Settling In

Recently, caught up with new WVU assistant basketball coach Billy Hahn. In the first installment of this two part interview, Hahn talks about his recruiting ties, as well as his time away from collegiate coaching.

For everyone in the WVU basketball program, life has been pretty hectic over the past month and a half. With the departure of former head coach John Beilein and subsequent hiring of successful alum Bob Huggins, the program has been going through an important transition.

Part of that transition, of course, has been putting a new staff in place to surround Huggins. A few weeks back, Huggins announced the hiring of longtime collegiate coach Billy Hahn to fill an assistant coaching spot. In the days since accepting the job, Hahn has hit the ground running.

"It's been a great hectic," Hahn said in his office last week. "We've had a lot of energy, and we've had a lot of things to get done."

Following his resignation from LaSalle in 2004, Hahn has been away from the college basketball coaching scene. True to his coaching nature, though, this self-described "basketball junkie" had to find a way to stay around the game. For Hahn, the perfect opportunity to do so was by becoming director of the Hoop Group, which puts on several events each year including the annual JamFest AAU invitational in Morgantown.

Although he likely could have remained with the Hoop Group for as long as he wanted, Hahn could not pass up the offer on the table to join longtime friend Bob Huggins at West Virginia.

"I really missed coaching," explained Hahn. "I coached for a long time. You don't know how good you have something until you don't have it anymore.

"I played basketball in high school and college, then got out of college and coached for 30 years," he continued. "When I got out of college coaching a few years ago, I didn't have it anymore. So the next best thing I could do was go work for the Hoop Group. The Hoop Group let me here the ball bounce. I needed to hear the ball bounce because I'm a junkie. I needed that fix. It was great because I was in the gym."

From his past experiences both with the Hoop Group and as a head coach, Hahn will bring lessons and philosophies that will enable him to contribute greatly to Mountaineer basketball.

"What the assistant coach tries to do is take as much as possible off of the head coach's plate," Hahn said. "As a head coach, you have so much on your plate at all times that a lot of the assistant's job is to make sure that the head coach doesn't have to do everything.

"Obviously, you have to head up the recruiting as part of it. You have to put him in the right places to see the right kids. You try to find kids that can fit his style and his personality. It all goes hand in hand."

Recruiting, above all else, is probably Hahn's greatest strength as a coach. In his 12 years as an assistant to Gary Williams at the University of Maryland, Hahn was responsible for recruiting the likes of future NBA talents such as Walt Williams, Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, and Joe Smith among others. His ties to recruiting hotbeds in the East are well rooted from both his coaching experience and his recent time spent with the Hoop Group.

"I have a pretty good idea, especially with the Eastern kids," he acknowledged. "Kids who are in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, D.C., New York; that's the area that the Hoop Group covers. Am I as familiar with the kids in the Midwest or out in California or in the Deep South? No, I'm not. But that area that I just talked about I know a lot of what's out there."

As far as his recruiting efforts for West Virginia are concerned, he admits that the transition has left the staff with plenty of catching up to do, especially with the class of 2008. In the case of rising juniors and sophomores, though, he feels confident that the Mountaineer coaches are in solid standing to land good prospects.

"The recruiting process has really been speeding up over the past 10 years in college basketball," Hahn observed. "Kids that are juniors right now…a lot of them already have their lists down to the final two or three schools, which makes you a little nervous. I feel like we're in great shape with the kids in the 2009 and 2010 classes already.

"It's going good. We're getting out there and letting people know that we're on the job and we're here to stay. It's pretty exciting."

NOTE: Be sure to catch part two of our interview with Coach Hahn in which he shares his thoughts on the state of West Virginia, talks about his 30-year friendship with Bob Huggins, and answers the much-debated topic of whether or not it is possible to recruit the best players in the country to Morgantown.

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