By Dave Morrison
West Virginia assistant basketball head coach Billy Hahn has been around the coaching block. A few times.
He’s been a head coach — at Ohio University and La Salle. He’s been an assistant head coach at Maryland, his alma mater. He’s had a handful of assistant jobs, including the one he’s at now.
He’s made tournament runs, including the Mountaineers’ run to the Final Four in 2010.
But never before has he seen as fine a coaching job as the one turned in by Bob Huggins last year.
“People have to understand that Bob Huggins is a Hall of Fame guy,” Hahn said Thursday at The Resort at Glade Springs during the Mountaineer Caravan stop. “The guy wins every year; he wins with every team he has. What we did with this year’s team was absolutely amazing.”
n The entire 2010 recruiting class was wiped out.
David Nyarsuk barely missed on his English test score, and he is now a key piece at 2011 national runner-up Mountain State here in Beckley.
Kevin Noreen showed flashes until an injury shut him down before the midpoint of the season.
Darrius Curry never made it, as a medical condition shut him down.
And, of course, Logan’s Noah Cottrill had his problems and was eventually released from the team.
That’s four players. And four casualties, all for different reasons.
n Dan Jennings quit during the South Florida game.
n Shooter Casey Mitchell was suspended for a spell.
“That was one of the best coaching jobs I’ve ever seen,” Hahn said. “I told people after the season, ‘Can you just name me two, three, even four coaches across America that could take our team and actually win 22 games and go to the second round of the NCAA Tournament?’ I don’t know who those coaches are. I don’t know if they exist.
“The kind of job Huggs did this year was absolutely amazing.”
Next year’s team will feature seven new faces, including six freshmen.
“You can’t make judgments right now,” Hahn said. “I always tell people, ‘Freshmen, you know how good they are when they become sophomores and juniors.’ It’s a pretty good group on paper, and hopefully, we can continue to put the pieces together and be able to make a run at it again.”
WVU will be helped by a trip overseas in August — giving the new players time to come together.
That and the fact that Kevin Jones decided against trying for an NBA career — he had put his name in the mix but hadn’t hired an agent — and will return next season can’t hurt the young team.
“Huggs said during the entire thing that Kevin Jones is a smart kid,” Hahn said. “Huggs pretty much knew he would make the right decision. He tested the waters a little bit, and he found out he probably wasn’t going to be a first-round pick. If you aren’t going to be a first-round pick, there’s no reason to come out early.”
Only first-round picks get guaranteed contracts.
Then, of course, it was recently announced that Dalton Pepper will not return, transferring closer to home (Temple) to be close to his ill father. Recently, he had resigned his scholarship papers (they are renewed on a yearly basis).
“A very sad situation for everybody involved,” Hahn said. “It’s discouraging to be honest with you. He’s going to stay home to be close to his dad who just had heart surgery. You can’t blame him for that. He was likely going to start and play 30 minutes for us. He was light years ahead of the new kids. It’s just sad to see him go.”
But, as Hahn knows, you never count out a Bob Huggins team.
— E-mail: demorrison@