Deaton was a lot more than a volleyball guru
WHEELING – He built a prep volleyball powerhouse at Wheeling Central before doing the same at Xavier University. Floyd Deaton, however, was more than a volleyball guru. He was a former standout athlete, an energizing motivator and cherished friend.
Deaton died unexpectedly last Sunday in Florida. He was 65.
The Wheeling native leaves behind a legacy of volleyball coaching greatness. But Deaton was much more. He enjoyed a standout football playing career, was a multi-sport coach, superb teacher and a friend to many.
The 1973 Wheeling High grad began coaching football, track and volleyball while teaching at Wheeling Central in the 1980s. He guided the Maroon Knight girls’ track team to the 1982 state championship, the first in school annals.
He also developed a passion for volleyball, a winter-time sport in those days in West Virginia as girls’ hoops was played in the fall. Deaton built Central into net power. His Knights won three straight OVAC Class 2A titles: 1988, 1989 and 1990.
That success enabled Deaton to land the Xavier head job, a position he held for 20 years, developing a winning program.
Bruce Denniston served as Deaton’s assistant with the Wheeling Central volleyball program and later became head coach. He was also a close friend of Deaton.
“We were football teammates at West Liberty where we became very close friends. We were each other’s best man in our weddings,” Denniston said. “He was a great coach. He really worked the girls hard in volleyball, much harder than they work today. But I don’t think you would find one of his players who would say a bad thing about him.
“The girls really loved him. He built a tremendous program. He also did a great job coaching track and football,” he added. “Floyd went on to have an amazing coaching career at Xavier. He set all kind of records there. I called him last Sunday. Floyd was a good man.”
Deaton scripted a remarkable stint as Xavier’s head coach. He is the winningest coach in school history with 411 victories. He was a four-time selection as Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year and led Xavier to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001. The Musketeers also reached the tournament in 2007.
His Xavier teams captured two Atlantic 10 regular season titles (1998, 2004) and a conference tournament championship (2001). Deaton was selected Atlantic 10 Coach-of-the-Year on four occasions.
Making all that success even more impressive was Deaton inherited a Musketeer program that struggled through five straight losing seasons. His first Xavier team went 19-17.
During his two-decade volleyball tenure in the Queen City, Deaton coached 48 all-conference selections, three A-10 Players of the Year, four A-10 Student-Athletes of the Year and nine Academic All-America All-District selections.
Deaton, however, never forgot his roots.
When Joel Joseph was establishing the first volleyball program at Shadyside High, Deaton was more than helpful. Joseph’s dad, Butch, and mom, Donna, also assisted Deaton with the Wheeling Central volleyball program.
“I met Floyd when I was in high school. He and my parents met while they were coaching track. We started going to his volleyball matches and traveled all over the state watching his teams. They were real good. I remember vividly in the state finals they scored the championship point only to have it taken off the scoreboard and ultimately lost,” Joel said. “We had a Maroon Knight family and met many incredible people. While I was coaching track, I was having some concerns about how I was handling things and I called Floyd for some advice – he reassured me I was doing what was in the best interest of the athlete and team. He told me the coach creates the weather of their program.
“When Shadyside added volleyball, I considered applying for the position. Never having coached volleyball, I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking. Floyd was the first phone call I made. He was excited about Shadyside starting volleyball because of our long line of great female athletes. Without hesitation, Floyd said ‘Joel you have to. I’ll help you with anything I can.’ Our very first match against Steubenville Central, I looked up in the stands and there was Floyd. I can’t express what having him in the stands meant to me. He drove up from Cincinnati,” he added.
“After a straight set match, I asked Floyd if he would talk to the team. He agreed. I tried to give the girls a little story about Floyd and what he had accomplished and how it was special he was there (all while holding back tears). After talking to the team, we went into the gym and he talked through some of the things we should fix. He was incredibly passionate about volleyball and helping young people, not only become better athletes but more importantly better people. Floyd was an incredible person and I’m forever grateful for the friendship I had and the lessons he taught me to become a better coach and person.”
Track & field brought Deaton and Donna Joseph together. It was a relationship that grew ultra strong even after Deaton’s move to Cincinnati.
“Floyd was an outstanding coach, mentor and friend. We met him when he was coaching track at Wheeling Central. He gave 100 percent to whatever he was doing. He came over a number of times to help our throwers and came to Wheeling Park during the OVAC to support our team. He always told them – It’s showtime, ladies. When he became volleyball coach, we decided to see if we could help him out – although at the time we knew very little about the sport,” Donna said. “We would write a weekly newsletter, give them inspirational quotes and make snacks. Butch and Joel took thousands of pictures during the years we were involved. Floyd loved volleyball and his players respected him for his knowledge and enthusiasm. He was the first one to break a sweat during practice. He expected his players to give him an all out effort all the time, and they did.
“His philosophy was “You play like you practice,” so his practices were intense. We became a part of the Wheeling Central volleyball family during those years and still today consider them to be some my dearest friends. His players would do anything for him. He would often say that his team’s stiffest competition was during practice against the non-starters,” added the OVAC Hall of Famer. “We were at his home in 1990 when the flood hit Shadyside saying our good-byes as he had taken the head job at Xavier and was moving to Cincinnati. Butch was disappointed to see him go as Floyd had asked him to be an assistant for the next season. We kept in touch even after he moved and saw his Musketeers play several matches. He was a great one and will be missed. RIP, Coach.”
Current River High head football coach Mike Flannery was a college teammate and coaching associate of Deaton with the Maroon Knights’ grid team. Deaton caught a TD pass in a game in which Flannery tossed a historic seven-scoring passes.
“Floyd was a passionate and dedicated coach. He was a pleasure to work with,” Flannery said. “Floyd was very loyal to his fellow coaches and players. He did a tremendous job with the Central volleyball program.”
Terry Edwards is a heavyweight in the realm of Ohio Valley athletics, be it as an athlete or coach. He was also a lifelong friend of Deaton.
Other than Dave Peluchette, Floyd was my best friend. I got to know him when he was dating Dave’s sister. We went to West Liberty together and played football. He was an outstanding wide receiver,” Edwards said. “Floyd was teaching at Bridge Street when we had a teaching and coaching opening at Wheeling Central. I told JT (head football coach Jim Thomas) that we needed to have Floyd get the job and join our staff. He was a great asset to our football staff.
“I was in Floyd’s wedding. We spent so much time together, doing good things and not-so good things,” he added jokingly. “I was shocked when he took the volleyball job at Central. But he had a great art of communication and had great passion. He would have been a great coach in any sport. What he did at Xavier was amazing.
PREP BASEBALL’S BEST
PLAY BALL. Unfortunately, that is an impossibility at the current time thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. When the national pasttime will resume is anyone’s guess. There is hope, however, Major League Baseball starts back up in May in Arizona in empty stadiums. That may be wishful thinking.
In the meantime, our sports department is looking to keep baseball in vogue. The Ohio Valley has a rich prep baseball tradition. The OVAC has spawned countless major leaguers such and Phil and Joe Niekro and Bill Mazeroski to name just three.
Our sports staffers are attempting to compile the list of the Ohio Valley’s all-time best prep players and best teams. To make that happen, we are enlisting the help of our readers.
We want your input. We are asking you to submit your nominations for best players and best teams. Please include supporting facts. Please email your nominees to me at BKOVAC21@aol.com. Deadline is April 30.
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