Bob Huggins, West Virginia University’s new coach of men’s basketball, said Friday he doesn’t teach any specific style of play.

His teams have won 590 games over 25 years by playing different ways.

“I just always have tried to put our guys in positions that give them what I thought was the best opportunity to win,” he explained in an interview.

“My first four or five years at Cincinnati, we pressed and trapped and ran a lot of open post. And I had guys who were good at doing that.

“Then I got Danny Fortson (later a first-round NBA pick), and he kinda changed things. Danny wasn’t good at pressing, but he was a great player.

“So we changed things to kinda fit what he could do best. We went from trapping and pressing and running to more of a power kind of team.

“I played Damon Flint at point guard, and he was 6-6. Darnell Burton was really strong. We got bigger, stronger and more physical.”

Huggins, who left Kansas State and took over the WVU reins two weeks ago, recalled that when he first went to Cincinnati in 1989-90 there was more speed and quickness.

“The guys were strong, fast and quick and were that kind of team.”

In all, Huggins coached 16 of his 25 years at Cincinnati. His most successful team posted a 31-4 record and finished No. 5 in the polls in 2001-02.

Huggins, 53, has watched WVU’s returning players work out. He believes he can mold them into a winning team by positioning them where they fit best.

“We’ll do what we have to do to give them the best opportunity to win,” the former Mountaineer standout said. “I’d like to be where we were at Cincinnati in 2000.

“I’d like to be able to press and trap, be very physical, and be a great defensive team. That group could do just about everything.

“But until you get to that point, I think my job is to just give them the best opportunity to win (as he did at Kansas State last season).”

He remembers playing that way for his father, Charlie, at Indian Valley High in Port Washington, Ohio. He also was a highly competitive, smart and tough player as a Mountaineer in the mid-1970s.

“I grew up that way playing for my dad,” he said. “He didn’t always run the same stuff. You change to where you get the best out of the personnel that you have.”

Asked his impression of the players he inherited from John Beilein, now at Michigan, Huggins replied:

“They’ve all got to get stronger. Some of them also will gain weight as they get stronger. I think they understand that.”

Only two seniors graduated from this past season’s squad which posted a 27-9 record and won the National Invitation Tournament championship.

While WVU has yet to win an NCAA tournament title, Huggins believes that’s an attainable goal or he wouldn’t have returned to his alma mater.

Why is it?

“It’s possible because this is a great place,” he replied. “Some of the most wonderful people in the world are here. And we’re close enough to be able to recruit.

“We’re close enough to D.C. to get players. We’re close enough to Pittsburgh. We should be able to do a good job in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. We’re close enough.”

Huggins thinks being in the Big East really helps West Virginia just because of the geography of that conference.

“You can go to a lot of players who are very familiar with the style and the teams, and they want to play in the Big East,” he said. “So I don’t know why you couldn’t win the national championship here some year.”

Huggins has one assistant coach, Erik Martin, on campus and hopes to complete his coaching and administrative staff within about two weeks.

While he has one scholarship to give out, he’s not certain to whom it will be offered. But he said that there aren’t any good big men still uncommitted.

Some coaches think running the fast break is much more difficult now than it used to be years ago because defenses are tougher.

“I think it’s harder to run off missed shots,” Huggins said. “When you see teams run, the majority of transitions comes off defense.”

He loves to watch players score — period. He doesn’t care how they do it.

“I think the further you go, the less people are going to take chances,” Huggins noted. “So I think it becomes more of a half-court game.”

He believes defense and rebuilding are constants in all styles of basketball.

“Those are things you can do because they’re so much effort-related,” he reasoned. “Rebounding the ball and defending are mostly effort.

“If you give great effort, you’re going to be able to rebound and you’re going to able to play defense.

“You can’t say the same thing about shooting the ball and can’t say the same thing about passing the ball. But you can always be consistent in your ability to defend and rebound.”

Huggins thinks 3-point goals are part of everyone’s game if there’s someone who can make them. But he doesn’t want players to shoot 3’s until they make a good percentage.

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