Battle Of Wills Playing Out For WVU Hoops
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins is laying the gauntlet down to his basketball team.
He’s seen all he wants to see out of them and what he sees he doesn’t like and won’t accept.
“That’s it,” he said in the aftermath of Tuesday’s 98-67 humiliation at TCU that included loafing on the part of some members of his team and failing to follow instructions by others. “I think I know a little bit about what I’m doing and that’s defiance. That’s it.
“If they think they are stronger-minded than I am, if they think they are tougher than I am, they’ve got a long, long way to go.”
Huggins’ frustration has grown out of a season that started in frustration with a loss to Buffalo, that has been savaged by key injuries, especially to Sagaba Konate, who was supposed to be his top player; by the lack of development of young players, by sloppy ball handling and bad shooting.
It was multiplied by close losses and now a five-game losing streak to start the conference season as it appears he is losing his team.
He offered an example of what is going on following the game on his radio interview.
“They have kind of a breakout and our guy comes down and blocks the shot and their guy ran right by our next guy in line to grab the ball and dunk it in,” Huggins said.
Bad enough, but there’s more.
“Now you’re a guy who made a great effort play — and it was a great effort — and you turn around and look and there’s your teammate jogging down the floor. That’s not teamwork at all,” he said.
“That’s not what we’ve had. We’ve hadn’t had that kind of stuff before. We played hard.”
Huggins is old fashioned. He believes effort to compensate for a lack of ability, but there is so much to what is going on with this team.
“We have a lot of guys with all the answers that don’t even know the problems,” he said. “We have too many guys who think they are smarter than what they are and way too many guys who think they are better than what they are.”
That is a bad recipe for chemistry.
“It’s OK. We’ve had teams that weren’t very good but they tried,” he said, then admitting that he yearns for a player of yesterday, but not one you would think of.
Not Da’Sean Butler. Not Jevon Carter. Not Kevin Jones.
“I go back to one of my favorite guys of all time — Cam Thoroughman,” he said.
Cam Thoroughman played four years and made just 57 field goals. He shot 54.3% from the free throw line. He averaged 2.3 rebounds per game.
But he made the most of what he had and made those around him better.
“Cam was a 6-foot-5, maybe 6-foot-6 center in the Big East and he did everything you asked him to do,” Huggins said. “He played hard and played physical and wanted to win in the worst way.
“I’ll take those guys. I’d rather have those guys.”
Huggins told a story about Thoroughman.
“I remember [television commentator] Doris Burke coming in and saying — I think we were tied with Louisville — and she said you know Rick Pitino is going to get Coach of the Year in the league. I said, ‘Really, does his center look like that?’”
He pointed to Thoroughman.
“He cared, man, he cared. One of the greatest moments in Coliseum history was when he and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame went at it and everyone in the Coliseum was giving him a standing ovation, but that’s what West Virginia is,” Huggins said.
“They appreciate hard work. That’s what it is. It’s a state of hard-working people.”
Huggins admits he’s perplexed with this team.
“You ask me quite frankly, I’m embarrassed. I don’t know what to do,” he said. “it’s not like we haven’t given everybody a chance. It’s like a told a guy today, I’ll clear the side for you and you can drive it.
“He said, ‘Drive it left?’
“And I said ‘No, you can’t dribble left. Drive it right or don’t drive it all.’
“He drove it left. I just haven’t had that happen and it won’t happen again because I won’t ever, ever give him the ball like that again.”
And so it goes.
If only Cam Thoroughman were around.