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WVU on a national search for a men's hoops coach, Josh Eilert will stay for duration of contract

Mar. 13—MORGANTOWN — Wren Baker took the first step Wednesday, knowing all too well he has several more to go to solidify the WVU men's basketball coaching situation.

A day after the Mountaineers were eliminated from the Big 12 tournament, the WVU athletic director announced that interim coach Josh Eilert will eventually be replaced, as the search has already begun for a full-time successor.

Baker said he informed WVU players as such upon their return to Morgantown after the Big 12 tournament.

"First thing I want to do is thank Josh Eilert, " Baker began his press conference. "Josh is an incredible human being and I think he did a real valiant job leading this program during some very turbulent times and through some unprecedented waters."

In his one interim season, Eilert finished 9-23, including a 90-85 loss against Cincinnati on Tuesday that brought an end to the season.

He took over the program in June, following the resignation of Bob Huggins, and not only had to rebuild part of the roster, but then navigated a difficult season in which the entire roster was only available for the final 12 games of the season.

"He has my utmost respect, " Baker continued. "He displayed class, integrity and professionalism. I think the world of him."

Baker confirmed Eilert will remain at WVU through the end of his contract, which expires April 30. Baker said Eilert would help with the transition period once a new coach is hired.

As for that timeline, Baker gave no hard dates, noting that many candidates will be coaching in the NCAA tournament.

Without exactly saying it, Baker did everything but officially remove Huggins' name from consideration.

"I understand why that question would come, " Baker said. "Here's where you can say my mind set is: I have great respect, admiration and appreciation for what coach did here. I've said that multiple times.

"I think you can still be respectful of the past and still be focused on the future. Where my mind set is right now is being focused on the future. That probably doesn't answer that question directly, but you can probably read into that."

Baker threw out no other names of possible hires, but said he's already spent months researching different candidates.

"I like to keep a spreadsheet on most sports going anyway, " Baker said. "Usually you have to be ready to do a search, because you're winning, and you may lose your coach for that reason or you're doing a search for the other reason.

"This one, because we had plenty of time, I've gone through every school in the country and I've looked at their staffs. From there, it's really digging into the data. I'm a big fan of analytics, KenPom. I've gone back through the five-year history of every team that's currently in the Big 12 and who has been successful and what they were good at. All of our candidates, I know their (analytics) as well. Because this timeline has been extended, we really have done that."

What's not on those spreadsheets is how some of WVU's top candidates may also be candidates at other schools, too.

Ohio State has an opening for a head coach, so does Louisville. Those are two high-major jobs at schools with deep pockets and great basketball tradition.

DePaul is searching for a coach. Other major job openings may become available in the coming days.

"There could be some overlap in candidates, " Baker admitted. "I think you work through that. I don't believe there is only one candidate in the world who can do your job. Do I track those other jobs that are open and try to know where they are at ? A little bit, but I don't let that interfere in my process."

Baker said he was not interested into getting into a bidding war with other schools.

"I guess the best way to put it is I'm not someone who wants to get into multiple bids on a house. If I know it's a multiple-bid situation, I'll just bow out. I'm looking to get the right house and the right deal. We're not going to let what other people are doing affect our process and I think we'll still come out with a really good coach."