The golden era of West Virginia basketball spanned much of the 1940s. ’50s and ’60s and produced its share of legends including Mark Workman and the two Rods—“Hot Rod” Hundley and Rod Thorn. But its undisputed Golden Boy was Jerry West, aka Zeke from Cabin Creek. The rest of the century has been relatively quiet but the latest coaches, John Beilein and Bob Huggins have gotten Mountaineer fans revved for the 21st century revival.
Big Rival: The floorboards may not smolder the way the gridiron does for football’s backyard brawl, but nearby Pittsburgh is also West Virginia’s most hated hoops foe. In fact, WVU’s first game was a 15-12 win over Pitt (then Western University of Pennsylvania) in a low-ceiling basement gym. Overall the Mountaineers hold a 96-88 edge in the series.
Best Player: Jerry West (1957-1960) The 6’3″ shooting star with the bristly flattop still holds 18 Mountaineer records, including points and rebounds. Over his three seasons West led WVU to an 81-12 record and was twice a consensus All-American. He went on to be a 14-time All-Star with the Los Angeles Lakers and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1980. West’s form was so perfect that the NBA chose him as the model that is silhouetted in the leagues logo.
Fan Favorite: Kevin Pittsnogle (2002-2006) The tattooed 6’11” Pittsnogle rarely played in the paint. The three-point gunner became the Mountaineers’ first All-American in 34 years and helped them back onto the national stage with a 2005 Elite Eight run.
Best Team: 1958-59 Picking one squad from WVU’s glory years is like choosing a dish from a dessert cart. But the slight nod goes to the crew led by junior Jerry West to the brink of an NCAA title. Coached by Fred Schaus the Mountaineers’ won more games (29) than in any other season in school history, and there only losses were to Virginia (by 3 points), Kentucky (by 6), Northwestern (in two OTs), NYU (OT) and Cal 71-70 in the national title game. West was the Tourney’s MOP, despite the loss.
Best Coach: Fred Schaus (1954-1960) Between his All-American playing career and tenure as athletic director, Schaus’ six years as a coach at WVU were astounding. He won almost 80% of his games, five Southern Conference regular-season titles and 44 straight conference games. He took the Mountaineers to six NCAA tournaments finishing two points shy of the 1959 title. No wonder Schaus left to coach the NBA Lakers in 1960: He had a rookie waiting for him there named Jerry West.
Top 5 Players:
- Guard- Wil Robinson (1969-1972)
- Guard- Jerry West (1957-1960)
- Forward- Rod Hundley (1954-1957)
- Forward- Rod Thorn (1960-1963)
- Center- Mark Workman (1949-1952)
Enrollment: 21,987 (15,463 undergraduates)
Colors: Old gold and blue
Current Arena: WVU Coliseum, opened in 1970 (14,00)
First Game: February 20,1904
All-time record: 1,652-1,040
Current Conference: Big 12
Conference titles: 14
Conference tournament titles: 13 (1 Big East, 2 A10, 10 SoCon)
NCAA Tournament appearances: 25
National Titles: 0
NIT appearances: 16
NIT Titles: 1