The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 17, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Huggins tells his team to ‘rise above’

MORGANTOWN — It was a rare peek behind the closed doors of the West Virginia University locker room after a loss and an even rarer peek inside the man who had coached the Mountaineers and how he approached his team.

He had spent a longer time than usual with his players following Saturday night’s devastating 88-71 loss at Texas, a game in which they hadn’t played well but as a veteran coach, Bob Huggins, knows that happens on occasion, especially on the road.

What hurt more, though, was they hadn’t played like a West Virginia basketball team is supposed to play and like a Bob Huggins basketball team is supposed to play, for if nothing else, Huggins is wired into the state in which he was born, the state where he played his college basketball and the state where he will choose to end what will be a Hall of Fame career.

“I told them in there that I thought we were getting back to being West Virginia’s team,” he said, beginning to crack open the door. “People were saying ‘I enjoyed watching you play. You play hard. You play together. You like each other.’ Then to drop the ball today … it wasn’t so much we didn’t play hard; it was just we didn’t make any shots.”

But in reality, the fact that they shot badly wasn’t at the crux of the matter at all.

That was as the result of the technical side of basketball, which he addressed with his team, but this was an emotional and moral breakdown, one that he had to address right now as his team goes into its final games of the season with a tournament bid on the line.

What had he said?

“When you’re not as good as the other people, your commitment level has to be greater. Let’s be honest,” he related, then offered them up a rather personal anecdote to get the point across.

“I said to my dad one time that I wanted to do something, and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘’Cause I said so,’” Huggins said.

And so it stood that way because in the Huggins household, ‘no’ meant ‘no.’

“About three years later, when I’m out of school and the house and I’m bigger and stronger and I don’t have to worry about the repercussions, I’m thinking that answer ain’t good enough, so I asked him to tell me why he had said no.

“‘Because,’ he said, ‘you asked me to let you be like everybody else. I didn’t raise you to be like everybody else. I raised you to be special. If you’re like everybody else, you’re not special.’ He went on to say it’s not that hard; it’s really not that hard.”

He had made his point, and Huggins, on this occasion, felt he had to say no to his team, then let them know that what they were doing just wasn’t good enough, wasn’t special, and there were repercussions.

“There are so many people that are so happy that they wallow in mediocrity that if you’ll just make a commitment and put the time and effort in, you can rise above those people,’” Huggins told his 2013-14 Mountaineer team.

“It’s not like a guy selling drugs, you know. He’s going to have a heck of a life until he’s caught, then you … you don’t want to do that. The guys with the Ponzi schemes, they live the life for a while, then all of a sudden they are in there with folks who really don’t care, who don’t care about life or anything else,” he continued.

“Is that worth it? No, that isn’t worth it. It’s not that hard to rise above if you are really committed.”

Commitment, that’s what it is. Commitment to each other and trust in one another.

 “I said to the team, ‘Here’s what you guys really don’t understand, and I don’t understand because I never did it, but I’ve talked to so many people who have … you go to battle … I mean real battle. We talk about battle in athletics, but that’s not really battle. Real battle is life or death.

“‘You want to be able to trust the guy beside you. You want to trust he knows the plan, that he knows what we’re doing here, what formations, how are we attacking, how do we respond when they are doing this.

“‘That guy beside you, he’d better know. It’s life or death.’”

This is strong talk for a basketball locker room, and Huggins understands that.

“I’m not equating this to life or death in any way shape or form, but that’s something we can learn from the bravest people in America. Be prepared,” he said.

“I don’t know how we spend the time we spend … ‘We’re gonna trap up top, we’re gonna zone the side’ … and then act like we never worked on it.

“That’s concentration. I know, you start missing shots and you start to lose a little bit but we gotta … I mean, we get tired and guys don’t play,” Huggins continued.

“I told them, I never want to go to war with you. I wouldn’t want to get in a street fight with you. You’re liable to lay on the floor and act like you’re dead because you’re tired or scared. I want somebody who is going to be there with you, someone who isn’t going to make excuses.

“I want someone who instead of saying I’m tired and bending over and grabbing his shorts will sit down in a stance. That’s what the good guys I’ve had have done. They sit down in a stand and willed themselves (to keep going).

“Honestly, I think there are people in that room who want to and will get there. Hopefully it’s by Saturday.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Seider's brother commits to WVU

    West Virginia University’s football team has received a commitment from one of its own.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides much optimism heading into 2014 season

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
    Forsey, a native of Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, was representing Team Canada. She was the first Canadian to cross the finish line in the women’s 5,000-meter run, finishing in ninth place overall in 16:02.55.

    July 26, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Wyant talks about ‘Pappy’ Lewis and other items of interest

    I saved some other interesting observations from the recent interview with Fred Wyant which you may find worth reading.
    He believes a college football coach ought to recruit a quarterback he wants, give him some help, then turn virtually everything over to him and let him go.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

    July 25, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos