The letterman cardigan West Virginia basketball head coach Bob Huggins wore this week during Big 12 Media Day symbolized more than just a fresh look for the 32-year veteran. Huggins joked with those gathered at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., uttering phrases such as, “It’s really good looking, isn’t it?” and, “You’re jealous.” Indeed, the sweater was quite the look, dapper even. However, the man wearing the outfit seemed fresh as well.
Huggins said last year’s 13-19 team drove him bonkers. It was his worst statistical season since his 1985 Akron team – his first year in Division I basketball. By March, Huggins’ frustration became more obvious. The identity of the squad was in deep trouble.
Fast forward to today. Huggins and the rest of the WVU basketball team are preparing for another ride in the difficult Big 12 conference. This roster, though, doesn’t look much like 2012. Just six players remain from 2012. Normally, this shouldn’t make a coach relax or feel too good about his team, but this situation is unique. The Mountaineers appear ready to embark on a new year. More importantly, so does Huggins.
West Virginia was selected No. 7 in the conference this season – the same slot they were voted into last year. Expectations in Morgantown aren’t high. In fact, they are probably the lowest since the end of the Gale Catlett era and the beginning of the John Beilein revolution. It’s a team that plays a doozy of a schedule, with trips to Virginia Tech, Missouri and a tournament in Cancun. The home slate isn’t much easier, with Gonzaga and Purdue entering the Coliseum before league play begins.
Huggins said this team can make shots. He said the team is tailored to get up-and-down and shoot the ball effectively. Those beliefs are very strong-minded about a team that finished No. 209 in scoring and No. 288 in field goals in 2012. These comments are a good sign and should be welcomed. The most difficult person in the program to impress is Huggins, and his approval should mean everything.
Give a lot of credit to Huggins for bouncing back emotionally the way he has. Hitting the reset button on a program is a very difficult thing to do. Along with that comes the support factor and being able to teach. No one has ever knocked Huggs for those attributes. An improved, overachieving team would only cement his qualities as a legendary college coach.
We’ll never know if Huggins’ feelings and actions toward the team at the back end of the season was reasoning for the poor play and disinterested attitude on the court. We will find out is if the 2014 bunch will respond to the restored confidence their head coach has in them. If Huggins is refreshed and still passionate about developing young talent and molding them into winners, this program will see the results sooner rather than later.