The parking lot is already full by the time he arrives. Today, he is lucky. He usually has to drive around for atleast 10 minutes to find a parking spot. He pulls into a spot and heads into the Coliseum. It’s a cold, wet, unforgiving day. Hopefully, things will turn around.
“Just another day at the office,” he says.
9:30 a.m.: WVU’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach Mike Carey sits down at his desk and looks around. Pictures of family and former teammates line the wall. Trophies and autographed basketballs clutter the shelves. So much success has accumulated in this room over the past eight seasons. His gaze follows the storyline of his coaching career until it reaches his desk. He eyes the schedule covered in doodles and shapes he drew himself and sighs.
It’s going to be a long day.
Tonight, “Mountaineer Madness” will be held at the Coliseum, kicking off the basketball season for the Mountaineers. Carey sighs because he knows he won’t be getting home until after midnight. For him and his staff, the madness has already begun. The schedule for the day is filled with recruiting visits, meetings with players and coaches and trying to prepare for the evening’s festivities.
“I love what our school does for the teams and fans during ‘Mountaineer Madness,’ said Carey. “It’s just people don’t see the work and preparation that goes into something like this.”
9:45 a.m.: Coach Carey meets with his staff and discusses the plans for the day. A recruit and her family will arriving soon and everything has to be lined up to make things go smoothly. There are hotel and lunch reservations. Making sure the family has a place to park and can find the Coliseum. In a matter of minutes Carey transforms from Division I basketball coach to a travel coordinator, chauffeur, and salesman. He understands that recruiting is more about selling himself and the university than how many “W’s” he has in the win column.
“We really try to stress how wonderful the WVU community is here,” said Carey. “Once we get them to Morgantown, we feel we have just as good a chance as anyone.”
Noon: The recruit and her family arrive to the Coliseum. The normally laid-back Carey becomes gregarious and full of energy. He’s excited to meet the family and you can sense the sincerity in his voice. He jokes with the recruit and tells stories of seasons past. He is on top of his game. This is a skill he had perfected before he came to WVU and the Big East Conference.
“Coach Carey has been a winner at every level,” says Graduate Assistant Kyle Cooper. “He knows what it takes to win.”
And win he does.
A native of Clarksburg, W.Va., Carey was a three-sport star at Liberty High School. He went on to Salem College, in Salem, W.Va., where he was a four-year basketball letterman. He graduated Salem scoring more than 2,000 points and was inducted into the Salem Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1987, Carey returned to Salem as an assistant coach of the men’s program. He was made the head coach the nest season. In 13 seasons with the Tigers, he won 288 games and only suffered 102 losses. In his last five seasons with Salem, he lost only 20 games.
As intense a coach as he was a player, Carey stresses discipline, defense and demands perfection.
“Off the court, he is one of the nicest persons I have met,” says Cooper. “But when he steps between those lines, it’s time to work.”
Carey is not a quiet man in practice. He’s always teaching and motivating. He hates to wait and is 100mph all the time.
“When we start, I just want to go, go, go,” said Carey. “I have to get these girls ready for the season.”
12:45 p.m.: Carey takes the recruit and meets with other members of the support staff. They meet with the strength and conditioning coach, Andy Kettler. They meet the academic advisor, Ehren Green. Carey wants to show all the people that our involved with the team’s success.
“We are a family here, and we have to work together in order for us to reach our potential,” said Carey.
3:00 p.m.: The recruit and her family head back to the hotel. This gives Carey a few minutes of downtime before he must get back to work. He’s been on the job for six hours and he’s not even halfway done. Yet you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have it any other way. He takes a few minutes and talks to some of his staff and jokes with them.
“He can be a big kid sometimes,” said Cooper. “He just becomes one of us.”
Carey will often invite staff members to lunch or to his house to watch movies. He enjoys this time the most. He can let his guard down and have a good time. He knows the people around him.
.“Coach Carey is a big believer in loyalty,” said Associate Head Coach George Porcha. “If you work hard for him and show you care about the program, then he will do anything for you.”
“I’ve worked with Coach Carey longer than anyone on staff and he has done so much for me over the last four years,” said Cooper. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help.
5:00 p.m.: Carey heads down to the Coliseum floor for an autograph session. You can tell he is a little uneasy, since he’s not quite used to being in the spotlight. Yet he signs every ball and smiles for every picture. He jokes with the younger crowd and schmoozes with the parents. He knows the importance of networking. If he can generate more relationships, he can generate more ticket sales and more fans, which ultimately leads to more money in the budget and more buzz about the program; something the women’s team desperately needs.
“We have had great success over the last eight seasons,” said Carey. “Only no one has been there to see it.”
Carey has won 150 games in his tenure at WVU and has made the NCAA Tournament three times.
“Coach Carey is one of the most respected coaches in the Big East, as well as the nation,” said Porcha. “Hopefully people will realize the kind of program he has built.”
6:00p.m.: The autograph session is over and Carey goes to meet with his team. He is relaxed even through the electricity that is flowing through the Coliseum. The fans are getting restless and excited for the teams to be announced. He is poised, having done this countless times over his coaching career. He sits backs and waits, occasionally staring at the clock. He waits for the sound of the musket and that carpet to be rolled out.
8:30p.m.: The crowd hushes when Tony Caridi’s voice is heard over the microphone. He pumps up the fans even more as he talks about the success of the basketball programs. After a lucky fan won a pizza and a few more caught free T-shirts, the lights dim and the scoreboard lights up. The players and coaches flash across the screen as the crowd roars its approval. The introductions begin. After his team is called out, Carey calmly struts down the carpet between the rows of cheerleaders as the fans stand and cheer. He high-fives a few players and takes the microphone to address the crowd. He thanks everyone for coming out and supporting the basketball programs and encourages people to cheer on the women’s team this season. His speech seems a little rehearsed and rushed, as Carey again appears uncomfortable in the spotlight. He ends his speech with a comment about beating Marshall the following day in football. This gains even more cheers.
9:20p.m.: A few members of the women’s team have a surprise for their coach. As they bring him on the court they mention how much appreciation they have for him. He seems surprised, but goes along with it. They draw everyone’s attention to the video board and a music video dedicated to Coach Carey begins to play. Set to the tune of “I Wanna Be Like Mike,” the video shows clips of Carey coaching throughout his years at WVU.
“I was caught off-guard at first,” said Carey with a laugh. “But it was all in good fun and I enjoyed it.”
9:40 p.m.: After the men’s dunk contest, Carey and his team prepare to scrimmage. Porcha handles the media while Carey sits back and watches. He doesn’t look all too pleased with his team’s performance, but he knows it’s one of the first few times they’ve played each other. He doesn’t get very animated, taking every mistake in stride. There will be time for that tomorrow.
12:01a.m.: Carey gets back to his office. It’s been a full day and he is tired. He packs up a few things and heads to the door.
“Time to go home and get some sleep,” he says while turning off the light. “The real work begins today.”
Somehow you know he’ll be ready.