The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 7, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU  to compete

MORGANTOWN — In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.

And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete. His team is short two big but ineligible players and, over the past four games – three of which were losses – he has been without an ill Terry Henderson, his No. 3 scorer.

He has tried to put together game plans and schemes to cover up the defects – much as Teddy Roosevelt, who became rather well known for climbing a hill far more challenging than the one Huggins and Co. face in the Big 12 Conference, one said:

“Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”

And that is what he has been attempting to do, but found he was trying to squeeze orange juice out of a baseball sized rock.

And so it was after Oklahoma wore his team out, 72-62, in the next-to-last regular season game, a game that left WVU with a 16-14 overall record and an 8-9 record in Big 12 play, he was left only with another Teddy Roosevelt quote to share with his troops.

He admitted that he did not offer his Roosevelt quote verbatim, for while he once had it memorized by rote, it no longer was there, but the lesson was summed up by Huggins this way:

“I would rather have competed and attempted to win rather than never have competed at all. I don’t want to be one of those scared, lifeless souls who neither knows victory nor defeat.”

Research suggested this was, in reality, the quote Huggins was searching for:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure ... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Of course, it also could have been this discourse on the same subject.

 “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Either way he brought up the point because he does not feel his team has been competing as it should be.

Defensively, it is simply, “We didn’t guard. We haven’t guarded.”

It is a criticism that no one could dispute, not after watching Buddy Heild, the man singled out as the most dangerous of Sooners, hit three consecutive 3-point shots at the crucial time in the game to bury WVU.

But even that wasn’t the sole reason leading Huggins to his Teddy Roosevelt speech. There is something else that is getting to him.

“When you think about that, we don’t compete as hard as we need to compete,” he said, admitting he is fully aware that because he is shorthanded he has had to play players far too many minutes, sapping their energy to compete.

But it is more.

“What I don’t see, what bothers me, is there are balls on the floor. It used to be we were diving head first into that,” he said.

Now he’s not seeing that effort … an effort, had he been able to watch WVU’s women, for example when playing for the Big 12 title against Kansas, he would have seen over and over and Linda Stepney dived over the Mountaineer bench trying to save a ball and Jess Harlee spent as much time sliding on the floor as she did gliding on her feet.

Huggins offered an example of what he was looking for.

“When Wanny (Juwan Staten) drives, we practice our power forward following him into the rim so when he misses you are there to tap it in. We can be quicker to the ball because everyone is trying to stop Wanny and jumping there,” he said.

“So, follow him to the rim. So I look and my power forward is standing at half court. I mean, we do it every day, man, follow him to the rim. I look again, he’s standing at half court. Enough.

“If you are not going to help us, why put you in the game.”

The excuse that is on the way doesn’t hold much credence with Huggins any longer.

“I told them in there, we sit around and we say, ‘We’re really young, and we’ll be better.’ You know what? This league is really young. It’s going to come down to who outworks who, who puts the time in, who cares.

“You know Kansas is going to reload. Oklahoma is a young team. Texas is a young team.”

This season, though, is all but gone.

“Granted, help is on the way,” Huggins said, talking of his redshirts and his recruiting.

Until then, Huggins and Co. are going to have to listen to one more of Teddy Roosevelt’s musings that we came across that fit the situation the Mountaineers find themselves in.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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