Frustration Builds As Road Losses Mount For WVU
Much attention has been paid to Bob Huggins’ run up the all-time Division I coaching wins list, right up to No. 6 all-time, leaving some legendary names in the dust.
Each of those recent wins, as he passed Adolph Rupp, as he passed Dean Smith, as he gained on Roy Williams, were celebrated among fans while Huggins opted to downplay them.
Because he knew he also had 369 losses and he is the kind of man who finds losses far, far more painful than any joy that comes from a victory.
Losses are a necessary evil, a part of the game, just as a blister on the foot is a part of breaking in a new pair of shoes that’s a half-size too small.
Eventually, the pain eases, but the contest he lost on Saturday in Waco, Texas, to a bad TCU team seemed to hurt more than the others.
You could hear it in his voice and read it in the words he spoke.
It wasn’t because it was close. It wasn’t because it came in overtime. It was because it was a game that belonged in the win column.
“It’s a game we should have won. I’m tired of saying it. I’m tired of watching it. It’s frustrating,” he lamented. He noted that West Virginia now has lost to Kansas State and to TCU this season.
“We’ve lost to the bottom part of the league,” he said. “You can’t do that. You just can’t do that.”
See, Huggins expected so much more.
Last season’s debacle got under his skin, that 15-21 season and the embarrassment of having to pay to play in a tournament no one wants to play in, the CBI.
He tore his team apart at season’s end and restructured it, thought he had parts to make it into a winner again.
Not for his pride. He’s won 879 games. He knows what winning is.
But there was so much more at stake here. He really wanted to do something special and thought he had gathered together a group that could deliver it.
“This could be a special year we all could rally around. I mean, all West Virginians could rally,” he said.
That was what he was looking for, to regain the pride this state had in its basketball program, a program that has had so many great moments.
But now what?
“Maybe it still can be a special year,” he went on. “It’s not over. That’s the good thing. If there’s a silver lining, that’s it. It’s not over.”
It isn’t. There’s four more regular season games left, the last one against Baylor, who was the No. 1 team in the country but was knocked off by No. 3 Kansas on Saturday.
That game, at home, could provide a great victory for WVU.
And then there’s the Big 12 Tournament and, even though this loss well could knock WVU out of the Top 25, there is the NCAA Tournament.
Before that, though, Huggins has to find answers.
He can’t have players go on the court never knowing whether they will be the good player they were one day or the evil twin that hides within them and comes out at just the wrong time.
He’s frustrated by what’s happened, noting that he said after the Oklahoma game that his team was headed in the wrong direction and that the attitudes were not what they were.
That opinion has not changed.
“I’m tired of hearing ‘What do I have to do to play, what do I have to do?’” he said.
And, he’s tired of something else, something he’s talked about much too much, his team’s youth.
“We’re what, 27 games in?” he asked. “They’re awfully slow learners, if that’s the case.”