Bob Huggins deserves to remain as the Head Coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers for as long as he wishes. One of the very best to ever roam the sidelines, Huggins will be given the power to make the decision to retire when he’s ready to step down.
With that said, Huggins’ current coaching staff is aging and desperately in need of an injection of youth and a breath of fresh air. While Larry Harrison (65 years old), Ron Everhart (58) and Erik Martin (48) are outstanding, experienced assistant coaches, student athletes often relate and respond to coaches closer to their own age. In addition, it would be far easier for a younger coach to form relationships with high school players and recruit them to West Virginia.
I’m certainly not suggesting that any of the assistant coaches be fired, but a younger presence is needed and should be immediately hired. While there are many outstanding young coaches in the country, none would be a better fit for the Mountaineers than former West Virginia guards Joe Mazzulla and Darris Nichols.
Mazzulla, the former Fairmont State Head Coach and current assistant for the Boston Celtics, is exactly what the West Virginia basketball program needs. During his two seasons at Fairmont State, Mazzulla led the Falcons to a 43-17 overall record and earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Mazzulla serving as an assistant in Boston couldn’t be a better situation for a young coach to earn experience. There simply aren’t many better coaches to learn from than Celtics’ Head Coach Brad Stevens. Stevens is one of the most intelligent, respected young coaches in the NBA and he’s a winner. Mazzulla has a history of being around outstanding coaches. Remember, Mazzulla played for West Virginia under John Beilein, another basketball mastermind.
An ideal situation for the basketball program would be to hire Mazzulla in the offseason with the idea being that he would eventually take over as the Head Coach when Bob Huggins decides he wants to retire. No promises should be made to Mazzulla and he should not be given a “coach-in-waiting” tag, but certainly the suggestion could be made that he is joining the staff with the idea of him eventually replacing Huggins.
Mazzulla is passionate, he’s young (30), energetic, smart (named to the Big East Academic All Star team three consecutive years) and, most importantly, he loves the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Darris Nichols, a four year guard at West Virginia under Bob Huggins and John Beilein, helped the Mountaineers to a 26-11 record and a trip to the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 his senior season.
Since then, he has been an assistant coach at Northern Kentucky, Wofford, Louisiana Tech and now Florida. From all accounts, he has been an outstanding addition to every coaching staff that he’s been a part of and has earned an incredible amount of experience since leaving West Virginia University.
While all West Virginia fans wish that Bob Huggins could coach the team forever, that simply cannot happen, and planning for the future right now makes sense. Joe Mazzulla and/or Darris Nichols are the future of the West Virginia basketball program. Before they get head coaching positions elsewhere, they should be brought back to Morgantown to learn under Huggins until he’s ready to retire.