The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 3, 2011

Coaching could be next step for WVU’s Mazzulla

Perhaps we will soon see Joe Mazzulla in a pullover, walking the sidelines as a coach.

And it all makes perfect sense.

“I got a coaching offer so I’m kind of weighing my options on which route to take,” the former WVU guard said. “Either jump into the coaching world right away or continue to play (professionally). It’s a decision I’ll have to make in the next month or so.”

The senior, known as a gritty player, said the offer is at a NCAA Division II school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Mazzulla was in town with teammate John Flowers, visiting his friend and WVU graduate Gerald Hayden, who is a local attorney in Beckley.

They stayed for the weekend and were at Calacino’s Saturday, where owner Jerry Zaferatos unveiled the “Mazzulla” sandwich.

“It would be great to get the foot in the door early,” Mazzulla said of the coaching opportunity. “I really wasn’t expecting it, but it’s something that I have to consider.”

Mazzulla’s father Dan coached basketball in high school. And he has WVU coach Bob Huggins as another role model.

“That’s why I look up to Huggs so much; we kind of have the same personality,” Mazzulla said. “We have the same drive, the same passion. That’s why we got along so well. We have the same personality, and I’m sure I’ll adopt some of what he does.”

Although a John Beilein recruit at WVU, Mazzulla, who averaged 7.7 points and 4.2 assists his senior year, made a commitment to Huggins to stay the course when Huggins took over the program, and he is glad he did.

“It was a great experience,” said Mazzulla, who finished his career with exactly 700 points. “He really challenges you as a player and a person and really makes you become a man. It was a great time.”

Mazzulla, the East Regional MVP last year after a 17-point performance in a 73-66 win over Kentucky that sent WVU to the Final Four, said his career highlight will always be WVU’s run to that Final Four, where the Mountaineers lost to eventual national champion Duke.

“I think that whole month of March, where we really got a connection with the people of West Virginia, that whole month was a highlight,” Mazzulla said. “You don’t get a chance to do something like that, and the way people got behind us, it was a great thing.”

This season, fighting through adversity, the Mountaineers (21-12) lost in the second round to Kentucky, 71-63, despite a 20-point game from Mazzulla.

“That’s something that Huggs strives on,” Mazzulla said. “With his back against the wall, he always comes out on top. We went on a great run there at the end, and unfortunately, it didn’t go as long as we had hoped it would.”

Hayden was happy to have Mazzulla and Flowers in town for the weekend.

“He’s a very classy kid,” Hayden said. “He’s someone who is very good with people. And he’s a smart kid. He understands what this whole thing means to the state. They don’t get down here much.”

Mazzulla said, “Gerald kind of stressed the importance of what we are to the state, and I know there are a lot of people in Beckley who don’t get a chance to come to Morgantown. We just took a weekend to come down and pay our respects. It’s great. People want to thank us, but really, we want to thank them and show them some appreciation.”

Flowers agreed.

“It’s kind of nice to get out and meet the people of West Virginia,” Flowers said. “It’s been great. These people have always been great to us. We just want to say thanks. I love the people of West Virginia. They helped my college experience be even greater than it would have been.”

Flowers, who was second in the Big East in blocked shots (2.2 per game), said he hopes to get a shot at playing professionally.

“Hopefully, I can get some workouts for the NBA and show them I can play,” said Flowers, who averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. “Or just go overseas.”

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com

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