How’d the Tri-Cities Media Handle the Story of the Year, Namely ETSU Firing Desmond Oliver?

Marky Billson
7 min readMar 16

In the Tri-Cities, sports stories generally don’t get bigger than the hiring and firing of an ETSU basketball coach. Here’s how the local media handled it.

Marky Billson

There is not a more glamorous position in Tri-Cities sports than ETSU men’s basketball coach.

So when ETSU fires their men’s basketball coach, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger local sports story.

Therefore I took great curiosity on how the local sports media covered the news that Desmond Oliver would no longer be the Buccaneers’ coach.

Everyone knew something was wrong when Oliver kept saying “I’m still learning how to be a head coach” in his first season at the ETSU helm.

My focus was, of course, on sports talk shows.

Not just because I am a former sports talk show host in the area, but because local newspapers eschew sports columnists for high school sports stories, and television stations giving one-minute commentaries as part of their coverage is, sadly, more of a large-market feature from days of yore.

For the record,, the website of the Bristol Herald-Courier, reported on the story with “staff reports” that read like a press release.

Memo to ETSU: that’s the kind of coverage you get when your former athletic director refuses to talk to that paper’s last beat writer, and you then put said ex-AD in to your athletics Hall of Fame.

Joe Avento spoke to ETSU AD Richard Sander and was able to find out that ex-ETSU assistant B.J. McKie, now at Wake Forest, would be “vetted” as a candidate.

WJHL refreshingly included the story early in their newscast, rather than wait until the sports segment of their broadcast. In the past, local sports stories, no matter how big, were often kept to the end of the newscast with the rest of the sports news.

Heather Williams of WCYB aired a clip of Sander speaking of the potential that the search could last for weeks because of the NCAA Tournament.

That’s exciting news for ETSU fans as it reveals the possibility Sander may court an assistant or even head coach from a one of the…

Marky Billson

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