Those were the days for an Ohio Valley hoop icon. Come to think of it, these days aren't too shabby, either.
Bellaire native Lee Patrone has long since retired to sunny south Florida where he resides with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean at Miami Beach.
At the beginning of 2012, Patrone and his wife, Barbara, looked forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary later this summer.
A recent phone call from West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck has given Patrone another reason to pop the cork.
Luck announced this weekend Patrone and six additional contributors to Mountaineer athletics will be inducted into WVU's Sports Hall of Fame this fall.
"It was a real thrill getting that call from Oliver Luck," said Patrone over the phone. "My days at West Virginia were truly memorable. It's quite an honor going into the Hall."
Before Patrone became a major player in Morgantown between 1959-61, he assaulted record books as one of Bellaire High's most talented athletes.
Patrone's 1,842 career points in a Big Reds uniform was achieved in three seasons and was not surpassed until Nate Davis became the school's all-time leader scorer.
"Records are made to be broken, but it took Nate four seasons. Besides, I didn't have a three-point line," laughed Patrone regarded as a perimeter shooting specialist.
"I played under Claire Cribbs which was an honor unto itself," added Patrone who scored 20 or more points in 57 prep games.
Though he originally enrolled at Ohio State, Patrone departed for Morgantown and became part of a WVU hoop squad led by the legendary Jerry West.
His sophomore season, Patrone served as the Mountaineers' sixth man before becoming a full-time starter a year later.
Though West was among the nation's top collegians, Patrone flourished in a 'behind the scenes' role where he compiled 1,028 points and distributed 210 assists.
WVU's 1959 team advanced to the national championship game where the 'Eers were edged by California, 71-70 in the title tilt.
A season later, Patrone averaged 14.2 points and was named to three all-tournament teams. As a senior, Patrone was a third team All-America selection.
Drafted by Detroit's Pistons in the NBA's sixth round, Patrone, instead, considered playing for the fledgling American Basketball Association's Pittsburgh Wrens. The league, however would experience financial problems and was short-lived.
Patrone returned to the valley for a teaching and coaching position at Wintersville over five years but eventually would relocate to Florida where he was employed in Community Management regarding the city's booming high-rise condominium industry.
Lee made a return visit to the valley in the past year where brother, John, and sister, Carol still reside.
"I'm definitely looking forward to returning (this fall) for the induction," he said. "It'll be nice seeing some old friends after all these years."
Patrone will be recognized the weekend of Sept. 21-22 and be introduced to thousands of Mountaineer fans during halftime ceremonies of the WVU-Maryland football game on the 22nd.
Joining Patrone among WVU's HOF Class of 2012 is Moundsville's Ed Pastilong, West Virginia's director of athletics between 1989-2010.
During his tenure, Pastilong directed more than $65 million in facility renovations and witnessed the athletic department's budget increase from $20 million to more than $50 million.
Remaining members of WVU's 2012 class include Maurice "Mo" Robinson (Basketball, 1975-78); Bo Orlando (Football, 1985-88); Katie Barnes (Soccer, 1998-2001); Dan Cavanaugh (Swimming, 1955-60); and Ben Dunkerley (Football, 1951-52).
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