- EDIT 7/1/2019, 8:21 PM: This article originally referenced unsubstantiated rumors that Bob Huggins and Darris Nichols had had a falling out. The author was personally informed that this was incorrect.
I don’t think it’s lost on anyone in the Mountaineer fan community that Bob Huggins isn’t going to coach forever. While it seems like he may stay on the sideline until he can’t do it anymore, we cannot delude ourselves into believing Huggs is never going to retire. However, it has become a common belief since it was announced he he would be given the position of “coach emeritus” upon his retirement during his most recent contract extension, Huggins will have a say in who is hired to replace him and many think this will lend to that replacement having ties to the university.
In the coming days, DubVNation will be publishing a two-part series entitled, “Next Man Up” that will take a look at what coaches around the country have ties to WVU and their chances of being the next head man in Morgantown. That series begins today with part one, focusing on former players.
Joe Mazzulla has been a hot name in the news recently as in the last few weeks he left his first head coaching job at Division II Fairmont State to join the staff of Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics. Mazzulla had produced outstanding results in his two seasons in Fairmont after taking over for former WVU assistant Jerrod Calhoun, finishing 21-8 in 2017 and 22-9 this past season. Prior to leading the Fighting Falcons, he spent one year as an assistant coach for the Celtics’ NBA G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. This was preceded by five years on the benches of two of West Virginia’s DII schools, the aforementioned Fairmont State and Glenville State. Glenville was his first time in the coaching profession after playing four years with for John Beilein and Bob Huggins at WVU. Mazzulla is one of the most experienced coaches with ties to WVU and his NBA experience may make him a prime candidate when Bob Huggins decides to retire.
The son of former head coach John Beilein, Pat Beilein has the most head coaching experience of any former WVU player. He is set to enter his first season as the head coach at Niagara, his first Division I head coaching position. Beilein has spent his last four years at one of his father’s former posts, Division II Le Moyne, where he quickly turned a struggling program into a winner. His first team at Le Moyne went just 10-17 but he would go on to tally at least 18 wins in each of his last three seasons, including a 27-7 record two years ago. His time at Le Moyne was preceded by a one year stint on the player development staff for the Utah Jazz, as well as two years as the head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan prior to that. Beilein began his coaching career with a few short stints at Division I programs, including one year each as director of basketball operations at Bradley and as an assistant coach at Dartmouth, as well as two years as a graduate assistant for his father at Michigan. Beilein was a key reserve for the WVU teams that made appearances in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 under his father. If Patrick Beilein can prove to be a successful head coach in a Division I program at Niagara, he may find himself on the fast track to replace Bob Huggins at WVU.
Darris Nichols is one of the most interesting cases when it comes to ex-players with a chance to replace Huggs. He has been an assistant and ace recruiter for Mike White’s staff at Florida for the last four years but has no head coaching experience of his own. It is also that status as Florida’s top recruiter that may have him in hot water with WVU’s head man. There have been rampant rumors in the last few years that Nichols and Huggins may have crossed one another while recruiting Ripley, WV native Chase Johnson. Johnson would eventually sign with the Gators, but the rumors appear to be overblown as everything points to their relationship being strong today. Johnson struggled with injuries and transferred to Dayton last year. Darris Nichols is one of the hottest young names in college basketball. Prior to his time at Florida, he was an assistant on Mike White’s final team at Louisiana Tech and also spent one year on staff at Wofford. He had his first full time coaching job with Northern Kentucky, spending two years with the Norse and assisting in their transition to Division I. He was also a graduate assistant for one year at WVU and played one year professionally in Hungary. He had a standout four years in Gold and Blue including an outstanding performance during the team’s NIT Championship run. Darris Nichols is an up-and-comer in the world of coaching and his buzz may be too much to ignore when Huggs decides to call it quits.
While Joe Mazzulla is one of the most experienced former WVU players in the coaching game, the man who helped arrange his first job is a former Mountaineer as well. Rob Summers split his college career between Penn State, where he played for future Beilein assistant Jerry Dunn, and WVU. Summers is entering his third year as an assistant at James Madison. He obviously still has ties to the state of West Virginia as he was the lead recruiter for Fairmont native and JMU signee Zyon Dobbs. He also has head coaching experience, leading the program at Division II Urbana for three years. However, he did not have much success at what is traditionally a rather poor basketball program, never winning more than 12 games in a single season. Prior to this job, he had an initial stint at JMU as the director of basketball operations and two years as the associate head coach at Glenville State. Rob Summers likely lacks the head coaching experience to be a realistic replacement for Bob Huggins right now, but if he can continue his strong recruiting for an up-and-coming James Madison program, he may have another shot at a head coaching position that would set him up with the experience he needs.
Frank Young may be the least experienced coach on this list, but he has quickly rose in the coaching ranks in the few years he has been in the business. Formerly, a key assistant coach at Presbyterian, Young has made some serious strides in only a handful of seasons and is set to start a new job at Appalachian State this year. Prior to becoming a full-time assistant at Presbyterian, he spent three years in his first DI job as the director of basketball operations at North Florida. Young also spent one year as an assistant coach with Pat Beilein at WV Wesleyan in his first coaching job. He spent four years playing overseas after a stellar career at WVU for both John Beilein. Young may be a better candidate to be an assistant at WVU for one of his former teammates but if Bob Huggins stays in Morgantown for longer than many expect, Frank Young has risen so quickly, he may be a viable option then.
Bob Huggins is not going to coach at WVU forever. There is going to have to be a replacement for one of the greatest coaches in school history some day. The Mountaineer program has produced enough former players in the coaching game that some of them will have a shot when that day comes.
Stay tuned too DubVNation.com for part two of this series and much more.