INDIANAPOLIS - West Virginia's players had some time to themselves Thursday night and a few decided to leave the hotel and the mock music videos behind to go shopping.
As Cam Payne, Jonnie West, Cam Thoroughman, Wellington Smith and Joe Mazzulla waked to Circle Center Mall, they carefully navigated the sidewalks crowded by Final Four fans and the outdoor seating provided at many restaurants.
Spotted eating dinner outside one place was the familiar face of their former coach, John Beilein.
For a moment, there was a thought about what the players should do. West, Thoroughman, Smith and Mazzulla were recruited by Beilein and took part in the 2007 NIT championship team. They were also hurt and confused when Beilein left after that season for Michigan and never gave them a satisfactory explanation.
They could have ignored the man and left him to his dinner with his family.
"We wanted to sneak up on him and surprise him," Thoroughman said.
They tried to blend into the mass as they neared the table, but before they could get there, Beilein stood up, spotted them and offered each a hug.
"It was interesting," Smith said. "It was kind of strange, kind of like seeing a family member you haven't seen in a while, but it was good. I feel like he really misses us."
From time to time in the past Smith would text back and forth with Beilein. The Wolverines coach, who's been an obvious and elusive subject this week, sent congratulatory messages following the Big East Tournament and the Elite Eight.
Thoroughman, Mazzulla and West hadn't seen, spoken to or texted with Beilein since their final meeting together in the team's film room April 4, 2007.
"It was kind of like meeting up with your ex-wife you didn't really get to finish things off with," Mazzulla said.
They spoke for 10 pleasant and peaceful minutes.