Advertisement

Josh Eilert is looking ahead as he departs WVU following turbulent season as interim coach

Apr. 27—Do not picture Josh Eilert's home as desolate or bare.

There are still pictures on the wall, dishes in the cupboard.

"We've got a few boxes packed up here and there, " Eilert said. "If something were to happen quickly, if we get a call, then we're ready."

There is no other way in Eilert's mind to describe his situation other than to say he's ready.

"The best way I can put it is we don't know what's going to happen next, " he said.

Two months ago, Eilert was the interim head coach of the WVU men's basketball team, a dream opportunity that came with a lot of fine print, so to speak.

"Looking back on it now, I was a little naive when I first took the opportunity, " Eilert said. "I really was ready to make the most of it, and I was thinking 20 wins and going to the NCAA tournament. I really thought we could do all of that, but then all of the challenges just kept coming. It was a tall task."

A task that ended with a 9-23 season, and on April 30, Eilert's contract worth $1.5 million with the school will have officially run its course.

No regrets The news became official once the Mountaineers had returned from the Big 12 tournament in that WVU athletic director Wren Baker announced he was going to begin a search for a full-time replacement for the 2024-25 season.

On March 24, the school hired Darian DeVries and signed him to a five-year deal, essentially ending Eilert's run with the program, although he remained under employment with the school.

"I actually left him a note on the desk saying if he needed anything to give me a call, " Eilert said. "We met later at the Pines (Country Club), he happened to be there the same day as me and he put his hand on my shoulder and introduced himself.

"The next day, we spent about two hours talking. He's level-headed and down to earth. What you see is what you get from him. I think he's going to be a good fit with the school."

Eilert's tenure covered far more than one season as the interim head coach. He spent 17 years in Morgantown, first moving here in 2007 when he came along with Bob Huggins from Kansas State.

In those 17 years, Eilert continued to work his way up, beginning as a video coordinator before being promoted to director of operations and then an assistant coach.

"We've been very fortunate to put down our family's roots here, " Eilert said. "That first year when we played in Phoenix in the Sweet 16, my wife was eight months pregnant with our oldest (Brendan) at the time.

"Our three kids know nothing but Morgantown. The fact that we haven't had to move around a lot, which you see happen a ton in this business, we've been pretty lucky."

Was it unlucky then for Eilert to be a face of the 2023-24 season ? Perhaps, but he doesn't see it that way.

"To those looking in from the outside, I understood how many thought this could be a career killer, that it was a no-win situation, " he said. "To me, honestly, it was a no-brainer."

In the span of eight months, Eilert was charged with keeping the program afloat following the resignation of Huggins after his DUI arrest last June.

Eilert refers to those early days as, "cleaning up the mess, " and if that had been the brunt of the challenges Eilert faced, he believes last season could have been a different story.

But that wasn't the only obstacle thrown Eilert's way, far from it.

Before preseason practices had begun, Jose Perez was removed from the roster for a violation of team rules. Not long after that, point guard Kerr Kriisa was suspended nine games by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits while at Arizona.

RaeQuan Battle was never officially cleared by the NCAA to play. The senior forward only gained that right in December once he became the face of a federal court case that has since become the foundation of the NCAA now allowing all college athletes to transfer multiple times without restrictions.

"It was inevitable, " Eilert said by text message about the NCAA's changes to its transfer policies. "RaeQuan was just the one to be on the front lines."

More adversity came with forward Akok Akok collapsing to the floor during an exhibition game and missing part of the season with a medical condition.

In December, senior forward Jesse Edwards fractured his wrist and didn't return to action until Jan. 27.

Those obstacles were public. Eilert said there were other situations that weren't commonly known.

To this day, he still elects to keep those private, but it all added up.

"I understood that it was important to not publicly shatter the illusions that the public had about the situation, so I never alluded to the complicated reality, " Eilert said. "I also knew that I wanted to protect the program that I had given so much to, the athletes from any more drama and the fans from the turmoil that plagued us every second of my tenure."

Through it all, Eilert continued to push the thought that WVU would not take on the role of a victim, yet the program never truly got out of the starting gate, either.

The 23 losses were the most in one season in school history.

"One thing I want to get out there is I'm not a guy to hold a grudge, " Eilert said. "I have no ill will toward WVU and am very thankful for the opportunity that Wren gave me. He was nothing but great to me, my family and the program.

"I knew the situation going in, especially when interim was up on the big screen in those big letters when we held that first press conference."

Moving on As the month of April is heading into May, Eilert knows the number of college basketball job openings—either as an assistant or otherwise—are getting smaller by the day.

On the record, Eilert says he is still exploring opportunities.

Behind the scenes, Eilert worries that those 23 losses charged to his coaching record obscure his overall resum é.

"I'm not trying to say I am John Wooden or anything like that, but it's not fair to assess me on this one season, " Eilert said. "To those on the outside, I can see how it looks this way, but I'm not sure if I'm being judged by 23 losses to those inside basketball.

"If I am judged that way, it's got to come with some sort of asterisk, because we were kind of against the eight ball the entire season. I believe most people recognize that."

Eilert's coaching staff of Da'Sean Butler, Alex Ruoff and Jordan McCabe are also still searching for their next opportunity.

"Da'Sean is the one I fear the most I left hanging, " Eilert said. "He came here on a leap of faith."

Eilert is 43. Minus some time spent putting his college degree of marketing and finance from Kansas State to use working as a loan officer, the bulk of his life has centered around basketball.

After such a frustrating year, why not simply say that's enough ?

"In college basketball, the highs are so high and the lows can be really low, but all of it brings you in, " Eilert said. "It's like a drug, it's addictive. My passion is with college basketball, and I'm not ready to give up on it."

His dream remains to once again be a head coach, a real one and not an interim.

"From the start of last season, we spent more time salvaging relationships than anything else, " Eilert said. "We didn't really have the luxury of building from the ground up. That would be the dream for me is to one day take over a program and have that type of opportunity to really build something.

"We got to bring in some different pieces, but from Day 1, it was more about damage control. I'd like to one day get that chance where it's just about basketball."