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THE PRESS BOX FOR JAN. 9

January 9, 2019
BY ED PARSONS - STAFF WRITER (EPARSONS@TYLERSTARNEWS.COM) , Tyler Star News

The Mountaineers lost a good coach in Dana Holgersen when he recently signed as head coach at the University of Houston. Holgerson was offensive coordinator at Houston from 2008-2009. Some will question my statement that Holgerson is a good coach. I might add that he may be a great coach! To back that up, I have to point out that Houston knows Holgerson; they have seen him up close, and there is no doubt that he fits into their program. Listen to what they had to say:

"We felt like it was time to take it to the next level," University of Houston Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta said. "We wanted somebody that had the leadership skills to win a lot of games." It also must be noted that they are willing to pay Holgersen a whopping $20 million five-year contract, and remember, that's to coach in a non-power American Athletic Conference. Yes, I'm sure he will win a lot of games as the highest paid coach ever of a non-power conference.

The whole deal, however, boils down to one fact: he just wasn't getting the job done at West Virginia, and it was time to go. At 47-years-old, Holgersen left WVU after eight seasons. He finished at WVU with a 61-41 record. It's evident that Holgersen was no longer happy here. In fact, he said so himself. Well, as most people would say, the feeling is mutual...

I truly believe he is a good coach. Some say he at least waited until after he went camping. While he did wait until he lost another bowl game, it was, again, all about him. He still came out a winner. The wait saved him a million or two in buy-out money.

Hopefully we won't have to watch another coach running up and down the sideline stomping his feet, hanging on for dear life to his can of Red Bull. Holgersen was a pretty popular guy his first few years, but as most found out, popularity doesn't win ball games. Bad news became good news to most loyal Mountaineer fans.

A new era is about to begin, and I think West Virginia will be well satisfied. Not sure how the first couple years will play out; however, my suspicion is we will do very well from the get-go. Two days after Holgersen signed with Houston, West Virginia announced it was hiring Neil Brown, a Kentucky native who has led Troy University to three consecutive Sun Belt Conference 10-win seasons. During that time he has led Troy to victories over LSU and Nebraska.

How will he fit in with the Mountaineers? Coming up with Neil Brown in their first real search for a football coach since Don Nehlen's retirement should prove to be an A-PLUS decision. At 38-years-old, Brown may be everything West Virginia needs to elevate to the next level in the Big 12 Conference. A young, up-and-coming coach with a detail-oriented approach to coaching, along with an infectious personality, seems to make him the right choice.

Coach Brown posted a 4-8 record in his first season at Troy, Alabama and then quickly turned things around.

The team won at least 10 games in the next three seasons, including three straight bowls games.

He also did something Holgersen couldn't seem to do: winning over tough competition. Among those wins was a 24-21 victory over the LSU Tigers to end their 46-game non-conference home winning streak, along with a 24-19 win over Nebraska in 2018.

Those wins demonstrate Brown's ability to lead the Mountaineers to victory in difficult places. He is known as a great strategist, who runs his own version of the Air-Raid while also running the option pitch and misdirection, plus cutback runs. His defensive schemes have also put others on notice, as they finished in the top 50 the past three years and was ranked 17, in 2017.

I believe the change is going to be a positive one for both the University, and for the fans throughout the state and country. One thing is certain, there will be excitement in the air, come game day in Morgantown next season.

West Virginia basketball is a tradition to anyone in the state with basketball knowledge. This is the 110th season and 116th year overall for basketball, beginning in 1903. The Mountaineers own a 1,763-1,083 all-time record, ranking the Mountaineers 22nd in wins among all Division 1 schools. That is pretty impressive. Coach Huggins has been a huge part of it, as a player and now as coach.

I am sure he knows more about the game than all of the sideline coaches put together. Often we look at what happened and question a certain call. You may wonder why someone is getting so much playing time and not producing. In our minds, we might question why someone is sitting on the bench. Now, think a minute. Huggins is the seventh all-time leading basketball coach in NCAA Division 1, and the third winningest active Division 1 coach, behind Mike Krzyewski and Jim Boeheim. He's eligible to be inducted into the Class of 2019 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Under Coach Huggins, WVU has been ranked 99 weeks in the AP poll, including 37 weeks in the AP Top 10. This is more than any other coach in school history. I hope no one gets the crazy idea that he needs to go. I look for the Mountaineers to be at the top of their game in football and basketball in the next two to three years. Just like everything in life, you have your ups and downs. West Virginia sports is no different.

The Mountaineers' win over a small university like Lehigh was not much to brag about, but a win is a win, and we'll take it. They followed that up with their opening Big 12 game versus Texas Tech, only to fall 62-59 in a sloppy-played matchup by both teams. Tech came into the contest with only one loss and left with one. In my humble opinion, West Virginia should have come out on top. I can't figure out how a Division 1 school can go 20 minutes and not score a point, miss 14 of 32 foul shots, and still only lose by three to a one-loss team. I think I know the answer, but I'll hold it back for now.

Huggins' team then took on a good Texas team and played them tight, the whole game, on the Longhorns' floor before finally falling in the end by seven. The Mountaineers looked pretty good at times, and when they get Konate back, they may suprise a lot of people. Culver and Konate together will be a handful for any team. Get the guard play straightened out, and things will quickly turn around.

Harmon Killebew was a baseball hall of fame slugger who used to tell his mom he was going outside to sharpen his skills. He spent a great deal of time in the yard playing ball. He had three brothers. He said his father would play ball with Harmon and his brothers in the yard. One time Harmon's mother came out on the porch and yelled at his dad. She said that they were tearing up the grass. Mr. Killebrew calmly said to his wife, "We're not raising grass; we're raising boys."

That goes a long way when thinking how things are today. Probably had a lot to do with how Harmon turned out. At a local ball game last week, I saw a player touch his chest a couple times and say, "My bad!" When I was playing and we messed up, we used to say, "My fault." I read somewhere that, "My fault" and "My bad" mean the same, unless you're at a funeral.

One thing that I believe is troublesome to most high school sports fans in the state is how a small school, and enrollment-wise - I mean - very small, can floor a girls basketball team that can beat top-ranked triple A schools by 20-50 points. As was reported in a local daily paper last fall, concerning single A football, there's no need to have the championship game. "We already know the winner." I think the same is true for single A girls basketball this season. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com

 
 
 

 

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