MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins-coached teams rarely lack leadership. Even in down years, Huggins has felt the ability to point to one or two players on his lineup as guys to keep the proverbial ship headed for calmer waters.
The Mountaineers (13-9, 2-7 Big 12) are nine games into league play, and 22 games into this season. With the conference schedule being unkind to WVU once again, the veteran head coach is looking for the leadership he thought he had at the beginning of the year.
“I think there were a lot of heart-to-heart conversations,” he said Friday when asked about the previous few days in light of some of the post-game comments he made on the radio with play-by-play broadcaster Tony Caridi on Tuesday.
Among other things, Huggins was not pleased with the lack of energy or enthusiasm his team showed up with in Fort Worth. West Virginia led for just 31 seconds against a TCU team without its leading scorer and lost by four in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak and appeared to at least momentarily halt some of the momentum that WVU had been building over the previous two weeks.
“I would hope they understand the position they put [themselves] in,” said Huggins. “We’ve got enough veteran guys that they should understand. We’ve got enough guys that have played in NCAA Tournaments who should be excited about playing in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve got enough guys, who a year ago did not, that should be a tremendous motivating factor for them.”
Despite the veteran presence, and how he felt at the beginning of the season, Huggins sees a glaring need for one of the players on the roster to step up.
“We don’t have a strong leader,” said Huggins. “We have some guys who talk a lot, but I wouldn’t call them strong leaders.”
In the head coach’s opinion, that lack of leadership has led to the team’s inconsistency on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the Bear pointed to WVU’s streakiness of getting hot for a short spurt and then going ice cold.
“There’s been times when defensively we’ve been pretty good. And then there’s been times when we’ve been like we didn’t even want to be there,” said Huggins. “We don’t have a leader. We really don’t. … We just don’t have that strong leadership, the guy who drags everybody in and says ‘this BS got to stop man, now.'”
Huggins isn’t just looking for a player to lead by example. He wants a strong voice in the huddle and on the court.
The Hall of Fame head coach still believes his team will qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and even win at least one game – no matter what seed they draw.
But between Saturday’s matchup with Oklahoma and Selection Sunday in March, he’s looking for one of his players to step up and be the voice and presence that gets the Mountaineers through the next five weeks and one day.