BECKLEY, W.Va. — James Long is only two years removed from his playing days at West Virginia University.
Since then, Long spent two seasons on the Mountaineers’ staff as assistant director of basketball operations and video coordinator.
That experience helped prepare Long to be the head coach of the men’s basketball program at WVU Tech, which he was introduced as Monday in front of WVU coach Bob Huggins.
“Coach Huggins and the staff push you hard and hold you accountable. It’s really tough mentally and physically as a player, but from the other angle on staff, you see how hard they work,” Long said. “I always appreciated them as coaches as a player, but going to the other side gives you a whole other level of appreciation to what they do.
“I learned what it’s like to be a successful coach. He cares about people and takes the time to connect with people. Seeing the level of commitment it takes to be successful in this, I couldn’t be more blessed to have been around Coach Huggins. I learned a lot as a player and a lot being on staff with him.”
Long takes over for Bob Williams, who compiled a record of 402-304 in 17 seasons guiding the Golden Bears.
Williams helped WVU Tech reach new heights in 2019, when the Golden Bears climbed to No. 3 in the NAIA national rankings, finished 30-5 and reached the second round of the national tournament for the first time.
“I’m fortunate to step into a situation where they’ve done well and done it the right way,” Long said. “It’ll make it easier on the transition to build off of that.”
Long, a Charleston native, was praised by Huggins during the introduction.
“You got not just a heck of a basketball coach, but a wonderful human being,” Huggins said.
Long attended George Washington High School as a freshman and went to Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) for a year before finishing at Woodberry Forest School (Va.).
He went on to play one season at Wofford before electing to walk-on at WVU.
Long getting the job at WVU Tech drew praise and congratulations on Twitter from ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer, also a Charleston native.
“I have so much motivation to work hard and make everybody proud. I’m most excited being able to use my position to help people around this area and help everybody that’s helped me get to this point,” Long said. “I couldn’t be happier. It’s hard to put it into words because it means so much to me.”
Long hopes to help instill a strong work ethic in his players, one that translates from the court to the classroom and community.
“The main thing I learned from Coach Huggins is do right. It may sound vague to some, but it’s simple and hits home,” Long said. “Do what you’re supposed to do. Show up to class, be a leader and a leader in the community. The other thing is something mom instilled in me as a kid and that’s treat others the way you want to be treated.”