Shake-up Under Way Within WVU’s Women’s Staff

Lester Rowe

Shake-up Under Way Within WVU’s Women’s Staff

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–There is a shake up going on within West Virginia’s women’s basketball staff, as three veteran employees under head coach Mike Carey have each recently left the program.

Assistant coaches Chester Nichols and Lester Rowe, as well as long-time director of operations Pat Biondo, are no longer at WVU.

West Virginia women’s basketball coach Mike Carey

The departures of Nichols and Biondo had been previously noted, but the revelation by Carey that Rowe’s contract will not be renewed is more recent.

A former star player for the Mountaineer men’s basketball team, Rowe scored 1,524 points and hauled down 787 rebounds in his four-year career (1982-85) for Gale Catlett’s squad. After playing professional basketball overseas for eight years, Rowe returned to Morgantown and eventually became a member of Catlett’s coaching staff for the West Virginia men’s team, working with that squad from 1997-2002. He was hired by Carey as an assistant on the women’s side in 2011 and spent a total of eight seasons in that position.

The Buffalo, New York, native was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

A replacement for Rowe has not yet been announced.

“We wish him the best of luck in his new position,” said Carey of Rowe. “I expect our staff to be completed at the end of the month.”

Nichols was a member of Carey’s staff for a total of 11 seasons, as he was at West Virginia in two different stints (2003-09 and 2014-19).

Carey hired Nichols’ replacement last month, bringing in Bett Shelby, who previously had assistant coaching stops at North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech.

A native of Clarence, New York, Biondo had been a member of the WVU women’s staff for 10 years, most recently serving as the director of basketball ops. Before that he was a manager for John Beilein’s Mountaineer men’s team from 2004-07. Biondo is being replaced by Meghan Bielich, who comes to West Virginia after stints at Pitt and Texas Tech.

All three former members of the Mountaineer women’s staff apparently have landed new jobs already. Biondo is going to work in the private sector for a West Virginia-based business. Nichols is reportedly going to join the women’s coaching staff at Wichita State, though the Shockers haven’t announced that hiring yet. And Rowe is said to be headed for a position with the Northern Kentucky women’s program, though NKU also has not officially announced his hiring at this point.

Carey has served as West Virginia’s head women’s coach for the past 18 seasons with a career record of 393-205. His squad this past season was 22-11.


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    Shake-up Under Way Within WVU’s Women’s Staff There is a shake up going on within West Virginia’s women’s basketball staff, as three veteran employees
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    Interesting that all 3 would be replaced this year.  Women’s teams have seemingly underperformed in many years.  Seems they have been snake bitten by injuries.


    Although it feels a shame to lose a long-time Morgantown resident and Mountaineer to another program, always wondered why Lester Rowe from Buffalo didn’t test the waters elsewhere before now and work on moving into a head coach position sooner.  Maybe not wired to want that type position?  Wish him well in all these endeavors, we’ll keep a candle in the window.


    Bigger question for me was why didn’t he go the Men’s BB coaching track?  Certainly has the background and the pay is much better.


    It’s not like a coach can simply say, “I want to be a men’s coach” and have that happen. There has to be interest on both sides.

    I’d also say that the women’s tea has been routinely crushed by injuries. I’m hard pressed to put an “underperforming” label on them.


    Underperforming as a result of injuries.  Seems like this happens more years than not.

    Lester has men’s coaching experience.   6 years with Cat.  Don’t know where he was between 2003 and 2010 before he landed with Carey and the women’s side.  But these guys in the asst roles move from program to program very frequently often ending up in a lower division job as HC.


    Not to be  disagreeable, but these girls did not under perform.  The ladies who were on the court this past season performed above and beyond what was expected.  The games I covered made me appreciate the effort put forward my all involved.  Injuries did take its toll, but those who fought through, such as Katrina Pardee were warriors.


    Agreed that the effort put forward was very good. The injuries hurt us as a whole.  Tied for 4th in the B12 and a 22-11 record wasn’t what was expected.  And after cracking the top 25 early in the season the ladies quickly fell out of the rankings by about week 5.  Not a knock against the girls, but it wasn’t what was expected at the beginning of the year.  Hence the shake up in staff.


    I don’t think that is the sole reason for the changes. There could be other issues — recruiting for example — that play in.

    I don’t see how a coaching staff change can be expected to prevent injuries in the future.


    I don’t think anybody thinks coaches can prevent injuries.  Limit nagging problems with proper training, yes.  Stop major injuries, no.

    The problem with the injuries has been that the staff never seemed to develop the depth  needed to replace good players when they go down.  Does that have more to do with recruiting?  Seems we’ve been able to recruit some very good players, but just not the depth and quality behind the few highly rated players we do get.


    Agreed that recruiting is an issue.  I think we are starting to see more women’s players spreading across a few different schools, rather than UConn, Tennessee and ND gobbling them all up. That’s a slow process, but the desire for more playing time does push toward a better distribution of talent.

    That said, I don’t think any school could overcome the injuries WVU has faced. For a couple of games this year, they dressed seven players, and eight in a few others. Everyone else was injured, along with one defection.

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