Nichols Victorious in Homecoming Effort at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Nichols Victorious in Homecoming Effort at WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Now that you've had time to get over the fact that West Virginia was unable to beat a Division-II team in its exhibition Friday, let's catch up with the Mountaineer who helped take down the home team.

Darris Nichols, Northern Kentucky assistant and a former player and graduate assistant for WVU, began his West Virginia tour earlier in the week with a loss to Marshall. As he and his team drove up I-79 to Morgantown, all he and Kevin Schappell (another NKU assistant who previously roamed WVU's sideline under Bob Huggins) could think about was the opportunity that awaited them in the WVU Coliseum.

"Me and Schappy were smiling ever since we stepped in West Virginia," Nichols said after the game. "I'm just happy to be here."

During team introductions, the Mountaineers fans performed their normal jeering of the opponent through each player's announcement. Generally, when the coaching staff is announced, they simply boo for the entire list.

Not this time, though. The last name called out over the PA system was Nichols' and the fans who had been booing stopped long enough to give him a rousing ovation.

It was an acknowledgement of who he was and what he had done for the program and that despite his new position on the other side of the court, the fans still appreciated Darris Nichols.

"When I walked in here, I went in the visitor's locker room and the event staff were looking at me crazy and they said, ‘You're in the wrong locker room.' They didn't realize that I had left West Virginia," said Nichols. "It just shows you what great people we have in this state. Everybody sticks together, we're all Mountaineers, so for them to show respect and show appreciation like that, it's great."

Still, the objective on Friday was to beat the Mountaineers. Soak in the environment and enjoy the scenario, but then go out and win a basketball game.

Nichols and Schappell were both very animated throughout the game. Of all the coaches on the bench, those two were on their feet the most, shouting and pointing to get their players on the right track.

Whatever the instructions, they were working. The 42-29 halftime lead was a sign that the visiting Norse could pull the upset, but if you ask Nichols, he knew it all along.

"I think we can win every game," he says. "I think we have a great team, I think we can win against any team we play. We just came in there with that mindset and everybody bought into it and it was a total team effort."

This one was made even more special to Nichols because he's the one who came up with the game plan to beat his alma mater. His first scouting effort couldn't have gone off more smoothly.

"I told Huggs before the game I can't even imagine what he felt like going back to Cincinnati after all those years," says Nichols. "I was so nervous. I had never been nervous as a player, but as a coach, I was nervous to death."

Schappell didn't stop smiling for the entire game. Even when things were getting interesting in the final seconds and West Virginia had mounted a successful comeback, he had a look on his face like this was the most enjoyable experience of his life.

The students were going up against the teacher, and they were proving just how much they had learned from him and that they could put it to good use.

"Momentum," Nichols says of what his team can take from a game that doesn't have an impact on the record. "It gives our players a glimpse of how good we can be and stuff we need to work on in the future. I think West Virginia exposed some of our weaknesses, so we just need to go back and watch tape and figure out where we can get better."

As Nichols walked down the line of the postgame handshake, the majority of his handshakes instead turned into hugs. Coaches he has coached with and played for and players he has gotten to know through ties at WVU congratulated him on a job well done in his return to Morgantown.

"[They said] good job, good luck on the season, we'll stay in touch," says Nichols. "I talk to those guys every week, so they're big supporters of us and they help us out a lot, so we just appreciate them letting us come down here and play."

Huggins has said in the past that he would rather lose to coaches and people he likes because it's easier to watch them walk off the court happy than someone he lacks the same affinity for.

It's tough to imagine a more welcome sign after a defeat, then, than that of Nichols and Schappell walking off the court victorious in their homecoming effort.

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