By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
The goal of having a career is to find your niche and excel in it. Fairmont State’s Jerrod Calhoun has done exactly that at FSU.
The second-year head coach is enjoying the offseason by being hard at work — recruiting players, fundraising for facility upgrades and revitalizing the fanbase in and around Fairmont. But for Calhoun, that’s all part of the job that he loves doing. And for him, that’s a job that he wouldn’t want to do anywhere else.
“There’s guys that always look to make the jump (from Division II to Division I) and people who think that I’ll do that, but there’s really no reason to look and go anywhere else,” Calhoun said. “I want the best job in the league and I feel like I have that. To me, that’s what’s crucial.”
Before taking the head coaching job at Fairmont State, Calhoun was most known for being an assistant under future Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins at West Virginia.
While he enjoyed his time there and learned good strategy under Huggins, Calhoun always wanted to be a head coach at his own school. When the position came open at Fairmont State, Calhoun was interested.
Doing his research and homework on the position, Calhoun came to the realization that this was where he needed to be and made the move, citing things you might not always hear from a coach as the reasons why he took the job.
“I talked to the former coaches there and I just thought it was a place where we could really recruit to. But then I visited the campus,” Calhoun explained. “I loved the campus. I immediately fell in love with it.
“I thought it was a good working place with people I trusted. A lot of people thought I was crazy for leaving the big times, leaving West Virginia, but I felt this was a place where the community wanted to win and we could win right away.”
And he was right.
Calhoun came in in his first year and led the largest single-season turnaround in school history, taking an 8-19 team that missed the postseason and turning it into a 23-9 team that received an at-large bid into the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Along with winning, though, Calhoun wanted to get the fans and the community back to being involved with the team and wanted to reach record attendances. In his first season, the Falcons played before a crowd of 3,671 against West Liberty at the Joe Retton Arena.
After his first full season behind the reins was over, Calhoun led efforts to update the men’s and women’s locker rooms, the theater room and hospitality room along with other renovations, something he wanted to do from the beginning.
“I thought the first year was crucial. I thought our fundraising and facilities could be updated so what our staff did was, we went out and met with people in the community every day,” Calhoun said of the process. “Then we won a lot of games and got people excited. I think some people really got back on with our program after year one.”
When taking over a team at the Division II level, there’s always that want or desire to move up. With coaches like West Liberty’s Jim Critchfield having lifelong success at the Division II level, Calhoun hopes to build up the same pedigree. But he sought out a different coach for help. Someone closer to the heartbeat of Fairmont.
Legendary coach, Joe Retton.
“The guy I really look up to is Joe Retton. Look at what he's done. He tops them all. He's the guy at Fairmont,” Calhoun said of Retton, who won 478 games at FSU. “I don't think I’ll ever be him and I don't try to be him, but I look up to him and bounce stuff off of him.”
Under the guidance of Retton, Calhoun believes that he has put together a solid coaching staff, headlined by Paul Molinari and Joe Mazzulla, and a recruiting hotbed that can one day reach national success.
“I think in a few years we'll go from a regionally known team to a nationally known team,” Calhoun said. “Why would I want to leave that?”
So, now, going into his third season at the helm for the Falcons, Calhoun has settled in. He’s settled in with the staff at Fairmont State. He’s settled in with the community. He’s settled in with recruits all across the county and with his team at FSU. And he’s settled in with what he calls a top tier job.
“The best way I describe my job is that I have a D1 job at a D2 level,” Calhoun said. “I think sometimes guys are always looking for greener pastures, but there’s a heck of a lot of green in Fairmont. There’s no reason for me to leave.”
Email Matt Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.