ORLANDO, Fla. - Give Tom O'Brien credit. He didn't shy away from questions regarding the coaching upheaval at West Virginia.
OK, so he wasn't exactly a fountain of opinion, but he didn't toss out one-word answers and then effectively say, "Next question, please.''
Bill Stewart did. But then again, who can blame him? How many times can one guy answer the question about whether he's had trouble keeping his team focused on the task at hand - tonight's Champs Sports Bowl game between West Virginia and North Carolina State - amid all the other stuff going on?
"No,'' Stewart said when asked again Monday at a pre-bowl press conference.
O'Brien, when it was his turn in a separate Q&A session, managed to expand slightly.
"I hope I'm never in that situation,'' the N.C. State coach said. "I really don't have an answer to how you keep a team focused that way.''
O'Brien, though, has plenty of experience in how to handle it from the outside looking in. He said this is the third time in a bowl game that he has faced a coach about to lose his job, even though Stewart won't actually be losing his to Dana Holgorsen for another year.
It happened in 2000 when O'Brien was the coach at Boston College. The Eagles played in the Aloha Bowl against Arizona State, which had fired Bruce Snyder just before the end of the regular season, but allowed him to coach to the end of the year.
Then it happened again in O'Brien's last season at Boston College, the school's first year in the ACC, when the Eagles were sent to face Boise State in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise. Dan Hawkins wasn't being fired at Boise State, but he'd already agreed to become the coach at Colorado, so it was his going-away party.
"It's not a good situation to be in when you're playing somebody in their last game,'' O'Brien said. "Hopefully, this is different because Bill's going to be there for another year, but we'll see what it's like on Tuesday night.''
By the way, O'Brien's teams won both of those previous bowls against lame duck coaches, beating Arizona State in Hawaii and Boise State in Boise.
Of course, even if it's not Stewart's last game, it is the last for West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, who will be without a job come Wednesday morning. Does O'Brien figure on Mullen pulling out all the stops Tuesday night?
"If I was him I would,'' O'Brien said. "Why not?''
And while O'Brien was willing to talk about West Virginia's coaching situation somewhat, he didn't let it go on very long. And he wouldn't go any further than to express that, yes, he does have an opinion on the whole idea of Stewart being replaced after three seasons and 28 wins.