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Could Getting Fired Be The Best Thing That Happened to Ron Everhart?

The relationship between Bob Huggins and Ron Everhart has been mutually beneficial

The relationship between Bob Huggins and Ron Everhart has been mutually beneficial Photo by Blue Gold

As a Duquesne fan, you don’t have to watch much West Virginia basketball to see the mark of Ron Everhart all over it. I watched the last seven minutes of the AP-ranked #18 Mountaineers win against NC State and that was all it took. I tuned in just in time to see a WVU free throw make at the line and then WVU brought the pressure with three defenders leading the full court press. While they mostly held it together late, the NC State Wolfpack turned it over twenty- three times, eight more than their next highest total of team giveaways in the relatively young season.

The statistics back up my observations. According to Team Rankings, the Mountaineers are playing faster, averaging 72.8 possessions per game. That was good for 31st in the country following the NC State victory and amounts to an over two possession increase from last year. They’re leading the nation in turnovers created per game at 22.8, an increase of 10 per game from last year. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly six a game more than VCU and their Havoc defense. Those turnovers aren’t just contingent on tempo either. West Virginia is also leading the nation in turnover percentage per play. They’re third in fouls drawn.

Of course, it’s not just the good things turning up Ron Everhart in the stat sheet. WVU is also above 225th in effective field goal percentage and 318th in defensive rebounds. The Mountaineers are giving up some easy baskets by hedging for a turnover in the half court offense. Likewise, they’re out of position for rebounds due to overly aggressive play. Of course, the risks are clearly paying off as the West Virginia head into Christmas break 11-1 with wins over the aforementioned NC State as well as reigning national champion UConn. Their lone loss came by one point to LSU.

By the description above, it’s easy to forget that Ron Everhart is not the head coach of West Virginia. That title belongs to Bob Huggins, whom you may remember from his two Final Four Appearances, his five conference championships and 750 career wins. Huggins is first and foremost known for his recruiting chops, but you don’t make it that far without knowing a thing or two about x’s and o’s. There were some noticeable differences between Everhart’s system at Duquesne and the one at WVU. What stood out? They run a half court offensive set and they don’t use a power forward at the center position.


Everhart grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia about a half an hour drive from the WVU Coliseum, but his basketball career has taken him far and wide. His playing days took him to Blacksburg, Virginia where he spent four years with the Virginia Tech Hokies. He eventually became captain of a team that went to the NCAA tournament. He went directly into coaching after graduation, finding himself on staff as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech in 1985-86 under Bobby Cremins. First year VMI coach Joe Cantafio hired him as an assistant. Cantafio managed to kick around the Southern League for eleven years despite losing 89 more games than he won and failing to post a winning record in a single season. Everhart moved on after only two of those losing seasons and landed a job at Tulane with Perry Clark. He spent six years there. During their tenure, the Green Wave made its first two NCAA appearances in school history and a third the year after Everhart left to assume the head coaching position at McNeese St. Clark went on to become the head coach at the University of Miami and Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, but never recreated the success he found in New Orleans.

Just nine years after his playing days ended, Everhart found himself with the keys to his own Division I program and his quick rise through the assistant coaching ranks paid off. He won eleven games his first season before going a combined 33-24 his next two. He had a bumpy road the rest of his time in the Southland Conference that ultimately ended with a regular season conference championship and a new job in Boston with Northeastern University. In his first year with the Huskies, he registered just seven wins. The next season that number rose to 19. Everhart managed to bring some exceptional talent to America East by recruiting Juan Jose Barea (Dallas Mavericks point guard) and Shawn James (Euroleague veteran center and NCAA leading shot blocker) . He also gathered an impressive coaching staff that included two coaches who would go on to land head coaching gigs in the BCS ranks, Richard Pitino and Frank Martin.

Now known for his fast turnarounds, Everhart took over for a long suffering Duquesne program and in spite of a number of early setbacks (including the shooting of five players following an on campus dance), Everhart managed a winning season in his second year and the school’s second NIT appearance in thirty-two years in his second season. He earned an extension and had the Dukes and his career seemingly headed in the right directions. He even interviewed for a head coaching position at Penn St. However, high-profile transfers and late season collapses riddled his tenure as coach and he was fired after six seasons. A letter to the board cited issues withuneven recruiting, large turnovers among his student athletes and coaching staff, an overall average win-loss record and a losing record in the A10, poor performance in close games, the predictable collapse of our teams late in the season, and a general disorganization and lack of communication” and led to his dismissal. Other concerns expressed by people close to the program were his inability to evaluate and develop big men and the lack of structure in his half court offense.


Luckily for Everhart, Huggins was a personal friend and professional ally, and was in need of an assistant up the Monongahela River in Morgantown during Everhart’s time of need. For the first time in his career, Everhart has found his way on to the sidelines with an elite college basketball coach as an assistant. While he had a year under Cremins, he didn’t exactly spend much time working closely with the great tacticians of the game. He has a rare opportunity to fill the holes in his knowledge base by learning from a coach like Huggins, while still being young enough to anticipate another career as a head coach. Likewise, Huggins has the rare opportunity to have an assistant with eighteen years of head coaching experience under his belt.

What we’re seeing in the current WVU system is Everhart’s plan run to perfection. The team is applying pressure, generating turnovers and offense off of them. However, Huggins has been able to add his own twists. There is a half court system less reliant on threes. There are a number of interior players who can post or face defenders and even knock down a jump shot. They have a fairly experienced lineup with a couple of highly regarded young guns mixed in. They also have the depth to ensure that their best players aren’t getting worn down by the pace. Everhart might be running the system, but Huggins is filling in the gaps and we’re seeing the Dukes’ old system optimized.

Presumably, Everhart is taking what he’s learning and internalizing it for when he will one day become the head man again. It’s likely that Everhart will lead another program and it could very easily be at WVU as Huggins’ replacement. He climbed through the assistant coaching ranks quickly and never got the opportunity to coach under someone great. While his reputation was damaged following his dismissal at Duquesne, he’ll easily fix issues cited at the time of his dismissal from Duquesne by keeping the changes Huggins has made. Taking what he’s learned, he could come out of his firing a better coach. He now has a chance to take a step back and expose himself to different tactical ideas that could help him achieve greater success with the same philosophy. Everhart’s career didn’t end at Duquesne. It may have been given a license to grow.

Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.