation as a quiet leader, who goes about his business without bringing attention to himself. When things go wrong, he's not going to humiliate a teammate by pointing fingers or scolding them in front of thousands of fans. John Beilein has remarked several times that Sally has improved not only as a basketball player but as a person as well. I saw Tyrone's dedication off the court first hand on a chilly October morning in 2003.
The morning after the football team upset number three Virginia Tech, Morgantown resembled something of a ghost town. Well into the night, cheers of celebration could be heard through the streets, not to mention the bellowing siren of a fire truck every now and then. I had an 8:30 Journalism class that really I had no desire to attend. It was way too early, and I had been up way too late. I figured by going, I'd save myself from the guilty conscience inside my head that would eventually do me in. When arriving at Eiesland Hall, I found a lecture room basically empty. This was a class of more than 200 students, and maybe a dozen were there. One of them was Tyrone Sally.
While this example is rather small, I see it as a microcosm of Sally's career. How easy would it have been for Tyrone to skip that journalism class? Just the same, how easy would it have been for him to leave town after the debacle that was his freshman season? Think about it: before his second semester of college was even over, he had no less than four different head coaches in his short stay.
In a way, it's fitting that Sally's career is ending like this. After all, when he and the others came on board didn't we expect sold out crowds, big wins over nationally ranked teams, and being on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament? Of course we did. We just thought it would be every year.
Friday after practice, Tyrone offered this to the fans.
"I'd like to thank the fans for all the support they've given me the last few years."
Tyrone Sally embodies what it means to be a Mountaineer. He's been a hard worker, who has persevered through the most unimaginable of situations. While he thanked the fans, it's us who should be thanking him. Let me be the first to say thank you, Tyrone, for your play on the court, your perseverance and professionalism off the court, and most of all, for being a true Mountaineer.