Huggins has done an impressive job
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 6, 2011 22:03
In just four seasons at West Virginia, head coach Bob Huggins has accomplished more than those who walked the WVU sidelines before him.
He has taken a team within a step of the national championship game and elevated the program to a consistent success it hasn't seen since the days of Jerry West.
However, it is this season that may be the most impressive of his 30-year coaching career.
Huggins probably won't be considered for any coach of the year awards, but he should.
The Mountaineers' Big East Conference Championship and Final Four run last season came with the expense of losing seniors Da'Sean Butler and Wellington Smith to graduation and Devin Ebanks to the NBA.
This left players such as Joe Mazzulla and John Flowers, who had been role players in the past, as the undoubted leaders of the 2010-11 team.
The transition was rough at the beginning. The team lost its entire freshman class to injuries or academics. It was even forced to do without leading scorer Casey Mitchell, who was suspended twice this season, and backup center Dan Jennings, who quit the team.
Because of this, many wrote the Mountaineers off. Many questioned whether the short bench would cause the Mountaineers to struggle late in games.
Surprisingly, it didn't.
Because of Huggins, the Mountaineers survived.
The coach molded his players into one of the best teams in the top conference in the country.
He did so without any Big East first team, second team or even third team selections.
Huggins stuck to his plan, the players eventually bought into his system and West Virginia reached its potential.
It was Huggins who rallied the team and let it be known that many questioned their ability to win in the brutal Big East conference.
Since those midseason bumps in the road, the Mountaineers have gone 7-4 and defeated four top-25 teams, despite averaging just 64 points per game.
Without a dominant offensive threat in the lineup, WVU has gone back to its roots and played stout defense in order to be successful this season.
Huggins has squeezed the most out of players like Mazzulla, Flowers and Cam Thoroughman to transform the Mountaineers into a rag-tag group that can beat any team in the nation.
With the Big East and NCAA Tournament looming, WVU will be a team many others will hope to avoid because of their hard-nosed nature.
The last, and most significant, thing Huggins has done this season is manage the struggles of star forward Kevin Jones.
Huggins has instilled the benefits of hard work into Jones, and on Saturday, everything came full circle for him.
The junior had undoubtedly his best game of the season, and it was Huggins who never wavered – just as he hadn't all season long.