MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s men’s basketball program will play its 531st game under the direction of head coach Bob Huggins at noon Saturday when the Mountaineers battle Oklahoma at the Lloyd Noble Center.
For the previous 530, Larry Harrison was part of the team’s coaching staff.
Yet when the Mountaineers go for their first victory within Big 12 Conference play against the Sooners, it’ll be West Virginia’s first game since March 29, 2007 without Harrison having a role.
This comes after Harrison was fired Thursday from his position as associate head coach, a title he’d held since July 2010. Harrison first served as an assistant coach at WVU, was promoted three years later and was part of the staff for each of the last 16 seasons, spanning Huggins’ entire tenure in Morgantown.
Harrison was also a member of Huggins’ coaching staff at Cincinnati for eight seasons until 1997.
Huggins began a scheduled media session Friday by reading a prepared statement before the team traveled to Norman, Okla.
“The decision to make a change within our basketball staff was a difficult one,” he said. “Larry and I worked together for 24 years and shared many great moments. The decision was made in the best interest of Mountaineer basketball. I’m not going to take any questions on the matter and will now move on to your questions about the upcoming Oklahoma game.”
It was a different tune from Huggins than Thursday night during his weekly radio show at Kegler’s when he addressed the topic within a few hours of WVU announcing Harrison’s dismissal.
“I don’t really have a lot to say about it,” Huggins said, “because I wasn’t involved as I’m being portrayed to be.”
When reached Friday, Harrison said through text message he was not yet ready to publicly comment on his dismissal, but would be at a later time.
Considering Wren Baker is still in his first month as West Virginia’s Director of Athletics, it’s fair to wonder how much impact, if any, Baker had on the decision. On the other hand, Huggins is the second-winningest active head coach in college basketball with a great deal of influence whose voice carries weight. A recent inductee into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Huggins is the most powerful and recognizable figure within West Virginia’s athletic department.
“At the end of the day, we’ll do what we always do,” Huggins said. “We’ll make an extended search and try to find the best fit and person for the job.”
Harrison’s firing sparked reaction from past and current West Virginia players that took to social media to express their displeasure with the decision, including the two Mountaineers playing in the National Basketball Association — Milwaukee Bucks guard Jevon Carter and New York Knicks guard Miles McBride.
Wow never did I ever think I’ll see the day that Coach Harrison leaves wvu without Huggs. It just doesn’t make sense. Like at all smh something ain’t right. 😒
— Jevon Carter (Bulldog) (@nextlevel_03) January 13, 2023
This is crazy 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/MNxkMr3SA0
— M11es McBride (@deucemcb11) January 13, 2023
Harrison worked closely with West Virginia’s guards and two current members of the Mountaineers’ backcourt shared their thoughts on social media.
This man Larry Harrison entered my life 5 years ago and my life did a full 360 ❤️🩹 I’ll miss you the most coach pic.twitter.com/kAIElTs4Ij
— Kedrian Johnson⚡️🖤 (@Thekeddy0) January 13, 2023
— Joe Toussaint (@TouTou__5) January 12, 2023
Erik Martin, an assistant coach at West Virginia from 2007-2022 before becoming head coach at South Carolina State last offseason, expressed gratitude for Harrison.
Just want to thank 1 of my mentors Larry Harrison for all of his help over the years. I wouldn’t be where I am without you. God bless🙏🏾
— Erik Martin (@HCEmartinSCSU) January 13, 2023
Other past players to speak out in regards to Harrison’s firing include guards Juwan Staten, Taz Sherman and Teyvon Myers and center Logan Routt.
Coach Harrison is the definition of hard work. He took me under his wing my year as Grad Assistant and showed me how to grind. I’m sad to see him go 😔
— Juwan Staten Sr. (@JuwanStaten3) January 13, 2023
Nah ain’t no way, ion like that
— TAZ1️⃣2️⃣ (@Okaytazoo) January 12, 2023
I can go on and on about how coach Larry Harrison saved my life but I won’t ill just say coach gave me purpose coach gave me life long lessons that had nothing to do with basketball smh honestly hurt about it I just thought the man would retire a coach at wvu this is unacceptable
— Teyvon myers (@KillacrossTey) January 13, 2023
Larry Harrison has done so much for me and my basketball career. I have seen first hand how his work ethic, honesty, & driven mindset has affected mountaineer basketball in a positive way. It is a true shame & disappointment that he will no longer be on staff at WVU.
— Logan Routt (@LoganRoutt9) January 13, 2023
For now, WVU will proceed with two assistant coaches — Ron Everhart and Josh Eilert — the remainder of this season.
Prior to joining the Mountaineers’ staff in 2012, Everhart served as head coach at McNeese State, Northeastern and Duquesne. Eilert has been part of the Mountaineers’ staff the last 16 seasons and worked his way up from video coordinator to Assistant Athletics Director for Basketball Operations to filling the void Martin left behind.
Jay Kurtz, Director of Player Personnel/Recruiting, and Alex Ruff, a Graduate Assistant that sits near Huggins at the head of the bench, are other key staff members.
“We’re blessed that Ronnie’s been through it and been a head coach at three different schools,” Huggins said. “We have a guy with experience and we also have some other guys that are good basketball guys. Hopefully we can put it all together.”