On Board or Off? Time For Huggins To Make Decisions For His Team’s Future
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Without question, this has been the most wearying — and worrying — season for head coach Bob Huggins in his time at West Virginia. A combination of factors, both on and off the floor, had to contribute at least in part to the lingering cold/flu symptoms that wore him down over the last month, eventually developed into pneumonia and put him in the hospital prior to Monday night’s season-ending loss to Coastal Carolina.
Before that, though, there was plenty to make Huggins, along with fans of the Mountaineer program, sick.
Not only did the identity of Press Virginia melt away with the departure of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, but a lack of buy-in and a collection of selfish attitudes combined to sabotage the team for much of the year. Huggins admitted he allowed that to occur, and while he didn’t list the details, there’s no doubt that he believes that he put the wishes of some players for the development of their pro careers ahead of the interests of the team. After WVU’s meltdown against the Chanticleers, he again took responsibility, and vowed that it would never happen again.
Taking Huggins’ famous no rear view mirror story into our thinking, we’re not going to rehash that any further. It is important, though, to keep the events of this season in mind when putting into context what Huggins and his coaching staff has to do next. If there are, as he hinted more than once, players that he is unsure about as regards to their buy-in and effort going forward, then he has to make some hard decisions, and make them quickly.
In the coming week or so, Huggins and his assistants will meet with every player on the team and conduct a review of their play, work habits, and prospects for the future. What is said there will help determine each player’s path going forward, and almost certainly will lead to additional departures from the 11-man roster (ten active) that finished the season. The question is, will there be any way for someone who is on the bubble, or who hasn’t met Huggins’s standards, to earn another chance?
At this point, that would seem to involve the record each individual has put down to date. Huggins notes that the coaches see, via reports of the players’ access cards, which ones are in the practice facility, and which, in his words are “hanging out on the corner”. No doubt they have their own observations with which to supplement that. The question is, if players have been doing that all year, how much time do they have to change that pattern? Or to show they are going to be better teammates? Can the coaches believe in a vow of a change of heart?
Huggins said the demonstration of a renewed resolve is simple. The players have to “do the right things”, which includes practice on one’s own, especially in the more unstructured off-season. Again, though, the clock is ticking. The staff is already out recruiting multiple players, and could bring as many as three or four new ones to campus in addition to signees Oscar Tshiwbwe and Miles McBride. Can they wait two months to see if someone’s work habits or attitude improves, especially if it has been a problem over the last eight? C
The other core issue is this — Huggins has vowed that he will not be held hostage by all of the bad attitudes, lack of team commitment, and selfishness that contributed to the ruination of the 2018-19 campaign. If that is true, then can he afford to bring back players who may have repeatedly exhibited such? In doing so, would he be risking a repeat of this year’s soap opera drama that took the focus from steals and 3-pointers to a daily watch on who was practicing, who was warming up and who wasn’t passing the ball to whom?
These decisions don’t have to be made today. However, with the recruiting pool dwindling, and the spring signing period just three weeks away, they do need to be made in the near future,. Huggins has often said that roster sizes and the final makeup of such has a way of sorting itself out, but never in his WVU career has he been faced with rolling over so many players who leave before their eligibility has expired. Given the way this season went, can the coaches risk another year with players that haven’t already shown their commitment to doing the right things?