MORGANTOWN, WV (WVNS) — The West Virginia University Men’s Basketball program is one of the winningest programs in Division I history.
The success of the program is due to the athletes while in school, and it will always benefit WVU when players excel once they leave campus. The success of WVU Men’s Basketball stars professionally has never been more clear than in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
With 16 teams across both the Western and Eastern Conferences, there is a limited amount of spots available within a specific playoff worthy franchise. At the tip-off of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, there were seven former Mountaineers scattered across various teams, coaching staffs, and front offices.
While we know some other WVU legends have touched NBA courts, they will not be mentioned. Only those involved with playoff teams in 2023 will be mentioned.
Miles McBride was on the WVU Men’s Basketball roster for two seasons during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 basketball seasons. McBride made an immediate impact in Morgantown becoming a reliable mid-range shooter while taking command of the program as an underclassmen. And guess what, he played football in high school.
McBride was drafted by the New York Knicks at pick 36 in round two of the 2021 NBA Draft. After becoming a consistent scorer in the NBA’s G-League, McBride has found himself as an integral part of New York’s bench presence.
One of the most legendary Mountaineers in WVU sports history, Jevon Carter was a four-year defensive force for Bob Huggins from 2014 to 2018. Carter, the career leader in steals at WVU, helped lead the Mountaineers to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Carter was also selected early in the second round of his respective NBA Draft in 2018. The Memphis Grizzlies selected Carter with pick 32. He quickly became a fan favorite and has maintained both that and his defensive tenacity in every city he has played in. Carter was also a member of the Phoenix Suns in 2019, followed by the Brooklyn Nets in 2021. He is currently a ‘3-and-D’ role player that helped the Milwaukee Bucks achieve the number one overall seed in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Maybe the most publicized Mountaineer in recent NBA history, Joe Mazzulla, is a WVU legend that many remember from the early days of the Huggins Era in Morgantown. Originally recruited by John Beilein, Joe Mazzulla was the commanding officer during the legendary run by the Mountaineers in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers upset the Kentucky Wildcats before an heartbreaking loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Mazzulla was an integral part in WVU maintaining national relevance during the transition from one Hall of Fame coach to another.
Mazzulla has found continued success while holding the clipboard on the sidelines since leaving Morgantown. After beginning his coaching career in the Mountain State as an assistant at both Glenville State and Fairmont State, he made the jump to the NBA with their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. In 2017, Mazzulla would return to Fairmont State, this time, as the Head Coach, before returning to the NBA ranks as an assistant coach under Ime Udoka with the iconic Boston Celtics.
During the 2022-2023 NBA season, Ime Udoka was suspended, opening a door for Mazzulla to be named the interim head coach. With the Celtics not skipping a beat throughout the controversy, Mazzulla would eventually be named the full-time head coach of Boston. He was also named the head coach of Team Giannis in the 2023 NBA All-Star game. The Celtics are the number two seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs looking to gather their 18th championship ring in franchise history.
Maybe the most recognizable former Mountaineer by WVU fans, Da’Sean Butler was an important part of the WVU Men’s Basketball program from 2006 to 2010. Important may be an understatement as Butler’s continuous clutch-gene would shine through when it mattered most. Countless buzzer beaters and amazing offensive performances would propel WVU to the 2010 Final Four. This is where one of the most iconic images in WVU sports history took place. After a leg injury during what seemed to be the start of a comeback versus Duke, Bob Huggins would come on to the court, get on his hands and knees, and console a heartbroken Da’Sean Butler.
After being named an assistant coach at Wheeling University, Butler would make the jump to the NBA. He would only be with the College Park Sky Hawks in the NBA G-League before he was named an assistant coach and video coordinator with the New York Knicks.
With both Miles McBride and Da’Sean Butler being members of the New York Knicks organization, you may be seeing more orange and blue in the Mountain State.
Of course, everyone knows Jerry West as possibly the greatest Mountaineer hooper of all-time. With his name littered across WVU record books, West would become just as legendary after his time in his home state. West would be drafted with the the number two overall pick by the Minneapolis Lakers. The franchise relocated not long after the draft to Los Angeles, where West and the team would continue their successes.
Jerry West, whose silhouette is still used as the NBA logo today, would become the only member of a losing team to win the NBA Finals MVP. He would go on to win one championship as a player with Los Angeles. After his playing career ended, West would have a quick stint as the head coach of his former team before moving to a front office role, where he would eventually become the driving force in bringing Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal together to the Lakers.
Currently, Jerry West is serving in the front office as a consultant for the Los Angeles Clippers, a Lakers rival. West again played a big role in bringing two NBA stars together when it came to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up on the Clippers. In the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Clippers captured the fifth seed.
After transferring to WVU from St. Bonaventure before the 2003 season, Mike Gansey helped lead WVU into a new era under John Beilein. Yes, yet another Mountaineer was part of an iconic postseason performance from his time at WVU. Gansey and his fellow Mountaineers would upset Chris Paul and number two seeded Wake Forest in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Gansey scored and incredible 29 points to go with seven rebounds in the upset.
After his time at WVU, Gansey had various stops at different NBA G-League teams before retiring from his playing career. After he was done on the court, he found a love for the game off of the court. He stepped into the role of General Manager for the NBA’s G-League team in Ohio, the Canton Charge. During this stint, he would receive recognition as the NBA Developmental League’s Executive of the Year. In 2017, Gansey was promoted to the Assistant General Manager role with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Recently in 2022, he was promoted again, this time to the General Manager role where he continues to serve while the Cavaliers are the fourth seed in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Jonnie West, the son of Jerry West, played guard at WVU for four years under Bob Huggins from 2007 to 2011. As a sharp-shooting specialist, West would come off the bench when WVU needed an offensive spark the most.
After his time in Morgantown, he found himself following his father’s foot steps into the NBA front office role. West is currently serving as the Director of Basketball Operations with the Golden State Warriors.
While WVU may not be the biggest name in college sports, or may not have the most money or notoriety, Country Roads will always get you where you need to be.