Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Unusual season makes it hard to accurately judge Josh Eilert as a coach

An attempt was made to find some type of reference point, someone who would stand as a fair comparison to what Josh Eilert has experienced so far in what is his interim season as the WVU men’s basketball coach.

No one could be found, which is an important note to keep in mind as we get through the rest of this opinion.

On the surface, Eilert’s group of Mountaineers are now 4-7 on the season following Wednesday’s 66-65 loss against Radford.

That fact, obviously, only tells a small percentage of Eilert’s story this season. The rest you have undoubtedly heard or read about, as unbelievable as it may seem.

It has been a head-on-a-swivel type of story, in that once something bad happened to the WVU men’s hoops program, it was always just the beginning.

Just when you thought nothing else bad could happen to the Mountaineers, well, you were proven wrong.

“Sometimes things get stacked against you,” is how WVU guard Noah Farrakhan tried to explain it. “You need perseverance and to stay the course. I feel like that’s what our team has been doing.”

Given a dream opportunity to become a first-time head coach at a major basketball school — one with great facilities and a financial backing in both recruiting and NIL budgets — Eilert’s dream has instead been nothing short of a nightmare.

So much of a nightmare, remember, that we couldn’t find any sort of comparison.

And at some point, WVU officials, whether it’s athletic director Wren Baker or a collection of other higher-ups, are going to have to evaluate and make a call on Eilert’s future at WVU.

There is no way possible — by any stretch of the imagination — that evaluation is going to accurately reflect what Eilert has accomplished.

That statement will hold true if WVU goes out and wins or loses the rest of the games on its schedule.

“I just continue to take the approach that I’m going to make the best decisions possible for the people in this program that I’m representing and continue to do the right thing,” Eilert said when asked about the subject. “I know I’m representing the hard-working group of people in this state that go to work every day and grind.

“I’m going to represent this university the best way I can and make good decisions for this university. How they judge me on that, that’s totally up to someone else.”

To interject some opinion here, I believe Eilert is the right man for the job. I have no idea if he’s the right coach.

To that point, how could anyone know if he’s the right coach? And that’s sort of the point.

Forget for a moment the pressures that come with being the next guy after Bob Huggins, probably the most beloved coach by the WVU fan base the school has ever had in any sport.

Let’s talk about Jose Perez. He was gone before the season even began. He was probably going to be one of the team’s top scorers, but Eilert felt Perez wasn’t following the team’s standards, so he cut Perez loose.

You already know the ordeal RaeQuan Battle went through just to get the right to play his first game of the season Wednesday, and that ordeal and the flu cost him 10 games.

Akok Akok collapsed in an exhibition game. Kerr Kriisa was suspended by the NCAA for nine games for accepting illegal benefits.

And now Jesse Edwards, arguably the team’s best player, is going to miss a month with a fractured right wrist.

Eilert’s ideal starting five — the one he would build his case around to become the full-time head coach — never happened.

His Plan B may not happen until sometime in February, and who knows what will happen before then?

“So much for making plans,” Eilert said in trying to make the moment a somewhat light-hearted one.

So much for getting a fair shake is more like it, because there is no way Baker and other WVU personnel can accurately judge Eilert’s potential as a coach based off this one unusual season.

Not now. Not last month. Not in March.

“I’m going to be true to my character and my beliefs,” Eilert said. “I’ll continue to do things the right way and that’s all I can do.”