The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 6, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-WVU star loves coaching at FSU 

MORGANTOWN — Joe Mazzulla, a native of the Providence, R.I., area, now is in his first year as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Fairmont State University.

He had made his coaching debut during a two-year hitch as a member of the staff at Glenville State. Then Mazzulla was hired by FSU head coach Jerrod Calhoun last fall and helped the 2013-14 Falcons to a 19-9 regular-season record.

That was highlighted by a 93-81 upset victory against perennial power, third-ranked West Liberty in Fairmont on Feb. 15.

But it was as a 6-foot-2, 200-pound point guard at West Virginia University that Joe Mazzulla won’t be forgotten for many, many years to come.

He played as a varsity freshman in 2006-07 on WVU’s second National Invitation Tournament championship team coached by John Beilein, now successful at Michigan.

Then Mazzulla lettered in 2007-08, veteran head coach Bob Huggins’ first season at the helm. Mazzulla injured his shoulder after playing just seven games the next year and sat out with a medical redshirt.

So he returned for full campaigns in 2009-10 and 2010-11 in capping his numerous heroics. Mazzulla served as a team captain in his final season.

Before getting into his impressive statistics and further honors as a Mountaineer player, let’s deal with what Mazzulla said about his coaching:

“Do I like coaching? I absolutely love it! It’s interesting and enjoyable. I’ve been at it about three years now.”

He explained that he likes all phases of college coaching, including the vital job of recruiting well. Mazzulla admittedly has no interest in becoming a head coach at the high school level.

However, he said younger brother Justin Mazzulla is doing very well as a freshman with a complete regular season of experience at the Rhode Island high school Joe attended.

“I believe Justin’s team finished the regular season No. 4 in the state,” Joe said. “They are now looking at tournament competition.”

The youngster is the same size as his brother was here (6-foot-2, 200 pounds). What’s more, his coach was quoted earlier as saying Justin was strikingly similar to Joe in style as a play-maker.

“He shoots the ball like I do,” Mazzulla noted. “But they’re still working with him on the way I drove down the court. I am very proud of him.

“Justin started playing the game early. He’s worked out every day. He’s very dedicated to basketball.”

Mazzulla, who plans to become married in August, said he’s “a college guy” and not really interested in coaching at the high school level. Daniel and Teresa are his parents’ names.

Fairmont State has been preparing for the Mountain East Conference postseason tournament that starts on Friday in Charleston.

During his four-year playing career, Mazzulla played in 145 games. That’s No. 2 all-time, just one game behind Da’sean Butler’s 146 (2007-10). But Mazzulla had just 25 starts, being most notable coming off the bench.

He also ranks 12th in men’s basketball history at WVU with a career collection of 370 play-making assists.

Mazzulla, who scored 706 points, had a career-high 20 points in an NCAA tournament loss to Kentucky and then a year later 17 points again in beating those Wildcats in Syracuse for a berth in the 2011 NCAA Final Four. Those were memorable highlights for him.

So should be the fact Mazzulla was named a four-time Big East Conference All-Academic Star.

Still another tall tribute was for him to be named Most Valuable Player in the 2011 NCAA regional.

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