Editorials, Opinion

Sometimes the best choice is right in front of you

When it comes to leadership, organizations (public or private) often look far and wide to find the best candidates. But sometimes the best choices are in their own backyards.

Such is the case for Maria Smith, the new CEO of Mountain Line Transit, and Josh Eilert, the interim WVU men’s basketball head coach.

Both Smith and Eilert worked for years for their respective organizations under the individuals whose positions they have now filled. These in-house promotions bring the advantages of institutional knowledge and loyalty: They already know how things work (and what hasn’t worked), and they obviously like their work — not only have they stayed, but now they want a chance to lead the company to an even better future. In addition, in-house promotees are usually already settled in and connected to the area, making it unlikely they’ll up and leave for a different opportunity at the drop of a hat (as has been occasionally seen, particularly in the realm of coaching).

Smith is a 16-year veteran of Mountain Line, spending the last five of those years as the assistant manager of administration and marketing. When Dave Bruffy left the CEO position in July, Smith was named interim. The Board of Directors was obviously pleased with her work — of the 12 applicants for the job, Smith is the only one the board felt was qualified enough (in terms of experience and certifications) to even earn an interview.

At the time of Bruffy’s retirement (after she was named interim CEO but before she officially applied for the job), Smith said, “At some point it changes from a job that you go to, and you realize one day that you genuinely care. It’s not so much a job anymore. I’m here to work and I’m here to do whatever Mountain Line needs of me.”

That kind of loyalty and care is difficult, albeit not impossible, to find in an outside candidate. Mountain Line is lucky to have Smith at the wheel.

Eilert came to WVU with Bob Huggins in 2007, and over the course of 16 years, Eilert worked his way up from video coordinator to assistant coach, and now to interim head coach. That means Eilert has been on the front (side)lines of WVU men’s basketball. He’s seen everything that happens before, during and after game day, and he has firsthand experience with what works and hasn’t worked.

He has the advantage of having worked with one of WVU’s most beloved coaches — and the advantage of being his own man, with the opportunity to forge his own reputation.

Arguably more important, naming Eilert interim head coach keeps a familiar face courtside during a time of tumult and upheaval. Many players decided to transfer in Huggins’ absence, but the ones who stayed will have the guidance of someone they already know and who knows them.

If you’d like an opportunity to get to know Eilert, he’ll be interviewed live tonight as part of the free Mountaineer Madness event at the Coliseum. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the event starts at 7 p.m. In addition to the interview with Eilert, fans can see and interact with the team and new coaching staff as part of select competitions. Plus, there will be performances by the pep band and cheerleaders, 3-point shot and dunk contests and autographs at the end of the night.