David Barksdale (’62)

Hoppy Kercheval: Dave Barksdale Made Beckley Special

This article appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on March 16, 2007.

One of the icons of high school basketball in West Virginia is Dave Barksdale, the former longtime coach of Beckley's Woodrow Wilson High School.

As coaches, players and fans gather this week in Charleston for the tournament, the stories will be told and retold about Barksdale and his Flying Eagles.

People who met Barksdale never forgot him. It took me only a few minutes in his presence to realize that here was a coach who, if you were on his side, would go through hell in a gasoline suit for you.

But if you stood between the Flying Eagles and victory, Barksdale could lash out like a timber rattler on Flat Top Mountain.

His record at Beckley was spectacular: 17 seasons, 335 wins and 93 losses, 11 straight trips to the state tournament and five championships.

He was a solid X and O man, but more than anything he was a great motivator. I've never seen a team -- at any level -- play as hard on a consistent basis as Barksdale's Flying Eagles.

The Beckley defense under Barksdale was legendary -- a flailing maelstrom of body parts that engulfed opponents and left them with bulging eyes frantically scanning the court for help.

All the while, Barksdale worked the officials, pacing the sidelines like a seething prison inmate on the verge of starting a riot.

Sometimes he went too far. During the semi-finals of the 1995 tournament, he picked up a technical foul. Raleigh County school rules prohibited him from coaching the next game, in this case the state championship game.

Barksdale took his punishment like a man. He sat in the stands and watched the next night as his Flying Eagles lost 99-96 in triple overtime to Wheeling Park. It was one of the greatest championship games ever -- and there Barksdale sat, unable to do anything but watch helplessly as his boys went down to defeat.

It is amazing that the stress and frustration didn't kill him.

Barksdale was wildly superstitious. If Beckley won, he wore the same clothes the next game. That's why in all the times I've seen Barksdale at the state tournament, I've never noticed him wearing anything other than khaki slacks and a maroon pullover. Maroon and white are the school colors.

Once I went to a Beckley practice just hours before a championship game. At one point Barksdale abruptly stopped practice, gathered his players around, and went on a tirade.

"It's all about pride," Barksdale yelled. "Our pride against their pride. That's all it is."

His young players looked right into his fiery eyes. I knew then Beckley would win the championship game that night.

Barksdale left Beckley in 1999, moving to South Carolina to be closer to his wife's family. He coached high school basketball there, but it wasn't the same. Basketball had been a way of life in Beckley. In South Carolina, it was just a game.

Barksdale is back in West Virginia now, serving as an assistant coach at Mountain State University. His good friend and former Flying Eagles play-by-play man, Fred Persinger, says Barksdale is enjoying himself.

Perhaps never in history has a team been such a prohibitive favorite as is Huntington this year, with two of the best players in the nation in O.J. Mayo and Patrick Patterson.

But in the annals of West Virginia high school basketball, there was never a more dangerous underdog than Beckley when Barksdale held forth on the bench.

Huntington vs. Beckley would be the sort of matchup that Barksdale lived for. And even when the master motivator and strategist didn't win, it sure was fun watching him try.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.

Barksdale, Nabors to be inducted into Woodrow Wilson Hall of Fame

This article appeared in the Register-Herald on Dec. 21, 2001.

By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer

One of the greatest basketball coaches in West Virginia history, along with one of his finest players, will be inducted into the Woodrow Wilson Hall of Fame tonight.

Dave Barksdale, who guided Beckley to five Class AAA championships and numerous state tournament appearances, and former Beckley guard Gene Nabors will be honored during Woodrow's 8:30 p.m. game with Hurricane in the WJLS Classic at the Armory.

Barksdale was the point guard for the 1962 Flying Eagles, who went 25-0 en route to capturing the 1962 title. Nabors followed in his footsteps 21 years later.

"If you don't have a good point guard, you can't win," Barksdale said. "Gene came in as a sophomore and we won the state championship. He started from day one."

Nabors fondly recalls his sophomore year, when he was the young guy in a lineup featuring seniors Ryan Culicerto, Anthony Scruggs, Shea Fleenor and Steve Ball.

"It was great. Those guys helped me out a lot," he said. "They told me to just go out there and play my game. So I had the confidence to do what I had to do - get those guys the ball."

Now a pro basketball player in Europe, Nabors credits Barksdale for much of his success.

"I had a great coach to learn from. He taught me the game when I was eight years old," he said.

"Gene's records at Woodrow were 25-2, 23-1 and 20-5. To have 68 wins says it all," Barksdale said. "And for him to go on and play college ball and get his degree, we're just so proud of him."

Nabors played two years at Louisiana State University before transferring to Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. He graduated in 2000 with a degree in communications.

Last year he helped a pro team in Sweden win its league championship. This weekend he'll head back across the Atlantic to compete for an Israeli team.

"It's a great experience to play over there and be doing what you love to do," Nabors said. "I'm 24 now and I hope to play at least 13 or 14 more years if I don't have any injuries."

Years ago Barksdale wished he could have played pro ball, but it wasn't in the works.

"All I've ever done is play sports, but I wasn't good enough in baseball or basketball to be a professional," he said. "So the next best thing was coaching."

He played basketball four years at Furman University, then coached eight years at high schools in South Carolina. He came back to West Virginia for seven seasons at Alderson-Broaddus before he finally fulfilled his dream of coaching at Woodrow.

"When I played for coach (Lawrence) Wiseman our senior year he'd always get us together at the end of practice and he'd have a philosophy session, talking about life," Barksdale recalled. "One day he said that he wouldn't be there forever and he wished one of his players would come back and coach Woodrow. I thought that would really be something. It was a dream of mine for a long time."

He coached the Flying Eagles for 17 seasons, leading them to 12 state tournament appearances.

"For 17 years I was very fortunate to have players who could play and loved basketball," Barksdale said. "Our players realized how important our success was to the community and that's why they were up later and worked harder."

He credited his own elementary, junior high and high school coaches for teaching him the game, but also praised his assistants - Butch Freeman, Miller Hall, Jim Turner, Bob Bolen, Ron Kidd, James Lewis, Click Bandy, Steve Webb and Kevin Maupin for their efforts.

"Our program wouldn't have been the way it is without those coaches," Barksdale said. "I appreciate going into the Hall of Fame, but they all shared in this and I'm very grateful."

He gave thanks to his family for their support.

"My wife (Geliliah) and children (Brantley, Stacey and Tyson) have had to sacrifice a lot," he said. "She's my best friend and has stood by me."

Barksdale is now an assistant for Bolen at Mountain State University.

"My love for the game hasn't changed since the time I was a little kid," he said. "I can't wait to go to the gym every day."

Barksdale Blames Self for Aiken Losses

This article appeared in the Register-Herald on March 1, 2001.

By Jody Murphy, Sports Writer

Former Woodrow Wilson basketball coach Dave Barksdale has always had his fair share of critics, but none tougher than the 56-year-old coach himself.

Perhaps that was his undoing at his new digs in Aiken, South Carolina.

Early last week, the highly successful Beckley coach resigned, failing to complete his first season with the Hornets. And in typical Barksdale fashion, he blamed himself for failure.

"I didn't relate to the kids. I just wasn't effective," he said during a phone interview.

"Kids and basketball have been my whole life. When you aren't effective and can't relate to the kids, I'm not the kind of person that is going to cheat anybody. I knew basketball hadn't done real well (at Aiken), but I knew there was no reason to not get the kids to enjoy the game and practice and play hard. I just wasn't able to do that."

Going from a highly successful program at Beckley to a school that's traditionally thought of as a football power, Barksdale knew he had his work cut out for him but plowed ahead with fellow Beckley native and assistant coach Steve Webb by his side.

"Coach Webb has come down here and really worked. That's just what he had to do," Barksdale said. "I want people to know how great he was. I couldn't have asked for more in the way of friendship and hard work."

"You ask me how it was," Barksdale said when asked to compare Aiken to Beckley. "The first time you can play organized basketball (in Aiken) is in the seventh grade. If I'm trying to teach a 10th grader how to dribble with his left hand, that tells it all."

The lack of enthusiasm and drive for basketball began to take its toll on the intense coach, affecting his health. Not because of the losing (a 7-14 record) or the kids, but because he felt he wasn't communicating with them.

"I'm 56 years old, maybe the kids relate to younger coaches better. I have no answer for that. I haven't forgot how to build a basketball program," he said. "That had nothing to do with it. I should have been able to, in my way of thinking, get that turned around to where the kids had the eye of the tiger.

"You don't want to admit it, but I knew I wasn't effective. That means a lot. I have to realize that I am getting older. If that's the case younger coaches certainly have a better rapport with the kids."

The lack of communication with kids isn't new to Barksdale.

He says he felt things were starting to go downhill after Woodrow Wilson's 1998 state championship as far as communicating with and understanding his players.

"In 1998 we won (the Class AAA state title) and I thought I was doing a good job," he said. "In '99 and 2000 I thought that if I had left that team to coach (Ron) Kidd, (Butch) Freeman, Steve Kidd, and (James) Lewis they would have won it. Coach Kidd and the staff that I just mentioned would have related to the kids and played with more enthusiasm. I really believe they would have won it."

Barksdale says he doesn't know what his immediate plans are, but quickly ruled out a return to Beckley.

"Coach Kidd is certainly the man for the job (at Beckley). I think my move has worked out great for Woodrow Wilson basketball and for my wife (Gelilah), and two out of three ain't bad. That certainly ends speculation of me coming back."

For now Barksdale considers himself retired - from Aiken.

He must be retired. On Tuesday he did something he never did as a coach - go watch a former player in a college game.

"For the first time I'm going to see Jamel Bradley (a '98 WWHS graduate who's playing at South Carolina)," he said. "I have never seen any of the kids play in person unless they came to the Armory. Not that I don't still follow them."

Barksdale Throws in the Towel at Aiken

This article appeared in the Register-Herald on Feb. 21, 2001.

By Scott J. Bryan, For the Register-Herald

Aiken (S.C.) High School boys basketball coach David Barksdale, who has been on sick leave since Feb. 9, resigned Monday morning. Barksdale, who won five state championships at Woodrow Wilson before taking the Aiken job this season, cited exhaustion and fatigue as the primary reasons for his stepping down. "Coming into a new school and basketball program, I expected to get the players to play with fire and enthusiasm," Barksdale said in a statement. "I envisioned the players coming to practice full of energy to learn and become better. This first year should have been one where the new coach and the players in the program bond so that everyone pulls for each other and are on the same page."

"My inability to accomplish these things, along with my poor rapport with some of the physical education students (I taught), kept bothering me to a point that it almost destroyed my health. I kept reflecting back to where players enjoyed playing for me and students enjoyed being in my class. I have always put the students first and prided myself in working with them. I regretfully walk away from this. I'm sorry to end my teaching and coaching here because I was unable to meet the goals I hoped and should have been able to achieve."

Barksdale's wife, Gelilah, also felt the move was necessary.

"I was very concerned about him," she said. "It was complete and total exhaustion. He's not sleeping and eating."

Vic Lancaster, named interim coach when Barksdale requested sick leave, will remain in charge through the end of the season on Friday.

"The kids have been doing pretty good," said Lancaster. "To have that happen with five games to go, they handled it really well. They acted like young adults and they've done a pretty good job."

When Barksdale left the team, Aiken was 7-14. The Hornets have since lost three games without him.

"Having been in education and coaching for 33 years, I certainly know when I'm doing a good job and when I'm not," Barksdale continued in the statement. "I came here to help Aiken High School, not to hurt it. If I couldn't even get the players to play hard, to play with enthusiasm and go out every game with the 'eye of the tiger,' ready to lay it on the line, then I'm not doing a good job for Aiken High School.

"You build a program step by step, but I couldn't even get the foundation started here. Having this happen here, for the first time in my career, has been a devastating experience for me."

Barksdale originally asked for a sick leave during the school day of Feb. 9, forcing a coaching change prior to a game against Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School that night. He also missed games against Irmo High School and cross-town rival South Aiken High School.

While the losses were difficult, Barksdale didn't feel the team's record was the reason for him leaving.

"I didn't mention wins or losses in my statement," he said. "If the kids gave all they had, we would have won five or six more games. That's why it's been so devastating. When I see the kids not playing with enthusiasm, that's when it started to get to me."

Barksdale replaced Pat Keating, who finished his seven-year coaching stint with a 65-106 mark.

The 56-year-old Barksdale, a 1968 graduate of Furman University, posted a 77-40 mark at Ridge Spring-Monetta High School and a 57-14 record at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

Barksdale left the Palmetto State to return to Beckley and coach his alma mater.

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