It’s June 19 and the WVU basketball program is without a head coach.
As Bob Huggins resigned late Saturday night after being charged with DUI just 24 hours prior in Pittsburgh, WVU AD Wren Baker is in another tough situation. Baker and the University will conduct a national search to replace Huggins but run the risk of losing their current roster to the transfer portal.
I think it’s in WVU’s best interest to go the interim route for the head coaching position during the 2023-24 season. After talking to a source, it appears that the players are in favor of an internal hire or promotion rather than an external one. West Virginia can give the keys to either Josh Eilert, Ron Everhart or DerMarr Johnson. While I think the choice would become Eilert, it seems like West Virginia wants to start new. But why the rush?
Huggins’ staff has brought in a top transfer portal class this offseason with RaeQuan Battle (G – Montana State), Jesse Edwards (C – Syracuse), Kerr Kriisa (G – Arizona), Jose Perez (G – Manhattan) and Omar Silverio (G – Manhattan). WVU also returns Tre Mitchell (F – 11.7 ppg), Joe Toussaint (G – 9.4 ppg) and the majority of their bench from last season. It makes absolutely no sense to hire an outsider this late when the recruiting part of the offseason is pretty much over. Why can’t WVU wait nine months to start fresh and look towards the future?
I’m confident Baker will make the right hire, no doubt about that. Baker landed a home run hire at North Texas with Grant McCasland, who came over from Arkansas State. McCasland took the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament in 2021, defeating Purdue in the first round. UNT also won the NIT Championship this past season. Now McCasland just took over for Mark Adams at Texas Tech as they look to begin a new era as well.
I’m not questioning whether or not Baker will make the right hire. I’m questioning the timing and who’s realistically even available.
West Virginia is now a top-20 job in the country currently, thanks to the national relevancy Huggins and John Beilein have brought to the program over the past two decades. But would a Power-6 coach leave their team mid-summer to take a WVU job that has many questions regarding the roster right now? I can see a mid-major up-and-coming coach taking that opportunity but again, you don’t know how the players are going to feel about the hire. If you can’t poach a current coach from a program, you’re targeting someone that’s been out of the game for some time. Early on, certain names have been brought up such as Andy Kennedy (UAB), Jerrod Calhoun (Youngstown State), Steve Forbes (Wake Forest), Pat Kelsey (College of Charleston), Ben McCollum (Northwest Missouri State), Beilein and others.
To me, unless you can get a home run hire that works in the short term and long term, there’s no point to hire somebody right now. Let Huggins’ assistants work things out for nine months and keep the players happy. Why run the risk of losing the majority of the team that mostly consisted of fifth-year seniors? They’ll be gone within one season anyways. West Virginia would arguably be the most sought-out job next March if the administration was patient. The list of candidates would be even stronger next spring.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
WVU’s current roster of 13 has 30 days to enter the transfer portal. If the players do decide to leave West Virginia, some will need waivers while others will not. Reports say that multi-time non-graduate transfers such as Battle would need a waiver while one-time transfers Kriisa and Edwards would not. This is another situation where the NCAA’s lack of transparency makes it confusing for everyone involved.
The players deserve to have a say in who their coach is next season and don’t deserve to be left hanging dry in the middle of the summer.
Say for example WVU and Baker hire a new coach and the current roster isn’t fond of the hire, what does this new staff do? They’ll be left with nothing coming in if the current group doesn’t like the hire. West Virginia currently has zero commits in high school recruiting and has no freshmen on the roster. Transfer portal recruiting is pretty much completed and the high school seniors are committed.
I think it’s important to consider the current roster and staff right now. You have eight returning players that are most familiar with the coaching staff and have five additions that have recently committed to this coaching staff.
It just makes no sense why West Virginia wouldn’t go the interim route for one season, hit the refresh button in March 2024 and hire the perfect candidate. Instead, it sounds like they’re willing to rush the process and risk losing their talented roster just to get Huggins’ guys out of Morgantown nine months sooner.
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