Looking Forward

Assistant basketball coach Jeff Neubauer took some time out from preseason preparations recently to visit with BlueGoldNews.com. Neubauer reflected on the accomplishments of the team during his first season at WVU, and also spoke of the season to come.

"I think a lot of people were surprised with how competitive we were in a lot of those Big East games," Neubaeur said of his WVU's first season. "Not necessarily the ones that we won, and those are games that we're proud of, but the games where we played people tough."

Of course, the Mountaineers had a good bit to crow about during the regular season, including a win over a ranked University of Florida squad and conference wins over Miami and Villanova. However, Neubauer, along with the rest of the coaching staff, was even more taken with the way the undermanned West Virginia team competed in losses.

"Notre Dame was a top ten team in the country, and we had them on the ropes. Both Seton Hall games were great games, and you can go right on down the list," Neubauer said with more than a bit of emotion. "We were very impressed with the way our kids competed, even though we didn't win them all. That's very encouraging as we go into this season, knowing that if we can get just a little bit better, those games might go on the left side (of the won-loss record)."

On the personal side, Neubauer is very pleased to have a position in one of the preeminent basketball conferences in the country. He credits his association with head coach John Beilein for much of his rapid rise.

"I think everyone who's climbing the coaching ladder wants to be in a position like this. I hoped to be an assistant coach in the Big East at this age," Neubauer said. "I've been very lucky to be working with Coach Beilein, and I'm very happy working with him. We do things the right way, and we recruit the right types of kids. I'm very comfortable working for him."

Neubauer is in his seventh year as an assistant to Beilein, and contributes heavily in the area of game planning and strategizing. He is usually right at Beilein's side as they observe the oncourt action and make adjustments.

The working relationship between Beilein and Neubauer is obviously a comofrtable one, and has be refined during their years together at Richmond and now at WVU. And although the level of play may have changed, Neubauer says that it hasn't really changed the way they coach.

"I don't think we adjust how we coach when we get into tough games," Neubaur said of the Big East wars. "We coach the same as what it was at Richmond. I do think the one thing people that aren't in a power conference don't understand is how difficult it is. We were in the Atlantic Ten for one year, and you think you're a half a step below the Big East, but it's a lot more than that. The TV coverage, the media, the facilties you play in, it's just a whole different game. It's just a big time league, and I wouldn't want to coach in any other one."

Beilein, Neubauer and assistant coach Matt Brown have been together for six seasons, but this year they will be breaking in a new assistant for the first time in four years. Veteran assistant Jerry Dunn is replacing the departed Mike Jones, who left for a job with former collegiate temamate Dennis Felton at Georgia.

There are mnay things which go into building a successful coaching staff, and in some respects it's back to square one anytime a new man comes on board. However, Neubauer, as is his style, chooses to look at the positive side of the equation.

"We had the same thing happen three years ago when Mike Jones joined our staff. There are so many things that we, as a staff, have been doing for a few years that we just understand, and we don't have to ask questions. For Coach Dunn, it's a learning curve, and that can be hard to overcome.

"For instance, he called me recently and we talked about some of the drills we've been doing in individual workouts. He's really a great learner, and he asks good questions, and he documents everything we're doing. I think he's going to catch on more quickly than what most coaches do, just because he's so thorough in the way that he learns."

As the staff continues to learn together and prepare for year two of the Beilein Era, it's easy to see that the man in charge has the full respect of his assistants and players. According to Neubauer, Beilein wants to build a quality program on all levels, not just on the basketball court.

"I think that's one of the main reasons he's such a great coach," Neubauer said of his mentor. "He doesn't let any detail go without his eye seeing it. That's why he's so good. He finds the time to address everything that he thinks is important to our basketball program, whether it's academics, on the court, or whatever. He's involved in everything.

"I think recruits see that too. He gets involved in recruiting, and they like that. They want to get a feel for the head coach, and I think that helps as well."

WVU opens their season with a home exhibition game on November 15, and gets the regular season underway with a November 24 visit to James Madison. The home opener comes five days later against Northeastern.


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