West Virginia basketball promotes Josh Eilert to interim coach after Bob Huggins' abrupt exit

One week after longtime head coach Bob Huggins stepped down, West Virginia tapped Josh Eilert as the interim basketball coach, athletic director Wren Baker announced on Saturday. Eilert currently serves as an assistant coach.

Huggins, who abruptly resigned hours after a drunk driving arrest, was named the Mountaineers head coach in 2007. The promotion gives Eilert his first head coaching opportunity.

Baker said in made more sense for the basketball program to select an internal candidate given the difficulty of conducting a broad search during the summer.

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Bob Huggins vs Iowa State

FILE – West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins watches from the bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

“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.

“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.”

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In accordance with NCAA rules, WVU players have 30 days to decide whether they want to enter the transfer portal. The athletes would have already entered the portal still have the option to return to Morgantown for the fall.

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.

Bob Huggins vs Maryland

Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Legacy Arena at the BJCC on March 16, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“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.

Bob Huggins coaches during the Big 12 Tournament

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins watches the run of play during the Big12 Tournament game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the West Virginia Mountaineers on Thursday, March 9, 2023, at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, MO.   (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Huggins was the head coach at his alma mater for 16 years. He previously served as an assistant coach at West Virginia in the late 1970s.

Huggins was charged with driving under the influence in Pittsburgh on June 16. 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.

Last month, Huggins agreed to a three-game suspension, a $1 million salary reduction and sensitivity training for using the slur during an interview with Cincinnati radio station WLW.

Huggins pleaded no contest to driving under the influence in a suburb of Cincinnati and was ordered to attend a three-day intervention program. The University of Cincinnati, where Huggins served as the head coach at the time, suspended him indefinitely with pay and told Huggins to rehabilitate himself.

He was fired a year later amid a power struggle with the school’s president as well as the aftermath of the DUI arrest.

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Huggins entered the Basketball Hall of Fame last September. In 41 seasons, his teams have gone to 25 NCAA Tournaments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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