West Virginia Coaches Caravan arrives in the Mid-Ohio Valley | News, Sports, Jobs


West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown, left, autographs a photo for two of Vienna’s Ken Fowler (center) and Craig Deem during Wednesday’s WVU Coaches Caravan at the Conference Center and reception of Grand Pointe. (Photo by Kerry Patrick)

VIENNA — Bob Huggins doesn’t like to travel long distances.

However, the West Virginia University men’s basketball coach will have little choice but to join his mountaineers on a trip to Oregon and the Phil Knight Legacy. The loaded eight-team field, which includes the likes of Gonzaga, Purdue and Duke, is a way to reconnect with the co-founder of Nike — the same company that sponsors athletics at WVU.

The relationship began when Huggins coached at Cincinnati and the Bearcats were branded with the “swoosh” logo.

“The tournament is great ground and also a long way to go when it comes to playing ball,” Huggins said during his visit to the Mid-Ohio Valley on Wednesday afternoon as the WVU coaches caravan stopped at the Grand Pointe Conference and Reception Center. “We are a Nike school at WVU. They provide shoes, gear..everything for other sports at WVU. So when they called, especially Phil Knight, that he wants you to play in this business, you can’t say no.

“I have known him for a very long time. I did a Michael Jordan Fantasy Camp and spent a lot of time with Phil Knight. It was a great race for me with Nike.

The WVU Coaches Caravan also brought in football coach Neal Brown as well as new women’s basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit. Brown is entering his fourth season with the Mountaineers. Last year, WVU football won its final two regular season games to become bowl eligible, then lost to Minnesota 18-6 in the guaranteed rate bowl for a 6-7 finish.

“The short-term effects of the ball game weren’t necessarily good because we didn’t play very well, especially in attack,” said Brown. “The long-term effects have been beneficial. To get extended work with our young players, you could really make a difference in the spring. They were further advanced based on the 10-12 practices they got.

WVU football opens the 2022 season on Thursday, Sept. 1 in Pittsburgh, then begins the Big 12 conference schedule nine days later at home against Kansas. Over the next 12 days, the Mountaineers host Towson and then travel to Virginia Tech.

“We have a difficult start” said Brown. “Pitt could be ranked in the top 10 in the country. Week 4, we have to go to Blacksburg (Virginia). We are playing against 11 Power-5 teams, so the schedule is tough, so we need to have a great summer and our fall camp needs to be ramped up.

Currently, the majority of the roster are student-athletes recruited by Brown and his coaching staff, including recent signing JT Daniels, who has started 11 games over the past two seasons with defending national champion Georgia. As a freshman, Daniels started 11 games at USC. A knee injury in his sophomore year set him back a season.

“It’s going to be a process, but he’s experienced and a proven starter – won the job twice at Georgia and won it twice at USC, so he’s a very talented guy,” said Brown. “We have to be patient and have realistic expectations, but we’re excited to have him. We have some talented quarterbacks in our program. They’ve made great progress this spring, but we felt we also needed a experienced guy in this room.

“This roster, almost all of the players minus a few are the ones we signed, but we’re having a tough time heading into Year 4. When I got there, maybe more of a rebuild than I didn’t think so. Our players are hungry and I like how we are positioned heading into the fall.

For Plitzuweit, she kicked off as soon as she was introduced as the successor to former WVU women’s basketball coach Mike Carey just over a month ago. Filled with impressive win totals during her six seasons at South Dakota, including a Sweet 16 appearance at this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, Plitzuweit retained the services of three members of her team to coaches at South Dakota and signed four Division I transfers to go with 6-foot freshman Mari Russell of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

His MO remains to focus on an abundance of points to go along with defensive toughness.

“Absolutely, it’s been a whirlwind,” said Plitzuweit, who coached the Coyotes to a 158-36 record (81.4 winning percentage) and four NCAA tournament appearances. “It’s certainly great to have my coaches with me. We certainly had a great opportunity to work together and get to know each other. We have great synergy. To get started, we knew we had work to do.

“Recruiting girls to come to WVU, women’s basketball tradition is one thing with the fan base. Certainly the facilities and from an education perspective in terms of having a number of opportunities for them. Plus, you’re watching the conference itself. The Big 12 has given us the opportunity to recruit and hire fantastic young women.

A transfer making the trip across the country to play for his coach at South Dakota is 5-10 guard Kyah Watson. She was a member of last season’s team that upset No. 2 seed Baylor on the Bears’ home court in Waco in the second round. The Coyotes were all tied with No. 3 seed Michigan with 22 seconds left in a Sweet 16 matchup before losing 52-49.

“We had a wide open three with 12 seconds left and left it to the best shooter on our team, the best shooter in the conference,” said Plitzuweit. “I took it every day of the week.

“It was very difficult to leave South Dakota, but I truly believe there will be a lot of flying WV flags, hats and t-shirts in South Dakota.”

As for Coach Huggins, his spring activities were capped off with the April 2 announcement that after 40 seasons of coaching college basketball and racking up 916 wins, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for the class of 2022.

“When you’ve been in this business for as long as I have, you try to take everything the right way,” Huggin said. “I look at a lot of friends of mine who have had great careers and haven’t had the opportunity to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“This is a good thing.”

WVU men’s basketball is coming off a 16-17 season — only the third time a Huggins-coached team has finished below .500. Frustration has definitely set in for the coaching staff.

Huggins used the downtime to serve as a studio analyst for national March Madness broadcasts. Without stacks and stacks of paper facts at his disposal, Huggins held his own breakdown teams in the field. Unfortunately, not qualifying for the playoff field makes you available for such job titles.

“I was really good, wasn’t I? » Huggin said. “I had already done it and you know what that means?” You beat. So I never really want to do that again. These people on the desk are studying a lot. I saw many of these teams, I played against them a lot. I figured out that I didn’t need to have a stack of notes that Seth Davis had. Seth does terrific research and gives a lot of information on what’s going on.

Contact Kerry Patrick at [email protected]

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