Morgantown, West Virginia – After recently signing a long-term contract extension, 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.
None of the current assistant coaches should be fired, but a younger presence is needed and should be immediately hired as an assistant/”head coach in waiting.” While there are many outstanding young coaches in the country, none would be a better fit for the Mountaineers than his former players Joe Mazzulla, Darris Nichols, Da’Sean Butler or Alex Ruoff.
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 having served as an assistant in Boston couldn’t have been a better situation for a young coach to earn experience. Mazzulla also led the Boston Celtics as the head coach of the NBA Summer League.
Although Mazzulla has stated publicly that he would like to stay in the NBA, replacing the legendary Bob Huggins at his alma mater would likely be too much to pass up on.
Nichols, a former point guard for the Mountaineers from 2004-2008, averaged 10.7 points and 3.2 assists as a senior for a West Virginia team that went 26-11 in Bob Huggins’ first season in Morgantown.
Nichols is now the head coach at Radford University.
Huggins remembers Nichols fondly. “He was a coach on the floor,” Huggins said of his former player. “Darris was like the quarterback on our team. He got the ball where it was supposed to go when it was supposed to get there and defensively he kinda help put guys where they were supposed to be.”
Nichols was an outstanding player, but he’s probably an even better coach.
“Well, I was honestly a little surprised he didn’t keep playing for a little longer. He came in and said he wanted to be a coach, and that’s the direction he wanted to go. He’s obviously done a great job with it,” Huggins said.
Nichols, a Radford, Virginia native, earned a spot in ESPN.com’s 40 Under 40 in the summer of 2020, rated #17 on the national list that included both head coaches and assistant coaches while he was an assistant at Florida.
Following his legendary career at West Virginia, Butler played several years professionally overseas before retiring last season. Now, Butler is an assistant coach at Wheeling University.
Although he would need several more years of experience as an assistant before being considered as a head coach, he is an extremely intelligent basketball mind and is an absolute legend in Morgantown.
Bob Huggins once said that Alex Ruoff would make an outstanding head coach. However, Ruoff, 35, is still pursuing playing opportunities overseas and has never coached. With that said, don’t be surprised if he gets into coaching and has an opportunity on the West Virginia basketball staff in the very near future.