Mountaineers' soul-searching has begun
MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University's basketball practice facility is a sight to behold. Its Hall of Tradition, its symmetrical mirror image for the men's and women's quarters, the 4-foot high video board in the Central Atrium, its gymnasiums and training room - complete with an underwater tread mill - are state of the art. It also includes a spacious office for Mountaineer men's basketball coach Bob Huggins.
There were, however, no trophies to add there after WVU's initial run through the Big 12. The team finished 13-19. And the team's fans have questions. So the Gazette met with Huggins for a question-and-answer session. Below is the result.
GAZETTE - Now that you've had time to digest the season, what's your overall view of what went wrong?
HUGGINS - A lot of things. Changing leagues, changing the style of play within [the Big 12] hurt us. In all honesty, we probably didn't prepare our players well enough for the change in style. But the roster was set.
From top to bottom, we didn't do well enough. From me on. Also, the travel didn't help. We traveled enough to go around the world one and a quarter times. We have to do a better job of managing our travel.
GAZETTE - What have you and your staff been doing since the end of the season?
HUGGINS - Recruiting. Recruiting never stops.
GAZETTE - What are your next steps?
HUGGINS - We've got to continue to recruit until signing day, April 11.
GAZETTE - How many more players do you expect to sign?
HUGGINS - I'm not sure at this point. We'll meet with the guys after the spring break. I thought it best to give everyone a break from it so we make rational, not emotional, decisions.
GAZETTE - Perhaps the harshest criticism by fans has been over recruiting. Have you found it difficult to recruit to Morgantown?
HUGGINS - When we got here, this program hadn't had a pro since Lowes Moore [in 1980]. We've had three pros that we recruited. But we've had some things happen that we couldn't control - from Noah [Cottrill] to Dalton Pepper to Darrious Curry.
GAZETTE - Has the new practice facility helped in any tangible way yet?
HUGGINS - Yes it has, without question. And it will help in recruiting. The first class we were able to use it with was with Eron [Harris] and Terry [Henderson], who, I think all will agree, are pretty good recruits.
Also, now we're not locked into certain times we can use the facility. That helps us, especially with all the travel. Before, we couldn't get in the Coliseum, say, before noon. And from an academic standpoint, it's helped immensely.
GAZETTE - How different will your roster be next season?
HUGGINS - It will be different. We have three seniors. I really haven't talked about next year yet.
GAZETTE - After WVU's disappointing football season, head coach Dana Holgorsen made assistant coaching changes. Will there be any changes within your staff?
HUGGINS - We went to five consecutive NCAA tournaments before this season and a Final Four. The most consecutive NCAA tournament appearances at our school is six. That was from 1955 to 1960. That was a long time ago.
GAZETTE - The schedule this season proved to be very difficult for your team. Will you dial that back at all next season?
HUGGINS - No.
GAZETTE - Since the end of the season, have you noticed any change in the receptions you've received from recruits?
HUGGINS - No.
GAZETTE - Is there anything the university or athletic department can do to help your efforts in returning to success?
HUGGINS - No. They've been great. And I haven't asked for anything more.
GAZETTE - Finally, are there any words you'd like to get out to your program's fans?
HUGGINS - We're going to be fine. We kinda got hit with a whole lot of things at one time. You can't lose the kind of guys we lost. But I've never made excuses in the past. Facts are facts.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.