With a penchant for setting new standards and taking Mountaineer women’s basketball to heights previously not thought of, Mike Carey enters his 14th season as head coach of the West Virginia University women’s basketball team.
His achievements speak volumes: a school-record 30 wins; the highest national rankings in program history; eight 21-win seasons in 11 years—a school record; eight consecutive postseason appearances—a school record; 29 career 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; consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (2007, 2008 and 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and eight trips in 11 years (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
In 13 seasons at WVU, the three-time Conference Coach of the Year has posted a 274-146 (.652) record. He holds the highest winning percentage in program history and reached 200 wins the fastest, doing so in his 10th season. Under his direction, WVU is 141-40 (.779) against non-conference opponents including an impressive 78-6 mark at the WVU Coliseum. For his career, Carey boasts a 562-248 (.694) record in 25 years of coaching.
Five Consecutive NCAA Appearances
In only his second season in the Big 12 Conference, Carey led the Mountaineers to a 2014 Big 12 Regular-Season Championship title, finishing with a 16-2 league record and sharing the top of the league standings with Baylor. Carey was named Big 12 Coach of the Year as the Mountaineers captured a conference regular-season title for the first time since winning the Atlantic 10 title in 1992.
The Mountaineers made a run to the Big 12 Championship title game, while senior center Asya Bussie and sophomore guard Bria Holmes were each named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. In addition to the tournament, Bussie and Holmes were All-Big 12 First Team honorees, including a unanimous selection for Holmes. Bussie was also named Big 12 All-Defensive Team alongside classmate Jess Harlee and Taylor Palmer as the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year.
The 2013-14 season had many firsts. WVU recorded its most wins in program history with a 30-5 overall record, made its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance with a No. 2 seed—the highest in program history, recorded its highest ranking to date in program history at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and recorded wins over five top-25 teams, including four in the top 15, also a feat never done before.
At the close of the season, Bussie was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Lynx as the No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft. At the time, Bussie became WVU’s highest WNBA Draft pick in program history. The Randallstown, Md., native was a two-time All-American Honorable Mention selection by the Associated Press and the WBCA.
The 2012-13 season marked the fourth consecutive NCAA appearance for Carey and the Mountaineers. Closing out its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference with a 17-14 overall record and a 9-9 mark in league play, WVU landed a No. 6 seed in its first-ever Big 12 Conference Tournament. Four Mountaineers added all-conference honors to their names as Christal Caldwell earned first team, Ayana Dunning closed out her career with an honorable mention accolade, Jess Harlee was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and Bria Holmes landed a spot on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
Although it was its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference, Carey continued to play a tough schedule, facing eight opponents, four twice, ranked in the top-50 RPI, defeating back-to-back top-25 Associated Press ranked teams en route to three total wins over ranked opponents, recorded seven road wins and trailed by 10 or more in three games, in which the Mountaineers rallied for a comeback win.
The West Virginia women’s basketball program set a new attendance record as 13,447 fans came to the Coliseum for WVU’s March 2 game against No. 1 Baylor, an attendance figure that ranked in the top-10 nationally for a regular-season game. Off the court, six Mountaineers were honored by the conference on the Academic All-Big 12 team, the most players of any team to earn the honor.
In the 2011-12 season, Carey coached a Mountaineer squad returning only one senior and one starter from the previous season to its third consecutive NCAA tournament and fourth in the last five seasons. Predicted to finish ninth in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Mountaineers exceeded expectations finishing in a tie for fourth place and earning a bye in the Big East Championship. WVU’s scoring defense ranked in the top 10 nationally all season, closing out the year at No. 6, and held 23 opponents to under 60 points. WVU defeated 17 opponents by a double-figure margin and out-rebounded 28 opponents, including 13 Big East teams in the regular season.
For the first time in program history, WVU defeated three-straight top 25 teams, including the highest ranked opponent in program history as the Mountaineers took a 65-63 victory from No. 2 Notre Dame in front of a sold out crowd on national television. The win was WVU’s first ever in Notre Dame, Ind. Carey saw three players earn all-conference honors as junior Asya Bussie, the 15th player in WVU history to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, was named first team All-BIG EAST, sophomore Christal Caldwell earned All-BIG EAST honorable mention and Linda Stepney was named to the All-BIG EAST freshman team.
A Decade of Success
The Mountaineers experienced success from the start of the 2010-11 season as WVU earned its highest-ever preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll at No. 11 with seniors Liz Repella and Sarah Miles earning BIG EAST preseason honors. The season opened on a 19-0 win streak, the best start to a season in program history, and the Mountaineers moved up to the highest-ever ranking in program history at No. 6 in the polls, staying there for four-straight weeks. Within its undefeated start, WVU defeated No. 21 TCU, Virginia and No. 19 Iowa State on the way to becoming Paradise Jam Island Division Champions. Senior co-captains Repella and Madina Ali were named to the all-tournament team, while Repella also earned MVP honors.
Driven by Carey’s motivation for defensive play, the Mountaineers’ scoring defense ranked No. 1 nationally for five-straight weeks and stayed within the top-10 nationwide for the entire season. WVU was led by five seniors, who amassed the most wins in two seasons in program history with a 53-15 mark. Carey recorded his 200th win as head coach at WVU on Feb. 19, 2011 as the Mountaineers tallied their highest point total of the season with a 90-79 win at Pitt.
Under Carey’s guidance, WVU recorded six 20-win seasons in the last eight years, made its fifth NCAA appearance in eight seasons and its fourth NCAA Second Round appearance in the last five seasons. Ali was named to the All-BIG EAST second team, while Repella earned first-team honors for the second consecutive season. Repella was named a Capital One Academic All-America first team member in back-to-back seasons and was named to the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award All-America second team as a finalist for the award.
With 50 percent of its games on television and nine games nationally televised, including ESPN2’s Big Monday, WVU experienced some of its greatest crowds in program history. Six crowds ranked in the top 20 all time at the WVU Coliseum, helping the Mountaineers to a school record for total (49,648) and average (3,103) home attendance; ranking 35th of all NCAA Division I programs and recording the fifth-largest per game increase nationally from the previous season.
In 2009-10, Carey guided WVU to the best record in school history with a 29-6 mark, its best finish in BIG EAST regular-season play at second place with 13 league victories, the school’s second appearance in the BIG EAST title game as the tournament’s No. 2 seed, the second-longest win streak (16) in school history and the highest national rankings in the program’s 37-year history (No. 7 in both major polls). WVU was undefeated at home for the second time in school history, boasted the most wins ever at the WVU Coliseum (17-0) and knocked off No. 13 Georgetown and No. 22 Pitt in the process at home.
He was named BIG EAST co-Coach of the Year, with Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, and guided four players to all-BIG EAST honors: Sarah Miles (Defensive Player of the Year and second team), Liz Repella (first team), Asya Bussie (unanimous all-freshman team) and Korinne Campbell (honorable mention). Repella and Miles also garnered all-league tournament team honors. WVU advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time under Carey and advanced to the second round for the third time under his tutelage.
In 2008-09, Carey guided the Mountaineers to an 18-15 record and a WNIT second round appearance with just eight healthy players. Along the way, the Mountaineers defeated eventual national runner-up and No. 5 Louisville, the highest-ranked road team WVU had ever defeated. WVU also defeated eventual WNIT champion USF at home.
Carey guided Repella and Takisha Granberry to all-BIG EAST second team accolades and guard Miles garnered the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year award.
In 2007-08, the Mountaineers reached new heights under the Clarksburg native. WVU recorded a 25-8 record, the second-most wins in school history, and advanced to the NCAA second round for the second-consecutive season. WVU was ranked in the nation’s Top 20 in both major polls in the season’s entirety for the first time in school history, reaching as high as No. 11 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
In league play, the Mountaineers compiled a 12-4 record and finished third in the nation’s toughest conference – their highest finish since joining the BIG EAST in 1995-96. Carey also notched his 400th coaching victory with WVU’s win at Rhode Island.
Olayinka Sanni garnered honorable mention All-America honors and was named to the all-BIG EAST first team for the second consecutive season. Meg Bulger and LaQuita Owens garnered second team recognition.
In 2006-07, Carey led WVU to a 21-11 record and advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second round. Equally impressive, WVU finished with an 11-5 mark in the BIG EAST. The Mountaineers finished fourth in the league, earning their then-highest-ever regular-season finish since joining the BIG EAST in 1996 and notching a first-round championship bye.
Three Mountaineers also garnered all-conference accolades en route to postseason success: Sanni (first team), Owens (second team) and Chakhia Cole (honorable mention).
West Virginia reached the 2006 BIG EAST championship game for the first time in school history. Along the way, WVU, seeded No. 12, knocked off No. 5 Louisville in opening round action, No. 4 St. John’s in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Rutgers in the semifinals (ranked sixth nationally). It marked the first time in the 23-year history of the BIG EAST tournament that a 12-seed had won a game, let alone advanced to the championship contest.
At the time, the win over the Scarlet Knights marked the highest ranked opponent WVU had ever defeated in program history. Junior guard Britney Davis-White and sophomore guard Cole garnered all-BIG EAST tournament team honors. Meg Bulger earned Associated Press honorable mention All-America accolades and all-BIG EAST second team recognition.
In 2004-05, the Mountaineers posted a 21-13 mark and reached the postseason WNIT championship game. Carey guided guard Bulger and point guard Yolanda Paige to honorable mention All-America honors and all-BIG EAST first and second team honors, respectively. Bulger, a unanimous first-team selection, became the first Mountaineer in school history ever named to that team.
Paige, who shattered every WVU assist and minutes played record, led the nation in assists with 297 and became the first BIG EAST player taken in the 2005 WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever with the 16th overall selection.
During that season Carey notched his 350th career victory with an 81-50 win at home against Syracuse. Carey was named 2003-04 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, as voted by the league’s coaches, in just his third season after the Mountaineers notched a 21-11 season, the third-most wins in school history, and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 seasons.
Under Carey’s guidance, West Virginia won six more conference games (10-6) than it did in all of the previous seasons. It was the second-best league turnaround from one season to the next in BIG EAST history.
Among highly noted victories, Carey led WVU to wins over two ranked teams in No. 19/21 Virginia Tech during the regular season and No. 23/23 Villanova in quarterfinal round action of the BIG EAST tournament. Those wins marked the first time in school history that WVU defeated two ranked teams in the same season. The victory over the Wildcats advanced WVU into the BIG EAST tournament’s semifinals for the first time in school history.
Three Mountaineers garnered all-conference recognition under Carey’s guidance: freshman Meg Bulger was named freshman of the year; sister and senior guard Kate Bulger was named to the second team; junior Paige was named to the third team and became the first Mountaineer named to the BIG EAST all-tournament team.
Carey became WVU’s sixth women’s basketball coach in March, 2001, after 13 seasons as head men’s coach at Salem College. Given the task of resurrecting the women’s program, Carey worked with holdovers from a 5-22 campaign and only a few newcomers in his first year.
He took the program one step farther the next season, in 2002-03, as he guided WVU 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 also directed Kate Bulger, Sherell Sowho and Paige to all-BIG EAST honors, then the first time in school history the Mountaineers had three players receive all-conference recognition in the same season. Kate Bulger was also a third team all-BIG EAST performer in 2002-03.
But his efforts didn’t stop there. Carey’s second recruiting class was ranked 16th nationally by All-Star Girl’s Report, one of the nation’s leading scouting service.
His third recruiting class that consisted of Yelena Leuchanka and Meg Bulger was rated the fourth-best class in the nation for a class of two or less by All-Star.
During the early signing period of the 2003-04 campaign, Carey inked the 17th-best recruiting class by All-Star.
Under Carey’s guidance 37 student-athletes have graduated and 187 Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll Awards have been earned. With a high regard for academics, Carey had six players named to the Academic All-Big 12 team in WVU’s inaugural season in the league, the most players of any team to earn the honor. Ten total players have been named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team, while 15 players were named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll. Junior Jess Harlee, an industrial engineering major, earned the national title of the 2013 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Magazine and went on to be named the 2014 Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Carey experienced his largest graduating class in 2011, which had six graduates. Part of that class was two-time CoSIDA first team all-America selection Liz Repella, the second player in program history to receive such an honor. She also was named to the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award All-America second team as a finalist for the award, leading WVU to a team grade point average of 3.14.
Repella became Carey’s first CoSIDA Academic All-District II first team member in 2009 and she did so again in 2010. Repella was recognized by the BIG EAST in 2009 and 2011 as she earned the conference's Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award.
In 2003, Jess Fisher earned CoSIDA Academic All-District II second team honors and Sparkle Davis joined her with the accolade a year later.
Prior to West Virginia University
Carey served as the head men’s basketball coach at Salem College (Div. II) in Salem, W.Va. Before he took the reins of the program, the Tigers posted an 8-19 mark in the 1987-88 season. The program suffered just one losing campaign during his regime.
In 13 seasons, Carey's Salem teams made seven postseason appearances (two NAIA and five NCAA Division II) and won five WVIAC championships (1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999).
Three times the WVIAC tournament champion, the Tigers were twice participants in the Division II Elite Eight, ranked No. 1 in the country during two seasons and played in the Division II Final Four in 1997. A four-time WVIAC Coach of the Year (1994, 1997-99), Carey twice was named NCAA Division II East Region coach of the year (1997, 1999).
In his last season before coming to Morgantown, Carey’s Tigers were 26-7, ranked as high as No. 4 nationally and advanced to the NCAA East Region finals. Carey's career record at Salem was 288-102; his record during the last five years of his tenure was 138-20. He had also served as director of athletics at Salem since 1989.
Before going to Salem as an assistant coach in 1987, Carey coached for seven years in the West Virginia high school ranks, serving as girls' basketball coach at Flemington and Clarksburg Liberty High Schools. In 1986, he was Harrison County and Big 10 Coach of the Year, as Liberty advanced to the regional finals. As boys’ coach in 1987, he led Liberty to conference, county and sectional titles.
Carey was a four-year basketball letterman at Salem, earning WVIAC Freshman of the Year (1977), WVIAC scoring champion (1978) and Salem MVP and WVIAC all-tournament team (1979) honors while scoring more than 2,000 career points. He was a 1993 inductee into the Salem Athletic Hall of Fame.
A native of Clarksburg, W.Va., Carey is a 1980 Salem graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He received his master’s degree from Salem in 1988. Carey and his wife, the former Cheryl Minnix, have four children -- Chris, Chelsy, who is married to former Mountaineer basketball standout Wellington Smith, Craig and Chelby. Chris and his wife, Erica, made Carey a grandpa with son, Caden Michael, in 2013.