MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Interim head coach Josh Eilert and his West Virginia men’s basketball team had a team-wide conversation in the locker room last Friday night in the moments immediately following WVU’s 73-65 loss to visiting Monmouth.
“We had a heart-to-heart, everybody spoke their piece,” said Eilert. “And that’s healthy, that’s healthy conversations that we’re having, and we got to figure out how to get on the same page.”
It wasn’t an overly long discussion between Eilert and his team. Only about 15 minutes passed between the Mountaineers returning to the locker room from post-game handshakes and Quinn Slazinski walking up the steps to address the media.
For some, a coach publicly saying he and his team needed to have that kind of conversation just two games into the season could be concerning.
Slazinski pushed back on that notion, though, when he was asked Tuesday about the chat he and the rest of the 2023 Mountaineers had in the locker room four nights prior.
“It was right. It was the right time. Some [teams] have it early, some have it in February when they’re 20-0 and they need a come to Jesus talk,” he said following his 19-point performance against Jacksonville State.
Of course, the “heart-to-heart” took place behind closed doors. Only the coaches and players truly know what was said. Neither Slazinski nor Kobe Johnson revealed any intimate details about the conversation Tuesday, nor did Eilert.
Slazinski, however, may have unknowingly given a glimpse at one of the messages delivered in the locker room when rehashing the Monthmouth loss that night with the media.
“There’s some stuff that’s inexcusable. Like, we have to be the first ones to the court, and on the floor, and if we aren’t, the media should kill us for it,” he said Friday. “Fifty-fifty balls, I mean, West Virginia… In a West Virginia jersey. I mean, growing up as a kid, I’m like, West Virginia hasn’t lost one fifty-fifty ball. We’ve got to have some of that toughness, some of that fight, and playing with emotion, playing as a team.”
He ended his time at the microphone that night by saying: “We are here to win games. This little hiccup we have, we’re going to take it and learn from it. I love every single one of my teammates, and we’re not going to get bullied again.”
Flash forward to Tuesday night, the Mountaineers returned to their winning ways.
Slazinski and point guard Kobe Johnson tallied 19 points apiece. Jesse Edwards and Josiah Harris also finished in double-figures, as the foursome combined to score 64 of West Virginia’s 70 points. As a team, the Mountaineers had their best shooting night of the young season, held a rebounding advantage, and forced visiting Jacksonville State into committing 20 fouls.
Johnson acknowledged there was better communication by WVU players on the floor, which was evident during the game.
Eilert noted last week that his team shouldn’t listen to outside critics and opinions and that staying a tight-knit unit will be the way to improve as a team.
Slazinski echoed those sentiments Tuesday night.
“It was really important for us to just remember what we’re playing for. Like I said, it’s time to start blocking out all the outside noise, and it’s time to start being about it as West Virginia basketball,” he said. “Guys that come ready to play. Kobe Johnson, tonight, he was about it. There wasn’t too much talk this week like ‘Hey, we need to do this.’ Like, it’s just time to be about it.”