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WVU assistant finds new home, again

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
West Virginia co-defensive coordintor Keith Patterson gives instructions during practice earlier this season. In 2011, Patterson helped lead a Pitt defense that ranked third in the nation. (West Virginia University)
West Virginia co-defensive coordintor Keith Patterson gives instructions during practice earlier this season. In 2011, Patterson helped lead a Pitt defense that ranked third in the nation. (West Virginia University)

Keith Patterson had just accepted a coaching position with offensive wizard Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State when his phone rang.

The call changed Patterson's life, as well as his zip code for the third time in a year.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was on the other end of the line. His sales pitch hooked Patterson.

Only a year after becoming the defensive coordinator at Pitt, and less than two weeks after taking a new job to be closer to family, Patterson decided to relocate one more time.

Ultimately, the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in the Big 12 and work for another offensive-minded coach was too tempting to pass up.

“I knew my family situation was going to dictate what I did,” said Patterson, who is from Marlow, Okla. “I was going to try to get back as close as I possibly could to our hometown. I ended up going to Arkansas State with Gus Malzahn for almost two weeks. Then, Dana called. I flew out and talked to him and felt like, career-wise, it was a good move. My family's roots are in Oklahoma and Texas, so it's right in the heart of Big 12 country.”

Holgorsen felt it was important to bring Patterson to Morgantown, W.Va., for the same reason Patterson agreed to listen to him: mutual respect.

Last year, in Holgorsen's first season at WVU, the Mountaineers matched their lowest point total of the season, while being held to their second-lowest yardage output in a 21-20 win over Pitt. As an assistant at Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech, Holgorsen had seen his offenses have trouble moving the ball easily against Patterson's defenses at Pitt and Tulsa.

“I've known his body of work for years,” Holgorsen said. “Our transformation from the stack to the 3-4 is something that he did several years ago at Tulsa. He was running the stack at one point, and then transitioned to the 3-4. He had many reasons why he wanted to do that, which were the same reasons why we did.”

Said Patterson, who was Pitt's interim coach in the BBVA Compass Bowl when Todd Graham abruptly left for Arizona State: “I didn't know Dana personally. It was just having the respect for what he's done offensively. I spent time trying to figure out defending him at Pitt and trying to become a better coach.”

Patterson said his year at Pitt was both exciting and sad.

He enjoyed coaching a defense that ranked third in the nation in sacks and 21st against the run. He disliked how his tenure with the Panthers ended.

“I loved the city of Pittsburgh. I enjoyed living there. I felt like I was close with our players on defense. I was excited about our future. I was excited about going into the ACC and hopefully be able to revive the program,” Patterson said. “I hated that it had to end that way.”

Patterson said he didn't join Graham at Arizona State for personal reasons.

“It was going to be the third school for Kelby in 12 months,” Patterson said about his son, a high school junior. “(Daughter) Bretlie has transferred to Tulsa to Pitt; now she's going to have to transfer again. At some point, you've got to step back and say, ‘When's enough, enough?'

“I felt like I put them in some difficult situations, so I tried to make the best of it. I ended up being very blessed to be here.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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