The grass is greener on the other side, or so goes the old saying.
In this case, the grass is awfully green across the Cumberland Gap in the hamlet of Harrogate, Tennessee. You see, sitting by the 25E tunnel is Lincoln Memorial University. My alma mater (class of 1997) and my home since 2001.
When I began my education at LMU, there was a lot of green grass and not a lot of educational structures. Fast forward to 2018, and there are a lot more structures and a little less green grass.
But through it all, on campus was a jewel of a basketball facility. Tex Turner Arena sat ready to welcome a winner. For the longest time, Tex sat waiting. LMU had some decent years but more often than not a .500 season was a really good season for the Railsplitters.
Then, in 2008, the university welcomed its 17th men’s basketball coach. Everything changed.
Enter Josh Schertz (pictured).
After going 14-14 with a vastly undermanned LMU squad, Schertz has led the renaissance of the program. The numbers have been astounding.
In nine seasons, Schertz has fashioned a 234-53 record.
Eight consecutive 20-win seasons.
Seven straight NCAA tournament trips.
30 postseason wins.
Two NCAA Division II Final Fours.
2016 National Runner-up.
Schertz has been recognized regionally and nationally. He has been named National Coach of the Year three times and South Atlantic Coach of the Year five times. Bottom line, the man can flat out coach and build a program.
Thus, LMU is a hidden jewel not only nationwide, but regionally as well. It is astounding how good this program is and how great of a coach Schertz and how quietly it has happened. If this type of success was going on in, say Knoxville or Nashville, Schertz would have a street near the arena named for him.
But that’s what I love about the program and its leader. They just go about their business. Hard work. Patience. Day by day, practice the fundamentals, and build the program.
A hidden jewel in the Cumberlands indeed.
I have a feeling though it won’t be much longer until Harrogate goes from a great secret to a national destination for the basketball faithful.
Shane Shackleford is a columnist for KySportsStyle.com Magazine, Middlesboro Daily News, Harlan Daily Enterprise and other media outlets. You can contact him by email at email@example.com, on Facebook, and Twitter @shack_daddy_1.
Photo of Schertz by Jamie H. Vaught