Former WVU Assistant Calhoun Heads Rebuilding Project
MORGANTOWN,W.Va. — It’s homecoming for Jerrod Calhoun, but there will be no parades.
Calhoun comes into the Coliseum at 4:00 p.m. Saturday with his Youngstown State Penguins to face his former boss, Bob Huggins, before a crowd that’s sure to include a number of friends and former players of his at Fairmont State.
This is a business trip, yes, but it’s not one of those that you expect to be celebrating. Calhoun brings a 3-5 record and a most recent 20-point loss to Robert Morris with him, but Huggins doesn’t believe he’s facing an unwinnable situation as he tries to rebuild the Youngstown State program as he did in Fairmont.
Right from the start, Huggins saw something in Calhoun that reminded him of himself.
He worked hard, was dedicated, eager.
“When I went to Akron basketball took a back seat to football, which is what Jerrod is facing,” Huggins said.
It required a change of culture, which Huggins could do and which he’s sure Calhoun will do.
“He works,” Huggins said. “Jerrod has done a great job of networking. He has done a terrific job of getting people on his team. He went into Fairmont and it was unbelievable. He went in there and raised money for the facilities, scholarship money, recruiting money. Everything.
“He’s not afraid to work and he’s obviously very good with people.”
As is Huggins, who made similar pitch on a higher level at WVU.
“In my mind our program has made a quantum leap to be an elite program, but you can’t do it without facilities. For years we fought the volleyball team for court time here,” Huggins said.
“Jerrod understands that. He went in with the idea of making Fairmont a premier Division II program. He’ll do the same thing at Youngstown. It’s going to take some time.”
The connection between Huggins and Calhoun started when Calhoun was 20, maybe 21.
“He coached Mike Dunkin’s AAU team when he was a player at Cleveland State,” Huggins recalled. “Mike and I had been friends for a long time. He introduced me to Jerrod. Jerrod decided he didn’t have a future as a player, so he transferred to Cincinnati and became a student assistant for me.”
Huggins got him a job as an assistant coach at Walsh, where he began coaching, then when Huggins came back to WVU, he brought Calhoun in as director of basketball operations.
“He could have got a job in the summer, but he chose to be an AAU coach. He had a lot of contacts but he was smart enough to realize that I could have brought an ops guy in here and he’d be an ops guy for life because he didn’t have any contacts and couldn’t go out and recruit.
“In Morgantown, you have to have people working for you. You have to have relationships with people who will help you in the recruiting process,” Huggins continued. “We can’t walk in there and say we’re WVU and people come out of the woodwork to play here. We once recruited a kid in Columbus whose dad played at Walsh, not for me but where I started coaching.
“He was 7-foot. He was pretty dadgum good. We thought we had a good chance to get him. The mom was from Canton, grew up where I grew up. Roy Williams walked in one day — one day — and he goes to North Carolina. We can’t do that here. We have to be about relationships, about people thinking this is the best place for their kid.”
Calhoun, Huggins saw, would help bring good players to town.
The determination was bursting out of Calhoun.
“Full of energy,” Huggins said. “He really tried to learn. He spent a lot of time around Andy Kennedy when he was my assistant at Cincinnati. Andy is a terrific recruiter. Jarrod just watched and learned. Jarrod wanted to learn. A lot of people that age think they know it all.”
Calhoun, instead, soaked it all in, especially once he and Huggins got together at WVU.
“Jarrod was the ops guy for a little while, then he became an assistant and when the Fairmont job came open he jumped on it,” Huggins said. “Jarrod was smart enough not to start a family. He didn’t have the financial constraints other people have.”
Assistants don’t often leave Huggins.
“This deal is unique because Ronnie Everhart has been a head coach at three different places, Larry Harrison has been a head coach, Erik Martin played for me,” he said. “I give those guys a lot of leeway and responsibility. I don’t think they want to leave.”
Huggins will greet Calhoun and Youngstown State with 4-2 Mountaineer team that is beginning to show improvement and one that is expected to have both Beetle Bolden and Sagaba Konate back for Saturday’s game.
Each practiced on Friday and Huggins finds it important to integrate them in with the other players by the time they get to the new year and Big 12 play.