By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
If you can remember back to that night in Miami, Florida, when West Virginia took Clemson apart, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl, and to the 5-0 start on the next season, you remember the swagger the Mountaineers possessed at the time.
They had Geno Smith flinging the football all over the lot, and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey hauling in those passes for long gains, each punching his ticket to the NFL.
Then the losing began, and as each loss mounted over the past season and a half, WVU winning just four times last year, the swagger was worn away.
So on a recent appearance on Bruce Feldman’s radio show, coach Dana Holgorsen was asked how to get the swagger back, and his answer was interesting, for he did not lay it on the players to develop such an attitude alone, but on the coaches to develop it.
“It depends on these guys developing into real players,” Holgorsen said. “It’s coaching, too. We have to feel good about who we have. We have to have confidence in our guys. We have to believe in them and call plays that we feel will work and get our guys to believe in it ... and I think we’re on our way with that.”
By that, Holgorsen was saying that he believes this past offseason has been a fruitful one in having his team begin to feel like winners again, which is developing the same kind of confidence they had back when they were looking almost unbeatable.
“We have a lot of starters coming back,” Holgorsen noted. “We lost just two guys to the NFL ... running back Charles Sims and defensive end Will Clarke. We should be more familiar with what we are doing on both sides of the ball.”
In football, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.
It breeds the confidence you are looking for, but again, Holgorsen stresses, it has to begin with the coaching staff letting it be known that they believe.
“Our coaching staff needs to be more excited about it,” he said. “We have to have the confidence we had with Geno and Tavon on the team. They were tremendous players, and we need to get some guys to go out there and make some plays like they did.
“That will translate into other guys having confidence like they did.”
WVU hasn’t yet become “The Cradle of Basketball Coaches,” but the sport does have a number of former players and coaches who are making their presence felt.
You can begin, of course, with John Beilein, who has returned Michigan to its glory days, and his former assistant Jeff Neubauer, who has taken Eastern Kentucky to the NCAAs five times in 10 years.
Another Beilein assistant has now started his way up the coaching ladder, that being Mike Maker, who worked for Beilein in 2005-07, and recently was named head coach at Marist after spending the last three years at Williams College in Massachusetts.
Then there was former Beilein player Rob Summers, a 7-foot center, who took on the big challenge of turning around the fortunes at Urbana University in Ohio.
Summers takes over a Division II team in the Mountain East Conference that was 0-27 a year ago after having coached as an assistant at Glenville State before spending a year as director of basketball operations at James Madison in Virginia.
And finally there was guard Darris Nichols, who spanned the Beilein and Bob Huggins eras, who has moved from Wofford College, where he was an assistant, to the top assistant’s job at Louisiana Tech as he continues to push toward reaching his goal of becoming a head coach.
Then you can toss in Patrick Beilein, the coach’s son and former guard, at West Virginia Wesleyan, who has his former teammate Joe Mazzulla coaching against him as an assistant at Fairmont State, and you can see the coaching tree is blooming.
Most people assume that WVU triple jump All-American Stormy Nesbit’s first name is a nickname that she probably earned through a tempestuous personality.
“When I was a child, I was very, very sick with asthma and I was born prematurely,” she explained when asked about it. “I wasn’t given a name at first, but my parents decided on Stormy, which meant that ‘rough times are now, but better times are ahead.’ That’s been my progression through life and where I’m going. I wasn’t supposed to be able to do sports. They weren’t sure if I was going to be able to make it through. Even though I have asthma, I can do anything that a normal, healthy person can do.”
In fact, she is anything but stormy.
“My personality is quite different than my name is. I’m actually very calm on game days. I don’t say much,” she said.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.