WVU names Eilert as interim coach to replace Huggins

Published 8:51 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Associated Press

Assistant Josh Eilert has been selected as the interim coach at West Virginia, punctuating a hectic week after Bob Huggins resigned following a drunken driving arrest.

Eilert, who has no previous head coaching experience, emerged as athletic director Wren Baker’s choice to shepherd the team through a challenging offseason stretch. Baker stayed in-house and chose not to hire a full-time coach given the limited options of conducting a nationwide search in June and the urgency of finding someone — anyone — with the start of practice only four months away.

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“I spoke with knowledgeable basketball people around the country over the last week, including coaches, professional basketball executives and others of whom I trust to identify a strong group of candidates to speak with,” Baker said in a statement announcing the move Saturday night. “Ultimately what I came to recognize, was that conducting this search in late June was difficult for many of our candidates and also it put our talented student-athletes at a real disadvantage. With that said, we will conduct our national search at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season.”

Under NCAA rules, West Virginia’s players have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal, and several apparently have chosen to do so, although they have the option to return. Eilert could be the glue that keeps together an upper class-heavy roster built largely through transfers.

“Josh Eilert is the right person to lead our men’s basketball program next season,” Baker said. “He has been an important part of our success, and he has displayed great integrity, work ethic and dedication. He has been involved in all facets of our program during his time on the basketball staff, and he has earned this opportunity to coach our team on an interim basis for the 2023-24 season.”

The 43-year-old Eilert first joined Huggins as a graduate assistant at Kansas State in 2006, then followed him to West Virginia in 2007. Eilert has had a variety of roles with the Mountaineers, including video coordinator and director of basketball operations, before being named an assistant coach in July 2022.

“I would like to thank Wren Baker, President Gee, Rob Alsop, Steve Uryasz and the rest of our administration for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to lead our storied Mountaineer basketball program,” Eilert said. “I would also like to thank Coach Huggins for retaining me on his staff at K-State in 2006 and for bringing me to West Virginia in 2007. I’ve learned so much from Coach Huggins, and it was an honor to work for a Hall of Fame coach for the last 17 years.”

Among others who were linked to the opening were UAB coach and former Huggins assistant Andy Kennedy, and former West Virginia and Michigan coach John Beilein.

Huggins had assembled arguably one of the better recruiting classes in the country from the portal for next season, including Syracuse center Jesse Edwards, Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa, Manhattan guards Jose Perez and Omar Silverio, and Montana State guard RaeQuan Battle.

Huggins’ 16-year run as West Virginia’s coach ended with his resignation on June 17. The day before, he was charged with driving under the influence in Pittsburgh. According to a criminal complaint, Huggins initially believed he was in Columbus, Ohio. A breath test determined Huggins’ blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 3 in Pittsburgh.

Huggins also pleaded no contest in 2004 to driving under the influence when he was the coach at Cincinnati. He was fired a year later amid a power struggle with the school’s president as well as the aftermath of the DUI arrest.

His resignation at West Virginia came a month after the university suspended him for three games for using an anti-gay slur while also denigrating Catholics during a radio interview.

The 69-year-old Huggins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last September.