WVU’s Brown Gives All The Right Answers…And Moves
MORGANTOW, W.Va. — Honest, I gave them time, about 20 minutes of it to ask questions of West Virginia’s new football coach, Neal Brown.
And ask they did. You know the kind of stuff you ask a new coach:
What needs do you see in this team?
What did you learn about your players after meeting with them?
Do you expect any of your players to transfer from Troy?
How will the offense you run compare with what’s been run at WVU recently?
Good questions, all. And Brown was well equipped with answers, offering a view into what it was like to take over a new program, moving up from Troy in the Group of 5 conferences to WVU in the Power 5 conferences.
But I just couldn’t take it any longer for they had all danced around — and we’ll get to the significance of the use of that term in just a moment — the most important question of all that must be asked a West Virginia football coach.
“Have you learned to dislike Pitt yet?” I blurted out, asking it as politely as I could in deference to Brown’s three young children in attendance and the one Pittsburgh newspaperman who had come down for the media circu … eh, conference that was far more a show to be streamed and to entertain the school’s top booster than a news event.
“They don’t let you sign the contract until you learn to dislike Pitt,” Brown said, earning a passing grade but not the A that would have come if he had also burst into a chorus of “Sweet Caroline” with the somewhat blue revision offered by true Mountaineers.
This is most important for WVU is scheduled to play the hated Panthers in a renewal of the Backyard Brawl from 2022 to 2025, in games that are sure to make him think Troy’s budding rivalry with South Alabama is little more than a game of backyard flag football.
Let us now get to the subject of dancing, which brings us to the 2016 Awards Video done by the Troy football program.
Even before the question was completely asked of Brown, he interrupted to offered and explanation of how it had come about.
“Let’s talk about the dance video,” Brown began. “This is how it came about. At the end of the spring semester they have their awards and one of the things they do is have a competition between the coaching staffs.
“Well, the person in charge sent out 10-plus emails about doing this dance video. Our women’s basketball program at Troy is led by Chanda Rigby, funny, really good in front of the camera, likes to have fun, they’ve been successful.
“So, after several emails I walked into the staff meeting and they said, ‘You’ll aren’t going to do this.’ And I said, ‘We are going to do this.’ So one of our coaches has a little bit of music background, so he put this together and it won the award.
“Now it was supposed to be shown only once at the awards ceremony and never come out of the vault again. The next day that thing had gone viral. It may have been the most watched video in Troy athletic history, even more than our win over LSU.”
Let’s just hope the win over LSU was more artistic.
If you haven’t partaken of this, we offer the YouTube.com address for it but a warning…. watch at your own risk. This is not “Thriller” and it isn’t the Bolshoi Ballet, either”
You might notice also dancing in this video is a gray-haired, crew cut fellow with some fancy moves and let that be your introduction to WVU’s new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who was announced as Tony Gibson’s replacement during the press opportunity.
Koenning says this this is what you are getting into with Neal Brown.
He’s a different kind of football coach.
“People are not even going to believe his plan,” Koenning began. “It’s so intricate, so detailed, so nurturing… I’m not going to say loving. That’s the wrong word, but it’s so parenting.
“I’ve got three sons and I have not done that good a job with them. I pray every day for angels to protect them because they are full of life and have at it. They need protection and I have not done as good a job with them in retrospect as I would have liked to because I was too busy raising other people’s kids as a coach.
“It is very much a parenting environment.”
See Brown comes out of a family of educators, his father being a school principal.
He saw the amount of influence they have on young people and he sees himself as an educator, but if you are old enough to remember the television show “Welcome Back Kotter” you might think he reminds you of Kotter and way he dealt with John Travolta and the Sweathogs.
He had fun with them.
“I just don’t want to be miserable,” he said. “I get it, the pressure is high here, there’s a lot of money at stake, but you are coaching football. I’m around young people. In a lot of ways you don’t have to grow up.
“No one is having more fun than (Clemson coach) Dabo Swinney now. I spent three or four day there in the spring. They are one of the top programs in college football and I felt if they are doing it this way, I feel sound about our approach.”
And all of that matters.
Unless he doesn’t beat Pitt.