Looking For Leads (And Ledes) In WVU Hoops Downturn

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins (left) looks for substitutes after another Mountaineer miscue
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins (left) looks for substitutes after another Mountaineer miscue

Looking For Leads (And Ledes) In WVU Hoops Downturn

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  – The toughest thing in sportswriting is to write a good lede, which is — for those of you who don’t have printer’s ink running through your veins or are too young to have heard of printer’s ink — the first paragraph of your story.

That’s kind of the way I feel today, so I’m going to let you help out. We’ll do this like a multiple choice test, although there are no right or wrong answers.

Here goes:

West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins sat behind a table in the interview area following Wednesday night’s devastating 58-49 loss to Kansas and his team’s play had him:

a. confused

b. perplexed

c. flabbergasted

d. befuddled

e. bewildered

f. all of the above

In truth, any of the words fit, some better than others, but the fact of the matter is he really didn’t even know what to say about it, going so far as to blurt out at one point:

“I’m in one of those moods. I’m trying to amuse myself, so I don’t get pissed off. Not at you, but the whole situation.”

And followed that up at another point with this:

“You guys are asking me questions that I honestly don’t know the answer to. I’m just trying to BS you so you’ll write something down so I can leave. I’m really being honest today.”

He wasn’t being discourteous or flippant.

He had just watched his team score 19 second-half points in a game that really was a must-win game, turning a nine-point lead into a nine-point defeat.

He wasn’t sure what to make of it, but knew that 19 certainly was the number that ruled the evening … 19 second-half points, 19 baskets made, 19 turnovers.

It was same ol’, same ol’ and Huggins, like his fans, was getting tired with it but unsure what to do about it, especially with No. 1 Baylor awaiting his team in Texas on Saturday night.

The phrase “I don’t know” kept coming out of his mouth.

“We only had 19 [turnovers], it wasn’t 20 this time. It was only 19. Honestly, I don’t know. I thought (the assistant coaches)  did a great job with scouting and our guys knew what needed to be done. I don’t know, our guys sometimes don’t handle the ebbs and flows of the game really well,” he said at one point.

“They’re nice guys. They’re good guys. I don’t know what to say, whether it’s we’re not mature enough, we’re not experienced enough, we aren’t tough enough to grind out games like this,” he said at another.

What he did know was that his three main point guards had no assists and eight turnovers and that isn’t good.

He knows his team, which was supposed to be an improved shooting team, shot 31.7% in the game and is shooting just 42.7% from the floor for the year.

That ranks 237th in the nation.

One thing Huggins does know is that’s not good enough.

You might say he’s … let’s try that multiple choice stuff again:

a. frustrated

b. irked

c. annoyed

d. disheartened

e. discouraged

f. all of the above

You might find it easier to choose the correct word by listening to him speak about his attitude in that post-game moment.

“It’s easy for me. I played the game my whole life. I played it under my father who was a great coach. Not good, but great, so I got great coaching,” he said.

“I played a long time. I see things, I guess, that they don’t see. The frustrating thing is we continue to do the same thing over and over and over again, and it’s not the right thing. You don’t catch it in the post, put your head down and dribble it. You are going to lose it, but we constantly do it.

How many balls did we throw away? We’re trying to throw hook passes to guys in the post. We’re trying throw through all those arms and hands and things. That’s a lack of understanding.

“The positive is I hope we learn from it. Some guys do, some guys don’t.”

It isn’t that haven’t worked on it. Huggins believes he’s tried everything.

“We pass the ball every day in some sort of passing drill. I got the old “Toss Backs” out. That was 20 years ago when people were doing that,” he said.

“I saw a deal and thought I could trick them into taking it serious. I got a deal where Steve Kerr was doing it every day with the Warriors as one of their drills. I told them if it’s good enough for Steph Curry it’s good enough for you guys.

“Otherwise, how do you get them to take it real serious? I’m trying everything I can try.”

But in the end, it’s on the players to take it all in, to learn from their mistakes. Huggins believes they will, but time is getting short for it to make much of a difference this year.