By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Bob Huggins tried with Aaric Murray, tried harder than maybe you might suspect.
He tried because he knew in Aaric Murray he had a talent who could help him win basketball games, which is why he brought him to West Virginia in the first place when the talented but troubled kid decided to leave LaSalle.
But Huggins does more than worry just about wins and losses, for he cares about his kids, too. That is why, over the years, he has been able to make so much out of so many troubled players.
He knew in Murray he had come across another who fit that mold and wanted more than anything else to put him straight, for he knew that even beyond the obvious ability to block shots and grab rebounds he was a sensitive, intelligent kid.
It didn’t work, and Monday morning Huggins announced that the player and coach were parting company by “mutual agreement,” which translates into Huggins wanted nothing more to do with him as one of his players.
In so many ways it was a shame, a waste of talent on the basketball court, although Murray did earn a degree, will find perhaps another place willing to take a chance on a 24-year-old senior with one season left.
But when pointing fingers about what went bad a year ago as Huggins suffered through an unexpected losing season, his first since the days just beyond his basketball coaching puberty, some of them had to be pointed at Murray.
He had a marijuana arrest in the offseason last year, was suspended for half a game, was benched and constantly tormented Huggins because he just couldn’t grasp the work ethic and dedication to craft that the coach demands.
It wasn’t that Murray was a bad kid. Actually, anything but. He was soft-spoken, intelligent, interesting.
But he was troubled.
His former teammate, Keaton Miles, who recently left WVU and transferred to Arkansas, put out a couple of tweets following the announcement that Murray was leaving: “My Brother Is Not A Bad Person At All Just A Young Man That Needs Guidance, One-On-One Guidance To Get The Most Out Of His Potential,” read one.
“I’m P----d My Brother Just Needed Help...Cried Out For Help Numerous Times & Everyone Knew It But People Turned Their Heads The Other Way,” read the other.
Huggins tried to offer his help but had to do so in a team setting and in the only way he really knows how — through tough love.
It didn’t work, and now this vital cog in Huggins’ team for the coming year is gone.
Really, had he reached Murray, had he put him on the right page, he would have had the dominant inside force — a scorer, rebounder and defender — that a Bob Huggins team cries out for. He also would have had an old hand on a young team to offer some leadership, although considering the ways things played out it might be best that role never was filled by Murray.
Now the young kids are going to have to look solely toward Kevin Noreen for that leadership, and if leadership comes through via work ethic it won’t be a problem.
But kids like Elijah Macon, if he ever does make it, still hung up in the qualifying aspect, and Remi Dibo and Jonathan Holton now have a lot on their shoulders. They can’t be eased into the picture.
Can West Virginia now return to past glory, or is this departure one too many?
That is for time to tell ... but one thing is certain.
Murray would have given WVU what it needed to contend in the Big 12, but at the same time he might have kept them from contending because of his presence.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.