MORGANTOWN — I believe Bob Huggins has done an absolutely amazing job in his first year as head coach of the West Virginia University men’s basketball team.
Oh, sure, the Mountaineers lost a couple games they admittedly believe they should have won. But they also won some games they probably shouldn’t have won.
Those happenings kind of balance out during any team’s season.
But Huggins, a Morgantown native and WVU alumnus with two degrees, took over a group of players he did not recruit and molded them into one of the school’s most successful teams. He’s expecting them to be even bigger, stronger and, yes, more productive next season.
He and his hard-working assistants obviously had to do a lot more teaching than most staffs, especially when it came to defense and rebounding. Both of those are key ingredients into Huggins’ preferred style of basketball.
That’s why the 54-year-old is averaging slightly better than 23.6 victories per season for his 26-year career.
Huggins doesn’t have one set style of coaching. He has said among the things he learned from his father, 74-year-old Charlie Huggins, was to adapt to what’s best suited to the personnel.
And that’s obviously what he did with the players he inherited from John Beilein last April. He put his most effective performers in positions that gave them a chance to win.
The result: A 26-11 record, 11-7 in the Big East standings, and an advance to the NCAA tournament’s “Sweet 16” before bowing to Xavier 79-75 in overtime. That’s a game the Mountaineers still think they should have won.
I believe Bob Huggins not only is an outstanding coach and recruiter supreme but one who has developed a knack for preparing his team for each game about as fine as any coach I’ve seen here.
Keep in mind that West Virginia was picked by Big East coaches before season’s start to finish 10th, and it wound up fifth in the standings.
Do you know how many times in 99 years of men’s basketball that WVU has won 26 or more games in a season? The answer: Just seven times!
Of the 21 head coaches the school has had, only four - counting Huggins - produced those winningest teams.
Fred Schaus’ last three of six teams posted records of 26-2, 29-5 and 26-5 from 1957-58 through 1959-60. Gale Catlett was the next to do it twice: 27-4 in 1981-82 and 26-5 in 1988-89.
John Beilein coached the other such team. It finished 27-9 in 2006-07. And now Huggins at 26-11.
It should be noted, however, that it wasn’t until 1945-46 that WVU played as many as 26 games for the first time. That’s the post-World War II year that Lee Patton went 24-3 in his debut as the Mountaineer mentor.
And that total included three postseason games in the National Invitation Tournament. It really wasn’t until 1950 when WVU joined the Southern Conference that the number of regular-season games was boosted to 25.
WVU fans should be happy that Bob Huggins is now coaching at his alma mater. The men’s basketball program certainly seems to be in mighty good hands under his watch.