The great thing about West Virginia University head basketball coach Bob Huggins is his candor, ask him a question and he will give you an answer.
Huggins coached his team to a 21-12 record last season and extended WVU’s 20-win season streak to seven. Since Huggins arrival in Morgantown for the 2008 season, the Mountaineers have appeared in four straight NCAA Tournaments.
Huggins’ team was picked to finish seventh in the Big East pre-season poll released earlier this week. Huggins will undoubtedly turn that into a challenge for his young team.
Connecticut and Syracuse were picked as co-favorites to win the conference basketball title this year; more fodder.
The challenge for Huggins this year is the amount of youth on his basketball team. As Huggins puts it, “ This team runs faster, I am not sure if they can play faster”. Huggins went on to say, “I want to teach them how to play”.
Huggins’ record at WVU stands at 101-42 and is the first Mountaineer coach to average over 25 wins in his first four seasons, and is the fastest coach to 100 wins in WVU basketball history.
This year’s team could be the biggest challenge for Huggins to maintain the level of excellence Mountaineer Nation has come to expect.
The Mountaineer basketball team has two returning seniors, forward Kevin Jones and guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant. Deniz Kilicli is the lone remaining junior, Dominique Rutledge was released earlier this month for an unspecified violation of team rules.
The rest of the roster is full of freshman, Huggins’ ability to teach will be put to the test.
“Different players have different aptitudes”, Huggins stated about his freshman. For most coaches that might be taken as an excuse and an acknowledgement that their team will struggle.
For Huggins, it is simply a realistic statement about the learning process for freshman basketball players. Another Huggins trait, he will not make excuses, his team plays good enough to win or they do not.
Mountaineer Nation certainly has questions about this year’s version of the WVU basketball team. Yet, there seems to be little concern over the eventual outcome for the team.
Last year Huggins manipulated a senior laden team short on scoring ability to 21 victories and to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers won with defense, hustle, determination, and not much else.
The previous year with a team full of talent and experience Huggins lead the Mountaineers to their first Big East basketball tournament title and the final four.
Huggins gets the most out of the players and their ability, regardless of the level of that ability.
This year’s version of the Mountaineer basketball team will be the first team Huggins has led onto the court full of players that he recruited. They may be young, but Huggins recruited these players to play basketball the way he wants it played.
Undoubtedly, the team will demonstrate the hard-nosed style of play that all Huggins’ teams possess. After all, it was the way Huggins played when he wore the WVU uniform.
“When I started out I thought everyone should know what I know - They don’t”, another Huggins statement and the reason that Mountaineer Nation is expressing little concern over this season.
As long as Bob Huggins is on the sideline in Morgantown, the Mountaineers will win basketball games. Huggins has, in essence, a lifetime contract at WVU and the Mountaineer faithful could not be happier.
Every member of Mountaineer Nation understands whatever the coming season has in store, it will simply be another chapter in Huggins eventual Hall of Fame coaching career.
As fans, all that is left is to sit back and enjoy, Bob Huggins has a challenge to overcome. The question is not whether he will overcome it, that is a given. The attraction is how he will overcome the challenge.
Seasons like this are what Huggins built his resume on.
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