Men's Basketball, Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

NOTEBOOK: WVU marks a basketball first with two new head coaches at the same time

MORGANTOWN — Combined, the WVU men’s and women’s basketball teams have played nearly two centuries worth of hoops.

For the first time ever, both programs are embarking on a maiden coaching voyage.

The 2023-24 seasons will begin with two new coaches at the helm — Josh Eilert for the men and Mark Kellogg for the women.

“I’ve never had that happen,” said Kellogg, who is in his first season at WVU after spending the last eight at Stephen F. Austin.

In comparison, both are leading their WVU programs only after some surprising circumstances.

Kellogg was hired in April, following the sudden departure of Dawn Plitzuweit to Minnesota. Plitzuweit was at WVU for just one season.

Eilert’s case is much different. He’s spent the last 16 years at WVU in different roles, but was named the interim head coach in June, after Bob Huggins resigned following a DUI arrest in Pittsburgh.

Whatever the case, WVU now has two rookie head coaches at the Power Five conference level.

“We have talked for sure,” Kellogg said of his relationship with Eilert. “Josh’s son and my son are the same age and on the same golf team and the same basketball team. We see each other quite a bit, to be honest.”

Kellogg said the two families have bonded through similar circumstances.

“Like, basketball talk, there’s not a ton of that,” Kellogg said. “Life talk, being at West Virginia and taking over the programs, yeah, those conversations have happened quite often.”

Kellogg said he also likes the chemistry and togetherness of the men’s and women’s programs.

“The connection between both programs is as good as I’ve seen,” Kellogg said. “I haven’t had very many bad ones, but there can be some of that men’s basketball, women’s basketball battles. It has not been that way at all here. It’s fun to come into the building every day.”

Picture motivation

A father of three, Eilert said he wanted to hang a picture of his introductory press conference in his office that included his family.

In that same picture is the graphic the school’s marketing department designed that has in big block letters the word “INTERIM.”

“I stare at it every day,” Eilert said in looking at the interim tag more so than his family. “It’s a challenge. From a personal standpoint, I can provide a lot of growth for myself by staring at it every day.”

It’s a constant reminder for Eilert that there is work that remains and the challenges that lay ahead.

“OK, I am the head coach; I am the head coach for 10 months,” he continued. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity to prove myself and build this program to where it needs to be. Now there’s pressure — absolutely there’s pressure — but I’m excited to take it on.”

Prepared for the portal

During Eilert’s transition from assistant coach to interim head coach following Huggins’ arrest, the WVU roster took a hit.

Tre Mitchell, Mohamed Wague, Joe Toussaint and James Okonkwo all transferred following Huggins’ situation.

Some may forget it could have been worse. Guards Jose Perez and Kerr Kriisa also entered their names into the transfer portal, only to withdraw and return to WVU.

“I wasn’t going to hold them back by any means,” is the way Eilert describes the situations behind Kriisa and Perez.

By NCAA rule, a school has two business days to enter an athlete’s name into the portal after they submit the request.

The WVU compliance department asked Eilert if he wanted to use the entire allotted time before entering the names into the database?

“They asked me, and I said if that’s their wishes, put them in,” was Eilert’s reply. “I’m not trying to hold anything back.”

But Eilert also did not simply give up on those two players.

“If West Virginia is where they want to be ultimately, I’ll re-recruit them,” he said. “I’ll go back after them and sell them the fact that we have a vision here, a foundation that we’re building, we’re going to do things the right way and we’re going to have a special year.”

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