Kinney Shares Bond With New Boss

New WVU director of skill development Marcus Kinney has a longstanding friendship with Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Barwis, and it only takes about thirty seconds of conversation to figure out the bond between the two enthusiastic and upbeat coaches.

People who have seen Barwis' style, as he prods, cajoles, jokes and pushes his players in grueling workouts, will have a pretty good idea of Kinney's modus operandi as well. Barwis' gravelly, yet penetrating voice echoes throughout the Puskar Center, and judging from the enthusiasm apparent in his voice, Kinney's kinship with Barwis is a tight one indeed.

Both coaches are, to put it simply, fired up. It's apparent even over the telephone, where the listener might have to hold the receiver a couple of inches away from his ear to make sure that the excitment which permeates Kinney's conversation doesn't burst an eardrum.

Kinney was a graduate assistant at West Virginia from 1996-98, where he was a colleague of Barwis'. The two formed a fast friendship that directly led to Kinney's hiring last month.

"It's a funny story," Kinney told shortly after arriving at West Virginia. "Mike and I were graduate assistants together, and we made a pact that whoever was the first to get a head coaching job would hire the other guy. As we talked about it some more, we said 'Wouldn't it be funny if it happened at West Virginia?'".

Oddly enough, that's just what happened. In a profession that sends coaches hither and yon across the country, Barwis and Kinney were reunited earlier this year when former coach Jim Nowell left the skill development post.

"Mike called me in January and asked me if I was interested, and I told him of course," Kinney recounted. "He told me Coach Rod would have to approve it, and apparently he did a good job of telling him about me, because he called me back to tell me I had it.

"We're like twin sons of different mothers," Kinney said of the relationship that he and Barwis share. "We see a lot of things the same way, and our coaching styles are similar."

As Kinney settles into his position, his first priority is working with the position coaches to see what they want to work on, and how he can incorporate their desires into the skill development program. Although Kinney is obviously a hands-on, get-down-to-it type of coach, he was patient during his first few days on the job, as he watched workouts to get a feel for how the WVU program works. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a plan, however, as he explained the basics of his approach.

With skill development, we first determine the types of motions each player has to make at his position, then we devleop drills to work on those to make them quicker, stronger and more explosive as they execute those moves," Kinney said. "We can't use footballs or other equipment, so we have to focus on the movement. For example, with defensive backs, we'll be working on how they backpedal - their form, their balance, everything. For an offensive lineman, it might be how they move when they pull to one side or the other. One of the important things is that we use the same terminology as the position coaches so that we don't confuse the kids."

Another of Kinney's personal credos is attention to detail. As a U.S. Army veteran, he learned early on that preparation, even in the smallest areas, can mean the difference between completing a job successfully or seeing it go down in flames.

"It's the detail you overlook that will kill you. You have to pay attention," Kinney explaimed, his voice rising as he warmed to the topic. "Everyone does the big things but it's the little things that make the big things happen.

"For instance, I teach the players to stand up and breathe, even when they are tired. If you see a guy bent over with his hands on his hips and gasping for air, you might think 'I've got that guy.' So, we are going to stand up - we might psyche someone out that way."

Just talking to the newly hired coach is inspiring, so it's easy to see how he motiviates and relates with the student athletes that he is charged with improving. Kinney knows the first task he has to achieve is building a relationship with the players, and he has definite ideas on that process as well.

"I want to get to know the guys first, but knowing Mike and the kind of program the has I have to find a way to fit in. But still, in the end, I have to make them do what needs to be done. You can be friends with them, but they have to know who's running the show and that the work has to get done.

"We all are working toward the same goals, but coaches might communicate them in a different way, and some players might understand something one way while others don't" Kinney continued. "I have to find a way to explain and demonstrate things in different ways for different players."

In the end, however, Kinney's strategies, just like those in any coach of any sport, depend on the veterans.

"You're always building on top of the foundation, and here, it's the older guys. You build with them. Once you have them moving in the right direction, it's easier to add in new players each year, because they see what the veterans are doing and follow their lead."

Tomorrow, we'll conclude our interview with Kinney, and get his thoughts on moving to new schools, the changes he's seen in the still-young discipline of strength and conditioning, and his first impressions of the Mountaineer program.

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