The Times West Virginian

Sports

February 25, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN - Happiness, pride missing

MORGANTOWN — Two coaches.

One a winner. One a loser.

The winner was Buzz Williams of Marquette. You could tell because there he was at midcourt dancing to “Country Roads” after surviving suspending four players for half the game yet managing to pull out a 61-60 victory over West Virginia.

The loser was Bob Huggins. You could tell because … well, you always can tell when Bob Huggins doesn’t win by the demeanor he displays. In truth, there is no meaner demeanor than Huggins’ after he has lost.

First Williams, if only because in this case we will save the best for last.

Suffice it to say Williams’ dance did not go over well with the home crowd, especially dancing to their song in their palace.

And Williams was truly sorry about it.

“I apologize,” he would say in his press conference following his team’s dramatic victory, Marquette’s 10th in the last 11 games. “It was very unprofessional of me. It was not a good representation for our university.

“But I was just really excited and I grew up out in the country and that was one of my favorite songs,” he continued. “But I stopped before a riot occurred when I realized West Virginia was mentioned in the song.”

Victories like this can do that to you, scramble your brain, especially when three of your starters are suspended for the first half so you have to play, as he put it, “a scrambled eggs group.”

They fell behind by 11 at the half, had 10 turnovers and looked like pushovers.

But that, Williams indicated, is the way it had to be because there are things that come before even winning a crucial game that could help his seed not only in the Big East Tournament but the NCAA.

“They broke team policy,” Williams said, including in the group his star Darius Johnson-Odom. “Regardless of the locale or the time of years, a winning streak or a losing streak, there has to be a standard. Our guys messed up, and that was the end of it. Everything is back to normal and we won tonight.”

In a way it was back to normal with Huggins, too, who spent a half an hour with his team in the locker room and let’s just say he wasn’t handing out compliments.

In meeting the media he did not snarl or so much as raise his voice, but there was venom and disappointment in his voice as he used the word “cowards” at one point in referring to players who refused to take charges, questioned their will, desire or, perhaps stated best, their commitment.

That they have shortcomings as players that have been exposed while losing seven of nine games, their ability to handle the ball, to play to defense and to shoot all were subjects of his scorn.

At one point he went so far as to say “I could kick as many in as they shoot in.”

A 39 percent shooting percentage was evidence of that.

This has been building up in Huggins for some time now, bubbling like a pot of water readying itself to hard boil those eggs that Williams had scrambled.

“I’m more frustrated than I’ve been since my first year at Walsh when I told my wife I was thinking of selling insurance,” Huggins said.

Honestly, it wasn’t the tough loss on this one occasion that had wormed its way into Huggins’ psyche, any more than it was just winning a game that had Williams dancing the two-step out on the Coliseum floor.

It is something he was watched all year, seen Kevin Jones play his heart out and now, it appears, instead of going out as he deserves to, that being in the NCAA Tournament, he may have to sneak out the back door in the NIT.

“What we are talking about is commitment,” Huggins said.

He talked about Wellington Smith, and how he worked to become a 5 when in reality he was a 3, and he talked about John Flowers, who was really not a very good player upon arrival at WVU.

“But if a ball was bouncing in the gym, he was there,” Huggins said.

This group, beyond Jones and maybe Truck Bryant, who shook off his shooting slump to score 25 points, simply doesn’t get what he’s trying to get across to them and he’s about had it.

“They better start worrying about where they will go next,” Huggins said. “That sounds harsh and cruel but you know what, they have a responsibility. I used to get in all kinds of trouble because I tried to save the world. I tried to save everybody.

“Doesn’t there come a point in time where you have to carry your own weight. This is not socialism.”

It also is not a democracy. There are no votes taken. You do it Huggins way or he will not put up with it.

“I’m at the stage where I am where I want to be. I love the people here. I love the state and I want to bring it happiness and pride,” he said.

There was neither happiness nor pride at the Coliseum on Friday night when Buzz Williams danced on the home floor.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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