Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

WVU basketball looks to the future

The last 11 months have been difficult for the WVU basketball program and its fans. It began with Coach Bob Huggins’ homophobic, anti-Catholic slur on a Cincinnati radio station, followed by his DUI arrest and all things related to his unceremonious departure.

Interim Coach Josh Eilert and his staff did an admirable job trying to manage the unmanageable, but all of Mountaineer Nation suffered through a nine-win season. The on-court failures, the lingering presence of Huggins, and the speculation about a coaching search created uncertainty and angst around the program.

However, the hiring of Darian DeVries provides an opportunity for renewal. The former Drake coach brings an impressive resume to Morgantown.

His teams won 20 or more games in each of his six seasons at Drake and he guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament three times. DeVries was the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year twice. Before taking over at Drake, he was an assistant at Creighton for 17 seasons.

WVU Athletic Director Wren Baker picked DeVries out of a qualified pool for several reasons; DeVries’ teams are disciplined, with good balance on the offensive and defensive ends of the court, which Baker believes is important for competing in the Big 12.

There is a culture fit. DeVries was looking for a program with great tradition, a passionate fan base and a community where he and his family would feel comfortable. He wanted a college town, not a metro environment.

Baker was able to provide first-hand testimony about his experience of moving to West Virginia. He told DeVries how warm and welcoming he and his family have found the state.

DeVries could have stayed at Drake and continued to do well. He is an Iowa native and has lots of family in the Hawkeye State. However, he had reached a ceiling and was open to a new opportunity. That search was not for any school that offered more money, but rather for the school that was the best fit.

Michael Admire, Director of Broadcasting and play-by-play announcer for Drake basketball, predicts that Mountaineer fans are “absolutely going to love Darian.” Admire told me in an email that DeVries won over the Drake community with his wins, work ethic and fan engagement.

“He is the kind of guy that eats last at team meals and unloads bags from the airplane when it’s -20,” Admire said. “He’s great with players and fans. Never too high, never too low, but a fierce competitor.”  

That sounds like someone West Virginia fans can relate to.

Of course, he must win. Neal Brown brought similar attributes to the WVU football program, and that earned him favor with many fans. However, Brown was on thin ice until he started having more success on the field last season.

Meanwhile, the hiring of a new coach is nearly always a reason for optimism, and it clearly is in this case. The media and Mountaineer Nation can turn their attention to the future, rather than dwelling on the past.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.