Communication Issues Bedevil Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” — Spoken by Strother Martin as the chain gang Captain in the 1967 Paul Newman classic movie “Cool Hand Luke.”
It is one of those movie quotations that has stood the test of time.
It’s been out there for 51 years now, at least as picked up from the Newman movie, but in reality it first was uttered in a different circumstance in a different film, being said by Zero Mostel in the 1969 flick “The Great Bank Robbery.”
Either way it fits, especially right here today, where West Virginia University’s men’s basketball team has turned a 15-game winning streak into a two-game losing streak and, if you ask its coach and its players, it comes down to simply one item:
Or, put another way, “the failure to communicate.”
Ask Esa Ahmad, the junior forward who was activated two games back and WVU has lost both games, although it is hardly a case of cause and effect.
Still, Ahmad has seen the breakdown in communication up close and personnel.
After Kansas erased what was a 15-point lead in the second half to win, key moments being open 3s from the corner that were hit, Ahmad was asked what had happened that there were uncovered 3-point shooters.
“We’re not really communicating and they picked up on that. That’s something we have to work on in practice,” he said.
TRANSLATION: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
Coach Bob Huggins was more verbose in saying the same thing.
“We gave (Svi) Mykhailiuk a 3 from the corner in the first half, and I took the guy out,” Huggins noted. “We had a timeout and I said, ‘Please explain to me what you don’t understand about stay with him; do not give him and open look from the corner.’ We go in and talk about it at halftime, and they go out and leave him. I don’t know. I wish I knew.”
And that was only a part of it.
Then there were turnovers caused by a failure to communicate.
One of the problems Huggins is having in communicating with his players is that you speak to them they all think the reason they lost the Kansas game is because “We didn’t hit shots.”
At least three of them offered such an excuse … and while true it wasn’t at the root of the problem.
Listen to Huggins:
“We came down and threw the ball on the wing to one of our forwards, who should have never had the ball on the wing. Never. And we threw it to him anyway,” Huggins explained. “Our guard, who had the ball, was told not to throw it to him there. Then, we got him on the same side and he’s not even looking for (the ball), and it didn’t quite hit him in the head, but it would have had he not gotten his hand up in the air.
“I can’t explain why when they’re not told ‘don’t do that,’ they do it.”
That is a coaching clinic example of having a failure to communicate.
Oh, the shooting was atrocious, 1-for-13 on 3-point shots in the second half, wchich is 7 percent, but why did they have to settle for 3s, especially after they weren’t hitting them.
The answer is “a failure to communicate.”
It’s doing what you are taught to do, doing what the other guy knows you are going to do, finding ways to get someone free to drive to the basket or get an easy shot.
Ahmad, for example, had five turnovers in the game, at least three of which seemed to be caused by indecision on his part or on being surprised to find himself in a certain situation.
“Our game is about this: you either throw it to the bad guys and you reverse it to the good guys — because everybody’s got guys that are not near as good and we’re loaded with them — or you throw it to the good guys and you have the bad guys screen for them and you run them to the ball so that you switch sides of the floor and you get a little movement before.
“Or you take somebody who can beat people off the bounce and you create. That’s basketball.”
The problem is he hasn’t been able to get that communicated to his team to the point that they are doing it.
Now, with Ahmad in the mix, there’s a different chemistry than there was, further complicating matters.
Huggins is spending the week trying to work it out with his players before Texas comes into the Coliseum on Saturday for a 2 p.m. Saturday meeting.