The Search For West Virginia’s Next Head Coach Heating Up

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Despite the online rumors that Drake head coach Darian DeVries will soon be named the next head coach at West Virginia University, I don’t quite buy that yet. Yes, DeVries has met with WVU officials and there is mutual interest there, but James Madison head coach Mark Byington has also met with Wren Baker and there is major interest on both sides there, too.

Byington led his James Madison team to an impressive upset victory over Wisconsin last night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, and his team looked hungry and talented. James Madison plays Duke tomorrow (Sunday) evening in the 2nd round, and perhaps the results of that game will play a part in Wren Baker’s decision on who will be the next head coach at West Virginia.

Darian DeVries has had a more consistent, impressive career at Drake, but if Byington takes James Madison on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this year, that may not longer be the case. Both have been terrific, but here’s a side-by-side comparison of their young careers:

DeVries: 150-55 (.732 winning percentage) overall, 78-33 in the Missouri Valley Conference, 3 NCAA Tournament appearances (1-3), 2 time MVC Coach of the Year

Byington: 219-136 (.617 winning percentage) overall, 81-35 at James Madison (.698 winning percentage), 41-23 in the Sun Belt Conference, 1 NCAA Tournament appearance (1-0), 2021 CAA Coach of the Year

DeVries has a clear advantage in terms of long-term success, but Byington led James Madison to a 31-3 record this season and has beaten the likes of Michigan State and Wisconsin, and if you watched his team play last night, it’s clear that he has his players ready to win.

In addition, according to multiple reports, DeVries is the current favorite to land the vacant head coaching position at Michigan. DeVries is a life-long Midwesterner (was born in Iowa, went to college at Northern Iowa, was an assistant for 17 years at Creighton (Nebraska) and is now coaching at Drake in Iowa), and a move to Michigan makes a whole lot more sense than a huge leap to West Virginia. Remember, Wren Baker stated clearly that he’s looking for a “cultural fit” and there’s no doubt that Byington fits better culturally. Byington, who was born and raised in Virginia, is very familiar with the area, and has recruiting ties in the DMV/Washington DC area, as well as all the way down the east coast to Atlanta, Georgia.

Either candidate would be an outstanding hire and future leader of the Mountaineers’ basketball program, and the next few days will be very telling. The online rumors and speculation is that Darian DeVries will be the next head coach, but I believe it’s a bit premature to say that yet. DeVries could very well be poached by Michigan or even Oklahoma State, and according to our sources, Wren Baker absolutely loves Mark Byington. Having said that, Baker should have a decision made by early next week (hearing Monday or Tuesday) after he does his due diligence and makes the very important decision of hiring the program’s next basketball coach.