Morgantown, West Virginia – Today was a very big day for Darris Nichols. Nichols, 34, landed his first head coaching position and it just happens to be in his hometown of Radford, Virginia.
“It’s great to be home,” Nichols said in his introductory press conference. “It’s special to be able to come back. This is truly a homecoming for me.”
However, Radford is not Nichols’ final destination as a head coach. Radford is an outstanding first job for a young coach to get experience to prepare for a big-time job like replacing Bob Huggins at his alma mater, West Virginia University.
When Darris Nichols returned to the WVU Coliseum as an assistant coach for the Florida Gators this past season, it was a really big deal for him.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Just for the simple fact that a lot of the people on the other side of the court, on the other bench, are people who have helped me get to where I am today. To me, that is a homecoming.”
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. He left West Virginia as one of the five winningest players in school history.
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 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, according to the Florida basketball official website. He was also rated the #2 assistant coach in the SEC in a Stadium poll of coaches around the league.
Although West Virginians would love to have Bob Huggins roaming the sidelines for the Mountaineers forever, that simply cannot happen, and a post-Huggins plan needs to be in place for when he decides to retire.
Darris Nichols is the obvious, perfect replacement for Huggins in a few years. Getting experience as a head coach at Radford for a couple seasons will allow for a smooth transition when Huggins decides to call it quits. Huggins will likely take a role in the athletic department and will have a say in who his successor will be, and he is extremely impressed by Nichols.
“Can’t express how happy and proud I am of Coach Nichols,” Huggins said after today’s announcement. “There’s not a more deserving person In the game. Radford got a great one!”
In a few years, West Virginia University should bring him back to his other home, Morgantown, West Virginia, as the new head coach of the Mountaineers.