After a promising 13-2 start, Bob Huggins and WVU basketball have stumbled their way into a seven-game losing streak, dropping them to 13-9 on the season and last place in the Big 12. With Huggins nearing retirement and a continuous flow of new rule changes in the NCAA, how much is Huggins to blame for the Mountaineers’ struggles?
Huggins’ history of success
Throughout Bob Huggins’ career, he has been one of the most revered coaching names in all of college basketball. Known as a “do more with less” coach, Huggins has led multiple smaller schools such as West Virginia and Cincinnati to final-four appearances and conference titles.
Huggins is a top-5 coach in all-time wins and is currently 502-324 with the Mountaineers. Huggins has taken WVU to the Sweet-Sixteen five times, the Elite-Eight once, and the Final-Four once. Huggins is also a Morgantown favorite as he played for the Mountaineers during his playing career.
Huggins’ success is undeniable; however, the game is changing rapidly, and some have come to wonder whether or not old-school coaches such as Huggins will be able to keep up.
The game is changing
The NCAA has introduced many new changes in the past four years alone, such as the transfer portal and NIL deals. These changes impact the chemistry of a team and the program’s ability to recruit and adapt to new challenges both in-season and during the off-season.
In January, Huggins admitted that he was reluctant to use the portal.
"“We didn’t do very well in the portal.” Huggins said, We’ve got people watching it every day. I kind of favor the idea of having guys here. I don’t really want to have one year guys or certainly not very many one year guys. But you’re not going to win with 13 freshmen.”"
While Huggins is spot-on about the program’s inability to win with freshmen, he misses one key factor: players nowadays will rarely play four seasons of college basketball.
Huggins has never coached at a top-tier program such as Duke or Michigan State that has players lining up to attend and play. Instead, Huggins has continuously developed his players into top-tier basketball players. His latest issue is that the second those players can jump to the NBA, they will; or worse, enter the transfer portal for a more developed program with deeper pockets.
Now more than ever, Huggins will need to adapt to the times. With the introduction of NIL, a program in which student-athletes can now make money off of their likeness and image, West Virginia is at even more of a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and player retention.
While Huggins may not be out of touch with modern college basketball, the program’s inability to retain players or use the transfer portal does fall on the shoulders of the head coach.
Does Huggins deserve the blame?
While Huggins has always been a fantastic head coach, he has also been in a major head coaching name for around 40 seasons and has coached over 1,200 games. Every coach’s time will come to an end, and Huggins’ time is near.
That being said, Huggins team is not playing well right now. While game prep, development, recruiting, etc., does fall on the shoulder of the head coach, the team shooting 24 percent from the field and being unable to rebound the ball does not.
Huggins’ time will come, but he is coaching a sub-par basketball team right now. There is a lot that a coach can do to help his team, but Huggins cannot go out and shoot the ball or rebound for the Mountaineers and therefore does not deserve all of the blame for this team’s lack of success this season.