CHARLESTON - As a sports journalist covering high school athletics, it's very difficult to avoid taking a rooting interest in wanting success for teams in your coverage area.
I find myself really tested in this department this week with the start of the boys' state high school basketball tournament involving Tucker County High School.
Over the years, I've established numerous friendships with coaches. It only takes me a simple email or, back in the good old days, a phone call, to request information for a game preview or to set up a photo shoot.
The Inter-Mountain file photo
Tucker coach Tom Gutshall directs his team during the sectional championship game against Notre Dame at Elkins High School. The Mountain Lions will begin Class A state tournament action at 1 p.m. today against the Irish at the Charleston Civic Center.
The coach that stands out to this writer, however, is Mountain Lions' veteran mentor Tom Gutshall. In my 20-plus years of covering his teams, Gutshall has been rock solid in calling in results or throwing me a few quotes for a game preview.
He always tells you like it is - good or bad - when asked about his current squad.
Gutshall's love for his players and Tucker County High School is genuine. He gleams with pride when talking about the work ethic of his team and the type of kids that play at TCHS.
During the season, Gutshall earned his 500th career coaching win. In true fashion, he didn't want to discuss the accomplishment of the impressive feat. ... his focus after the game was on his team's play and what they needed to do to improve.
This week I'm rooting for coach Gutshall and his team to have a successful tournament run, which begins at 1 p.m. today against Notre Dame.
During his 30-plus years of coaching on the mountain, Gutshall has had just three losing seasons, taken numerous teams to the state tournament and played in the championship game on two different occasions.
Whether or not he gets that elusive state title is yet to be determined.
But one thing is certain - coach Gutshall's team will play hard from the opening whistle to the final buzzer, and in the process, represent the area in proud fashion.
And when the postgame interviews begin, it will be Gutshall sitting at the podium - win or lose - letting the assembled media know about Tucker County High School and his players.