The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

February 11, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN-Huggins may be doing one of his best jobs

MORGANTOWN — One thousand games into his career, it is perhaps time to discuss Bob Huggins, who has spent the last 199 of them coaching at West Virginia University, his alma mater.

To be quite frank, when you have been around the coaching scene for 30 years, people begin to re-examine you, especially when you come off your first non-20-victory season in seven years and follow it with a season in which just .500 is a battle.

They begin to question most everything that you do, wondering if the game has not caught up with you, wondering if the wick isn’t just beginning to become a bit short.

Certainly, this has been one of Huggins’ most challenging seasons being for the first time without any part of the group that led him to some of his greatest moments — Devin Ebanks, Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones.

He was starting pretty much from scratch and somehow found himself with a group that did not seem to fit the mold he had created for his kind of team ... tough, hard-nosed, a team that rebounds and runs crisp motion and makes its shots.

That is why, as that team now has won three in a row against the league’s bottom feeders, it seems so important that things appear to be changing for the better, which could lead you to the conclusion that Huggins may be in the process of doing one of his best coaching jobs rather than one of his worst.

To begin with, great teams play to a coach’s personality. The Green Bay Packers of Vince Lombardi were more Ray Nitschke than Bart Starr in image, just as the Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers were more Joe Montana than Bill Romanowski.

Huggins’ public persona is more snarling, scratching, clawing than anything else, yet his team isn’t built that way.

“We’ve said all along we have good guys, guys you want to take home to your mother — great people who conduct themselves in a classy way,” he said after beating TCU on Saturday.

Then he added something very important.

“Sometimes being too nice is a detriment, but we’re getting tougher.”

And that has been part of what his coaching this year has been all about, this building toughness.

It’s why you see Kevin Noreen on the court often more than Aaric Murray, why he runs players in and out and in and out, often in their face trying to build a way of playing as much as just following the Xs and the Os of the game.

While on the surface Huggins would appear to be less than the most patient man in the world, he has had to have patience with this team because of its lack of experience, for which there is no substitute.

Again, following the TCU win, he noted how important it was that his players now seem to be finding themselves.

“We all expect more. We’re playing three sophomores and two freshmen at guards. That’s generally not a recipe for success,” he said.

The result has been a team that made mistake after mistake ... much of it showing up in a low shooting percentage, one that had the team ranked as low as 346th in the nation shooting field goals.

Was it really that bad a shooting team or was it not getting itself in position to take shots it could make?

What is happening lately would suggest that Huggins is finally getting across to the them how to get the ball into an open shooter’s hands more often, the result being that WVU shot 51.2 percent from the floor against TCU, following up shooting 46.2 percent against Texas and 56.5 percent against Texas Tech in its last three games.

The Mountaineers have even become sharpshooters from 3-point range, hitting 21 of their last 41.

“I think we’re just playing better,” sophomore guard Jabarie Hinds said following his seconde straight double-figure performance after going scoreless against Texas Tech three games back. “When you’re playing well and guarding well and all those other things, it takes a little bit of pressure off the shooting.”

Part of this has to do with another factor, freshman guard Terry Henderson shaking off the effects of a back injury that kept him out of a couple of games and slowed him in practice, for he has shown himself to be the best of the team’s outside shooters when healthy.

In truth, with Henderson and Eron Harris, WVU has a one-two punch on the outside who can hit shots and make athletic moves, but who had to be brought along slowly by Huggins into the offense.

Now they appear to be there to offer a dynamic that wasn’t available to him earlier, a way to put points on the board via jump shots.

“It’s hard for a defense when we’ve got two athletic shooters who can get open,” Henderson said. “It’s hard to cover that.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads