Randy Mazey hoped that he’d be spending his Memorial Day afternoon with his team on Wagener Field preparing for an NCAA Tournament Regional. In reality, he was in his office speaking to the media on Zoom, reflecting on his now-finished season after WVU was left out of the tournament’s field of 64.
After learning the disappointing news, Mazey saw an opportunity to give his team one last bit of coaching.
“Don’t let a group of people who have no idea who you are dictate the satisfaction you can get out of knowing that you did everything you could,” he told his team. “Don’t let somebody else’s opinion change how you feel about yourself.”
Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, West Virginia appeared to be a strong candidate for a bid. It was ranked in the top 35 in the RPI and had built a solid resume throughout the 2022 regular season as it eyed a postseason run.
Instead, the Mountaineers made their second-ever two-loss exit from the conference tournament, spurring a 14-spot slide in the RPI and putting their destiny in the hands of teams across the country. However, by Monday, it was clear they weren’t getting the help they needed.
“Literally everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” Mazey said. “We lost two games and the upsets that were going on around the country, and some of the games — I mean UCLA scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth against Oregon State to pass us in the RPI….I actually thought we had a great year, we did everything we needed to do.”
Even with that final weekend tragedy, Mazey felt his team was deserving of a bid. He criticized the selection process itself, saying there is something “logically and systematically” wrong with the system, and that it seems the Mountaineers don’t “get the respect” they feel they deserve.
“It’s not an objective process like it needs to be. As a conference, I think that the Big 12 should probably be embarrassed that West Virginia didn’t get in the tournament with a 14-10 regular season record,” Mazey said. “We’re the only team in the last 10 years in either the Big 12, the ACC, the SEC or the PAC-12 that were four games over .500 that didn’t get an at-large bid. I think the Big 12 needs to look at that and say, ‘Where did we go wrong here?'”
Mazey used this snub as a teaching moment, telling his team to look forward to next year.
“In life, starting when you’re a young child, filling out your Christmas list and putting it under the tree for Santa Claus, you just don’t always get what you want,” Mazey said. “And when you don’t get what you want, if Santa doesn’t bring you the Red Ryder BB Gun, you don’t swear yourself off of Christmas and hate Santa Claus, you just learn how to go about your business understanding that life is all about not getting what you want. I just turned 56 and I didn’t get what I wanted, and I have to react accordingly and teach these guys how to react accordingly.”
While speaking to his team in the theater, Mazey pulled a poker chip out of his pocket. He placed it on his shoulder and told his players that will be how they play next season.
“They’ve put us in a position now to play with a chip on our shoulder and to prove to people that we’re better than everybody thinks we are, and if you get a group of guys that have a chip on their shoulder and are trying to prove something, then you can turn this into a positive and play with a level of enthusiasm and energy that you wouldn’t have played with had this not happened. So we’ll show people,” Mazey said.