West Virginia Football’s Biggest Strengths In 2019: No. 10 – Retaining Mike Joseph
(Editor’s Note – We previously took a look at West Virginia’s top 10 biggest question marks heading into the 2019 football season. In the second half of this series, we turn our attention to what we perceive to be the top 10 strengths of Neal Brown’s first Mountaineer squad.)
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10. Retaining Mike Joseph – With any head coaching change comes a certain amount of upheaval. A new person in charge brings new ideas, new ways of doing things and new points of emphasis. Along with that come new faces, as a head coach certainly has to bring in people he knows, is comfortable with and who are familiar with the way he wants to run things.
That can lead to some difficult decisions, as staffers and holdovers from the previous regime often are not retained, even though they may be very competent and capable. However, with many tasks to complete, trying to figure out which current staffers might fit well into the new program can be a time-consuming and difficult task, and making choices in that regard can be tough.
New WVU head coach Neal Brown didn’t use that as an excuse, however. As part of his initial work in getting to know everything about the Mountaineer football program, he interviewed and talked with numerous staffers at West Virginia, ultimately keeping several of them on board — and none of those decisions might be more important than the one that led to the retention of Mike Joseph. That’s certainly not to downplay the impact that others who stayed on board have had and will have, but the fact that Joseph and two of his staffers — Chad Snodgrass and Alex Mitchell — were retainined provided a very stable bridge during the coaching transition period, and also a foundation upon which to build the new program.
Without question, the relationships that Joseph and his staff had built with the players on the team were critical. The strength staff spends more time with the players than just about anyone, coaches included, so having that trio stay with the squad provided it with a touchstone as the new coaches came on board and began getting to know to the players and implement Brown’s vision for the future. As players began winter workouts in January, they had some familiar faces to see every day as they descended to the Puskar Center weight room to begin conditioning and preparation for spring practice. Having those coaches around made it a little easier, as new assistant coaches came on board and many aspects of the program were modified. There was plenty of change involved there, but it wasn’t the 100% upheaval that might have occurred had every resident of the Puskar Center not been retained.
Credit for this decision, and more importantly, for the process employed, goes to Brown. He could have decided to not retain anyone from the previous staff. He could have chosen to follow a path like Dan Dakich did wth the basketball program when he arrived for his thankfully short tenure as Gale Catlett’s replacement, running roughshod over everything in sight. However, in what was the first example of Brown’s thoughtful and extremely detailed approach, he made it his first task was to talk to everyone he could — every player as well as other coaches and administrators, to find out what was working with the program and what needed fixing. One of the items at the top of the former list was Joseph and his department.
“The confidence in Mike Joseph and our strength and conditioning program was something our players were very vocal about,” Brown said of the results of his surveys, which were of both the oral and written variety. “We’ve done very little in adjusting in that area.”
Now entering his 12th year at WVU, Joseph has risen steadily in his field. He earned an assistant athletics director title in 2018, and was then tabbed as head coach for football strength and conditioning by Brown. He also oversees all aspects of strength and conditioning for all of the school’s athletic teams, working with the sport-specific coaches to help develop and implement the most effective training and support regimens. In that regard, his retention is probably just as valuable, but it’s in football where his presence is most keenly felt.
Brown also brought one of “his” people aboard, as Rafael Horton, the football strength and conditioning coach at Troy from 2015-18, as one of his first hires. This blending of holdover and new could make this corner of the Mountaineer football team the most effective and smoothest-running deparment in 2019, and it’s a decision that should not be overlooked. The stability Joseph, Snodgrass and Mitchell provided, and should continue to provide as the season unfolds, is a huge positive for a program that is still adapting and getting used to the many changes that Brown has needed to make.
Previously In The Series