MORGANTOWN -- There is a common perception that when West Virginia changed basketball coaches six years ago, it brought about a monumental shift in styles and strategies.
And, to a certain extent, that was oh so true.
After all, John Beilein has long been viewed in a cerebral sort of way as far as basketball coaches are concerned. His Princeton offense nudged the thinking that way, as did his odd tendency to use a 1-3-1 zone as his primary defense. The type of players he recruited - largely student-athletes rather than athlete-students - also helped.
Well, his teams at Cincinnati tended to be a cross between more mainstream and down-and-dirty. That's not a knock, just a style. His teams have always tended to play somewhat conventionally on offense and make their real mark with gritty defense. And while that might be smart, it's not seen as cerebral in a broad sense. Huggins also tended sometimes to take chances that he could turn players into students and not always the other way around.
The bottom line, of course, is that there's really no right way or wrong way to coach and play the game. West Virginia was incredibly successful in five years under Beilein. The Mountaineers have been just as successful, and perhaps more so, in five years under Huggins.
Saturday night in the odd setting of the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, WVU's immediate past and present meet. Huggins and the Mountaineers face Beilein and his No. 3 Michigan team there in a made-for-TV game that will air on ESPN.
A clash of styles? Well, sure, to an extent.
But as both coaches point out, it's not exactly a clash of two polar opposite coaches. They actually have a lot in common, not the least of which is an ability generally to coax everything they can out of their players, no matter the level.
"I think when you're the coach at Walsh and Akron [as Huggins was to start his career] or when you're the coach at LeMoyne and Canisius [Beilein's initial stops], you have to do that or you're not going to win,'' Beilein said Wednesday. "And as a result, we took that same philosophy when we did have opportunities at Cincinnati and West Virginia and at West Virginia and Michigan.
"That's why I think we're very similar. How we do that may be different. I don't know. I've never seen Bobby's team practice. But I do know that we get the most . . . I hope we'd both agree that we get the most out of our teams.''
He'll get no argument from Huggins.
"I think when you start at places like where John started - and, to a degree, where I started - you've got to be a good coach to continue to win at every level,'' Huggins said. "He gets the most out of his guys. I don't think there's any doubt about that. They play to their fullest potential.''