All it took for James Long was sitting down and watching ESPN in July of 2019.
The current head coach for West Virginia Tech was tuning into the Best Virginia games in the 2019 TBT, watching his fellow West Virginia basketball alumni compete for a chance at $1 million. The sense of family and pride resonated with Long.
“Watching Best Virginia in Richmond two years ago was a lot of fun. I mean you saw the support that was there, I wish I could’ve been there,” Long said. “Just watching on ESPN from a distance, it was something that really sparked my interest and sparked my support.”
“I wanted these guys to win like I was watching West Virginia,” Long added.
Fast forward to July of 2021 and Long is now the head coach of Best Virginia. Long—accompanied by Da’Sean Butler and Dave Tallman—will coach the basketball alumni in this year’s TBT tournament.
How did Long get the desire to become coach Long?
It all started before his playing career at West Virginia. Long had a lot of great coaches throughout his life and he attained that desire of wanting to become a basketball coach one day. Once he got to West Virginia, one man was able to boost his aspirations even further.
“I got to learn from a hall of fame coach and a great staff,” Long said. “It was something that I knew I was working to create good habits—while I was there—to be a coach. I think a lot of the things that we endured and a lot of the things that I went through as well kind of helped me in the coaching world.”
Huggins gave Long the same accountability every day as the All-American Jevon Carter. Long took that—and many other ideas—away from playing under Huggins into his coaching style.
After his walk-on career at West Virginia, Long was added to the coaching staff as a video coordinator. Long was well prepared for this as he started learning the video software his senior season during the Big 12 Conference Tournament. As the job was challenging, Long loved that he was able to watch the best teams in the country as he studied them. Josh Eilert—the current Director of Operations in the WVU basketball program—helped Long ease into the job.
“I’m beyond thankful for my experience as video coordinator and I have to give a lot of credit to Josh Eilert on that one,” Long said. “I know now as a video coordinator how stressful and demanding that is and he took the time to teach me and I’m forever indebted to Josh for that.”
In 2019, Long was ready to take the challenge of becoming a head coach for a colligate team. West Virginia Tech—an NAIA Division II team—hired Long and the former Mountaineer has not disappointed as head coach. In just two seasons, Long has coached the Golden Bears to a River States Conference regular season title in 2020, a River States Conference Championship and an appearance in the NAIA National Championship in 2021.
The culture that Long has built at West Virginia Tech is incredible given the short amount of time he has been at the helm.
“It’s really cool to watch our guys come into the gym the way they come in every day,” Long said. “They’re just here to get better and that’s the tone all the way through the program. I’ve had to pinch myself a couple of times because these guys never lose it. I’m so lucky to be a part of this team.”
Now less than two weeks away from the TBT, Long is coaching Best Virginia. For Long, it sometimes feels like a dream to him for a few reasons.
“It’s pretty crazy to me that an assistant coach is Da’Sean Butler. He was West Virginia basketball for me growing up,” Long said. “Da and I have gotten to know each other pretty well over the past seven or eight years. It still doesn’t seem real to me at times because I used to act like that guy out on my driveway when I was shooting.”
As he is coaching with his basketball idol, Long is just excited to be able to represent the state of West Virginia.
“I’m really excited about being around some of my former teammates, some guys I grew up watching and just representing West Virginia,” Long said.
(Top Photo: Dave Ryan)
There are still multiple opportunities to see coach Long and the rest of the Best Virginia team coming up this month.
Best Virginia will be in Wheeling on July 9, scrimmaging at 7 p.m. at Wheeling Park High School. Tickets are $25 at the door or using the link below:
Best Virginia then will be heading down to Charleston, West Virginia, on July 17-21 to compete in the 2021 TBT. Best Virginia will be hosting the West Virginia region alongside Herd That—Marshall’s alumni team. Tickets can be bought by using the link below:
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