For 20 years, Mike Carey has been the head coach of the West Virginia women’s basketball team. 31 years of coaching and 412 wins at WVU later, Carey hit the No. 700 career victory milestone on Saturday evening against LSU at the South Point Thanksgiving Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the South Point Hotel & Casino.
Carey is known for his stern demeanor and menacing look, but has become a favorite among his players, both past and present. He is well known for his dominant teams in the paint while coaching the old gold and blue, and has amassed what is an incredible record as the WVU head coach.
In addition to the 412 wins as WVU head coach, his accomplishments are substantial. 13 21-win seasons in 16 years—a school record; 12 consecutive postseason appearances—a school record; 44 victories over ranked opponents, including the highest-ranked team in school history and the highest-ranked road team in school history; victories over two eventual national runner-ups; three conference championship game appearances; 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in 14 years and a Big 12 Conference Tournament championship in 2017.
Starting out as a head coach of a West Virginia high school in 1980 (Flemington H.S), Carey has ascended the ranks of coaching in basketball to the top, making his name known while cutting his teeth at his alma mater, Salem University in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference. He switched over to coaching women’s basketball and took his dream job in Morgantown in 2001.
He brought the WVU program to new heights almost immediately, while the Mountaineers still competed in the Big East conference. In his second season in 2002-03, Carey guided West Virginia to its first winning season since 1996-97 with a 15-13 mark and back to the Big East tournament for a second consecutive season.
Carey’s defensive-minded teams have found success ever since, from 2004 to 2012, under Carey’s guidance, WVU recorded six 20-win seasons in eight years, the program made its fifth NCAA appearance in eight seasons and its fourth NCAA Second Round appearance in the last five seasons.
Another area where Carey has transformed WVU into a powerhouse is by recruiting. Bringing some incredible players to play for the Mountaineers throughout the years, among the likes of Yelena Leuchanka, Meg Bulger, Kate Bulger, Sherell Sowho, Yolanda Paige, Olayinka Sanni, LaQuinta Owens, Alya Bussie, Liz Repella, Christal Caldwell, and more recently, Lanay Montgomery, Asya Bussie, Bria Holmes, Tynice Martin and current starting guard Kysre Gondrezick.
“I’ve had a lot of great players that have played for me, and I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches, a lot of great administrators,” Carey said after his win against LSU. “You don’t win those games by yourself, it takes everybody to win those games. I’m very happy. I’m just really concentrating on the team, and we have to keep moving forward.”
While Carey and the Mountaineers look for that elusive national title, the WVU women’s basketball program has reached remarkable heights in his 20-year tenure. From 2010 to 2014 the Mountaineers reached the NCAA tournament every season, and again from ‘16-’18.
The 2020-21 season has been a new challenge for Carey and the Mountaineers due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but WVU has started the new season off well, with two dominating victories over Fresno State and LSU to start 2-0.
The Mountaineers will be back in action on Thursday when they take on North Alabama at 7 p.m. in Morgantown.