Joe Mazzulla Increases Mountaineers' Eminence with Great Pride

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IApril 1, 2010

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27:  Joe Mazzulla #21 of the West Virginia Mountaineers drives against John Wall #11 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the east regional final of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 27, 2010 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Before he fortified and dignified a high-profile status, Joe Mazzulla merited much account, leading the West Virginia Mountaineers to its first Final Four since 1959. Every spring, in a tourney where there’s much excitement and intense drama, a student-athlete emerges and increases notability with an incredible performance that thrills.

Yet, this year we’ve witnessed spectacular feel-good stories, such as Butler's awe-inspiring movie script-esque first ever appearance to the Final Four, Bob Huggins' redemptive tale, or even Duke reliving a glorifying rebirth. However, with all the hype circulating the wonderful stories, a happier storyline features a little point guard with plenty of enthusiasm and conviction.

There’s a good chance that the Mountaineers win the national title, mainly for having a sentimental and thriving guard. Though the masses had probably dismissed all odds when Mazzulla underwent surgery on his broken shoulder and rehabilitated for months, he became robust at a consequential moment.

Considering his aptitude and work ethnic, Mazzulla is a primary reason the Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four, known as the toughest and fiercest scorer in college basketball. He indeed, effectuated a shooting clinic in the greatest collegiate game of his college career, recovering from missing the entire season a year ago because of left shoulder damage. But it seems like none of that matters, with the parallels of Michigan State’s point guard Kalin Lucas or Duke’s Nolan Smith. This is someone with sheer passion and someone who's coveted winning a national championship.

It’s clearly understandable that Mazzulla takes in much pride to experience an instant gratification at a program with much ineptitude, but is suddenly transforming into an adequate basketball school. In an era where the Big East conference gets an upper nod for its dominant athletes and stout powerhouses, West Virginia in previous seasons hasn’t been so opportune, advancing to the highest standard stumbling to capitalize with enough equilibrium offensively. And yet every team has an ideal agenda it devotes much of its energy on.

For instance, Huggins’ coaching has altered the dimension and emphasized a tougher approach. His man-to-man defensive principles have been the difference to an irresistible run. This year, the approach is obvious with the emergence of Mazzulla, with his breakthrough layups and quick attacking of the basket. He’s the comeback kid, a virtuous hero attaining tremendous appreciation for taking charge in the leadership role.

The feeling of his career in jeopardy elicited scary conceptions when medical experts were convinced that Mazzulla's damaged shoulder was career-threatening. As a result, most doctors described the injury as a high risk of ending a promising career. Fortunately, he was given an opportunity, reprieving from his poorest days in Rhode Island. For years, he has been denied and overlooked, struggling in high school as a below average guard. Before he ever was braced as a hero for his proficient shot making and distributing, he was a soft defender and playmaker with no discipline or methodical styles.            

There were hugs and smiles when the final buzzer sounded in West Virginia’s upset over Kentucky to clinch a Final Four berth. That apparently wasn’t the most heartwarming panorama of the night, once warmth bear hugs were exchanged between Mazzulla and Huggins. Their hugs were tender, each shedding tears in what was a heartfelt win, and even an indicator of redemption. Sometimes a win leads to an inconceivable turnaround, and collocates a miraculous moment in school history as well as forgiving a coach of poor judgment in his previous coaching jobs.

This isn’t a kid just redeeming himself, but also one of the most controversial coaches in college basketball. It’s apparent that Huggins was rebellious at one point, arrested on DUI charges and fired as Cincinnati’s head coach. Such is the emergence of a formally softened guard transformed into a mellowed, humbled player who has belief in himself after a 17-point masterpiece to help win the East Regional final MVP title.

He wasn’t always an innocent man, either. As much as basketball fans like to believe the good side over the bad side of any athlete, Mazzulla was arrested at a Pittsburgh Pirates game in 2008. Now, he’s remorseful after pleading guilty for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, resulting in a $222 dollar fine.

Even more so, he deeply regrets provoking an altercation at a bar in Morgantown, an incident that got him arrested and later charged with disorderly conduct. Law enforcement abstained from hitting Mazzulla with a hard plenty, but the team became his enforcers and suspended him indefinitely.     

As of now, he’s a changed man, currently attending graduate school after earning an undergraduate degree. That's one of the great things about life, an individual can change how they live and amend disgusting behavior. If there was anyone who believed in Mazzulla, it was Huggins. He had enough faith in his point guard, never benching him.

There’s still much faith left, too.