January 16, 2009
Former West Virginia forward Kevin Pittsnogle is, it's safe to say, one of the more colorful and memorable college athletes of recent years. His slow-big-man-with-outside-game routine was, in its own weird way, spectacular to watch. Better than that, it was effective; West Virginia was rarely as successful before Pittsnogle, and they've yet to regain the tournament mojo they had in the big man's years there. He was a special dude.
So, of course, we want to know what happened to him. Is he playing semi-pro ball? In Europe? Is he ... a middle-school teacher in West Virginia that coaches high school basketball for free? The New York Times found the Pittsnogler, and has the answer:
Now, at 24, he is a middle school teacher in his hometown. He is also an unpaid assistant coach for a high school basketball team. He bowls in leagues three nights a week and occasionally plays bingo at Big Bucks Bingo. His wife, Heather, is a bank teller. They have two children and live in a double-wide trailer, and together they wonder how much appetite they have for uprooting their lives again so Pittsnogle can have one more chance at a basketball career.
It's sort of a sad story -- Pittsnogle seems to be split in two. Half of him wants to play basketball, but the other half of him wants to chill out in West Virginia, teach school, play a little bingo at Big Bucks and live out a life that writer John Branch classifies as the one "he expected and wanted before he shot his way into the national consciousness." And still, he seems torn.
Pittsnogle's desire also might be the least of his worries. According to the story, his weight has ballooned to about 300 pounds, and pro teams are telling him he needs to lose weight to get back in the game. (What, no vegan restaurants in Martinsburg? Sorry. That was mean.) Anyway, in the meantime, he'll still be a hero to people in West Virginia, even if he doesn't have the lifestyle to show it. There are worse fates, yes?