Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Drexel coach Zach Spiker is Morgantown through and through

Most opposing coaches don’t spend the final moments before tip-off inside the Coliseum glancing around the arena to soak in the moment.

Then again, no opposing coach has ever been Zach Spiker.

For those not familiar with Drexel’s head coach, who was on the short end of a 66-60 loss to the Mountaineers on Saturday, Spiker is a Morgantown man through and through.

He played his high school basketball for Tom Yester at Morgantown High, first cut his teeth in the college basketball world as an administrative assistant at WVU under John Beilein in the old Big East and Kevin Pittsnogle days.

“The path you have and the people you come into contact with, wherever you are, you can learn so much from,” Spiker said. “I think my time here with coach Beilein and his staff and the people associated with the university was an incredible learning experience for me and I’m very thankful for that.”

His wife, Jennifer, is a former assistant coach with WVU women’s soccer team, while his father, John, is a WVU Hall-of-Famer and a pioneer in the area of athletic training.

John Spiker helped the university transition from the days of telling athletes to “rub some dirt on it” to the more sophisticated advances seen in the field today.

So, yeah, Zach Spiker had good reason to soak in the moment.

“I took a minute to walk around the Coliseum when I got in,” Spiker said. “I appreciate that moment. I tried to stay in my regular routine. I thought our team played and competed really hard. We just didn’t get quite enough made buckets. They took away some threes and we had a couple of unfortunate calls where the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

WVU head coach Josh Eilert, an alum of Kansas State, knows a little bit about the return trip home that centers around winning and losing more so than rekindling memories.

“I’m sure he put a lot of thought into it leading into it,” WVU head coach Josh Eilert said. “That’s kind of the way it’s been for me (when Eilert returns to Kansas State). You throw the ball up in the air and tip it off, you kind of zone in.
“I’m sure it was special for him. It was the first time he’s been back to the Coliseum as a head coach.”

Spiker’s rise through the college coaching ranks has been sure and steady, first spending seven years at Army and having enough success there that only two guys named Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski can say they equaled or surpassed.

This is Spiker’s eighth season with the Dragons. So far the highlight was a string of upset victories in the 2021 Colonial Athletic Association tournament that got Drexel into the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed that season.

That could soon be changing. Drexel was picked third in the CAA this season after returning the bulk of his team that went 17-15 last season.

And, oh, yeah, he’s already got a 57-55 victory against Philly rival Villanova to lean on this season.

“I think we’re doing what we expected to do in terms of competition,” Spiker said. “I think we expect to win these games. I thought our approach all day (Friday) was very businesslike. It’s disappointing, frankly, it’s disappointing.”

And he almost got an impressive win in Morgantown. Had a couple of 3-pointers from Justin Moore fallen — he had two great looks in the final two minutes — this game could have been completely different.

“We didn’t get what we wanted out of this trip to Morgantown, which was a win,” Spiker said.