Huggins Takes Blame For “Soft” Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Before they tipped off at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut for the Holiday Basketball Hall of Fame Festival game between West Virginia and Rhode Island, Bob Huggins made a proclamation.
“I can’t stand to lose,” he said as he discussed the slow start his West Virginia basketball team had gotten off to this season. “It just eats me up, especially when you are not sure how to fix it.”
And remember, this was BEFORE his team played as if they were taking part in the “Hall of Shame” Festival, not the Hall of Fame Festival, losing to Rhode Island, 83-70, in a game that will eat away at Huggins’ insides until they take the court again in another week.
Rest assured, if it will be a painful week for Huggins, his players will feel his pain as he turns up the voltage in practice and on the treadmill.
See, in discussing what he saw in his team in this game, one word seemed to jump before all others.
That’s a word you don’t hear associated with Bob Huggins-coached teams, not in any respect.
But on this day he was mentioning it.
“We don’t screen … we just don’t do anything hard,” he said. “We kind of go through the motions. We don’t make hard cuts to the basket. We don’t curl hard. Everything is really soft.”
And Huggins, as he is wont to do, isn’t shying away from the blame.
“It’s 100% my fault. I let things happen I have never let happen before,” he said. “You try to be understanding and do the right thing by the kid, but the kid is there to help us win basketball games and get an education. They have to do what they are supposed to do and to this point in time they haven’t.”
Huggins, of course, is old school. He comes from an era where if you were hurt you rubbed some dirt on it and went back in there.
He came from an era when the signs on the walls were:
— “It doesn’t matter the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
— “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get back up.”
— “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.”
It was a way of life.
Today, though, everything works against that attitude.
He wants players with an edge. A hard edge, not a soft edge. Players who will dive on the floor, hit the boards, take charges. If someone is going to the hoop and they have to foul them, do so with message that they aren’t welcome in that area any more.
It doesn’t help that he had to go through what he went through on Sunday without being able to offer up Sagaba Konate, his best player and his Everyready Bunny, so to speak, for his surgically repaired knee reacted badly to his best performance of the season against Pitt and he sat out of the game.
That has a psychological effect on his players, who are still trying to identify their roles and to learn if they can compete at the highest level of college basketball.
It is difficult to imagine just how badly this team came undone and remained so through the afternoon.
Huggins looks at a box score and almost doesn’t believe when what he saw is transferred into raw data.
“They get six steals, we get one,” he said. “We’re supposed to be the best pressing team in America.”
What he’s saying is that “Press Virginia has become “Depress Virginia”.
“They shoot 45 percent, a team that was shooting 20 percent from three coming in. We shoot like 34 percent,” he said. “Our two starting guards (Beetle Bolden and Chase Harler) were 1-for-14.”
Think about that for a minute. Bolden went 0-8, got into foul trouble, eventually fouling out after 16 minutes and scored one point with 4 turnovers, while Harler was 1-6 shooting.
Overall, the guards were 6 for 29, and without Konate to provide an inside game that left the Mountaineers without a chance.
And Lamont West, who is supposed to provide offense, went 3-9 in this game and now is 3-18 in his last three games.
So what happens now?
It’s Hell Week at West Virginia.
Huggins promises that.
“I’m going to do the damnedest I can do to fix it,” he vowed.