By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Great coaches aren’t made happy by victory.
Oh, given the option of victory or defeat, they take victory, but mostly they are looking at other things than fans.
They are like artists, less interested in the final product than the method of getting there.
To the great ones, the process is as important as the result, and that is why Bob Huggins, even after his recent victories, has been less than thrilled, for his team has simply won two games because it had better talent, not because it played the game the way it has to be played to win once the Big 12 play comes around.
He described what’s happening in a way people from this area would understand, in terms of football, considering the ties that exist to not only Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers but to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We’re like a QB who makes the first look and that’s it. He’s not very successful. He’s not a very good quarterback. We’ll look at the first option and we won’t look at 2-3-4. That’s what Da’Sean and those guys got so good at doing,” he said.
“I feel like I’m running around and sticking all my fingers and toes in the dam. It’s hard to fix everything at once.”
He needs victories, yes, but he’s looking for improvement, and that is what’s frustrating him.
After beating Radford last Saturday, the question was posed to him if he felt his team had been improving in its halfcourt offensive sets and the way it ran them.
“I don’t know,” he began. “We changed some things we thought would kind of accentuate the things our guys are good at doing. I think it helped Juwan Staten. It obviously didn’t help some of those other guys we thought it would help.”
“We turned it over 17 times. That’s not very good,” he offered.
But it was the defense that really frustrated him, that always frustrated him, for he is No. 1 a defensive coach and strives for the perfection that he will never get.
Yes, he admitted, that the team’s 1-3-1 zone had been a factor in the victory, but ...
“I thought we did a pretty good job in the 1-3-1. We stayed in our lanes pretty well. And then at the end we got our middle guy out guarding the wing, which is what happens to us,” he said. “We’ve got to get better defensively. With the way we play defensively it’s hard, because we get spread out.”
And when they get spread out the opponent can work on the WVU post players, get them into foul trouble, take advantage of them.
“The best way to protect our big guys is to guard the ball. It elongates those passing lanes and makes the post feed so much harder,” he said.
All of this is bothering Huggins so much that he wasn’t even upset over the fact that less than 8,000 people showed up for Radford. In the past he might have prepared a lecture for the fans, for in Cincinnati they did fill up the place even when the students were gone.
But Huggins has other things on his mind.
“I have a tendency to try to motivate the fans in years where I don’t have to try to motivate my players as much. Know what I mean? I’m a big believer in history. You get too spread out you get beat, so I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m trying to do.”
The result is that his substitution patterns are not being dictated by what he’s trying to do, but more by what he’s trying to fix.
Speaking to the media, he gave out a long, involved dissertation on why the curls that Radford were running worked and how that had forced him to play every scholarship player on the bench in the first seven minutes of the game.
What it came down to, though, was Huggins was simply looking for someone to do it right.
“The first guy doesn’t do it, so I take him out. I told the second guy when I put him in, and he doesn’t do it. So I put the third guy in, and he gave up a layup on the other side of the basket, because the guy ran all the way around and got a layup,” he said.
Hence, the long string of substitutions, not for what they could do but for what the player they were replacing wasn’t doing.
The Mountaineers are now off until they come back Sunday when Eastern Kentucky comes in to play at the Coliseum against a refreshed WVU team back from Christmas break.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.