WILLIAMSTOWN - When Williamstown's girls basketball team defeated Parkersburg Catholic in the Class A sectional tournament in Feb. 22, it marked the 400th victory of coach Fred Sauro's career.
So why are you just now reading about a prominent local coach achieving such a major milestone? Because Sauro didn't say a word to anybody it was his 400th win.
That's the kind of person he is. He knows that high school sports is about the young people who play the game, not to foster the egos of the adults who coach it.
Besides, victories haven't always come as easy at Williamstown as they have this season, which has witnessed the Yellowjackets compile a 20-4 mark, including sectional and regional championships. On Thursday, Williamstown will open state tournament play against Tucker County, the Yellowjackets' first appearance in West Virginia's version of the Elite Eight since winning the state title in 2003.
Sauro's first season as the Williamstown head girls basketball coach was in 1985-86. Things were tough in Williamstown those days. At one point, Sauro had a 2-40 coaching record and Williamstown had a 31-game losing streak.
"I remember when we broke the 31-game losing streak,'' Sauro recalled. "You would have thought we won the state championship.''
Sauro is in his 43rd year of coaching since becoming an assistant coach at Colonel Richardson School in Federalsburg, Md. during the 1969-70 season.
He and his wife Connie eventually returned to West Virginia, where Fred became the head baseball coach at Hundred High School in 1973 and the head boys basketball coach in 1976. He held both positions until 1981, when he was hired by Principal Bob Eakins to serve as a West Virginia history teacher and junior high football coach in Williamstown.
After serving as an assistant coach to Ron Lathey for Williamstown's boys basketball program, Sauro took over the girls program. where he has made his home for the past 27 seasons.
Although he is 64 years old, he hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the game or the youngsters who play it. Sauro was supposed to call me Sunday night, but he got so involved in watching film of Tucker County, he lost all track of time. That's Fred. No one spends more time preparing than does he. I remember in 2003 when it looked like one southern West Virginia school was the biggest challenger to the Yellowjackets, Sauro kept making the long drive there every time that team played at home. It got to the point where he would walk in the gym and the team's fans would say, "Hi, Fred.''
Williamstown plays an exciting brand of basketball. It runs. It guns. It presses. No holding the ball. This is whirlwind basketball. Catch the Yellowjackets if you can.
And if you want to know when Sauro gets his 500th win, you better start keeping track. It's likely he'll keep it to himself.