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An overview of the DeVries’ destination

WVU logo West Virginia University is the chosen destination for Darian and Tucker DeVries. The two will look to carry West Virginia’s men’s basketball team to success, something they did for the Bulldogs. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On March 24, 2024, Darian DeVries signed to become the 23rd head coach in the history of the West Virginia University (WVU) Mountaineers men’s basketball program, replacing interim head coach Josh Eilert.

Eilert had been elevated to the interim role after legendary head coach Bob Huggins was fired from WVU following a DUI arrest in 2023.

Despite never having won a national championship, West Virginia is a historically successful basketball program. They have appeared in the NCAA Tournament 31 times, reached the Sweet 16 11 times and played in the Final Four twice, falling just short of the title in 1959 and, most recently, 2010. 

The Mountaineers have competed in a variety of conferences throughout their history, most notably the Atlantic 10, the Big East and their current conference, the Big 12. Despite historical success, however, Darian is taking control of a WVU program that has fallen on hard times.

In the past six years, West Virginia has only secured a winning record in Big 12 conference play once, coming in the 2020-21 season which concluded in a 75-72 loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This past season, WVU finished dead last in the Big 12. 

It is now up to Darian to restore the Mountaineers to the standard that Bob Huggins set: hard-nosed, gritty basketball with consistent NCAA Tournament berths, occasionally making a deep run to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight or Final Four.  

It will not be easy. The foundation for success in college basketball is consistently great in-conference play. Unfortunately for West Virginia, they play in what is almost universally regarded as the most difficult conference in college basketball. 

The Big 12 is a true gauntlet; the conference contains traditional college basketball powerhouses such as Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State, who are joined by new, hungry programs like Houston, a No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 also sent a country-best eight teams to March Madness. And the conference is only getting tougher; following the dissolution of the Pac-12 conference, Arizona and Colorado — both teams which won games in this year’s NCAA Tournament — are joining the Big 12, accompanied by Utah and Arizona State. 

All in all, top to bottom, the Big 12 is a ridiculously competitive conference. In terms of the actual play, perhaps the most defining characteristic of the conference is its toughness. No conference in the country can boast more physical basketball than the Big 12. If your team isn’t physical and filled with excellent athletes who can defend, you will not be successful in the Big 12. 

It is here where the biggest challenge will lie for both Darian and son Tucker DeVries. All coaches across the country assert their toughness, and Darian is no different. On many occasions at Drake, Darian praised the toughness and tenacity of his teams; it is undeniable that his teams at Drake were physical and tenacious.  

However, the difference in the athletic ability of the players between the Missouri Valley Conference and the Big 12 is gulf-sized; there is a reason why only three mid-major programs have ever won the national title. Darian, now granted the ability at WVU to pursue more athletic players, must establish a similar culture in those players that he did in Des Moines. 

Meanwhile, for Tucker, the physicality of the Big 12 will certainly be a learning curve. Kansas, led by perhaps the greatest active college basketball head coach in Bill Self, and Houston, led by excellent coach Kelvin Sampson, are much different beasts than Missouri State and Northern Iowa. 

All things considered, the expectations for the DeVries family in Morgantown should be tempered. Mountaineer fans cannot expect to instantly become contenders in a loaded Big 12. If West Virginia finishes in the top half of the conference, it will be a massive success. 

Regardless of the results of this year, however, West Virginia has their coach of the future. Only time will tell if he’ll be successful in the Big 12. 

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1 Comment

  1. Fred Zara April 25, 2024

    Let’s stop over-rating Huggins years at WVU !! He was mediocre, at best, in conference games and HORRIBLE in road games !! …… poor judge of talent or just a poor recruiter ! One stint in 16 years where he had Carters and Miles and press Virginia for a few years . Other than those teams, he was down right EMBARRASSING most years ! That’s his legacy! Wishing Devries a ton of success and YEARS of excitement for Mountaineer fans !!

    Reply

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