Morgantown, West Virginia – Make no mistake, there is a fire burning within Bob Huggins. When he’s won for as long as he has, and in such an impressive way, losing is no longer a viable, reasonable option for him.
Losses are painful for any coach, but Bob Huggins suffers when his team loses because this isn’t just a job to him. Coaching the Mountaineers is about far more than money or respect as a coach, Huggins is trying to win for an entire state of people that he loves.
Bob Huggins is a man obsessed with winning. The most dangerous kind of winner is one that fails and longs for the sweet, sweet taste of victory again. Remember, we’re less than 2 years removed from West Virginia being a really, really bad team.
It feels so long ago, but the 2018-2019 team finished the season 15-21 and 4-14 in the conference. Huggins vowed to “fix it” and to put a team on the Coliseum floor that would make West Virginians proud.
At the time, that seemed like a very distant dream, but here we are, a year and a half later, and Bob Huggins has officially fixed it. The Mountaineers are the #8 ranked team in the nation right now and a real contender to win the national championship this season.
To say that someone is “obsessed with winning” is almost a bad thing in our culture. Yet, we admire those who show genius in what they do, and most often that takes an obsessive personality.
Bob Huggins is a basketball genius. Behind genius there is often incredible pain and suffering. Likely tortured by his own thoughts and obsession, the 2018-2019 season almost certainly affected his health and was very painful emotionally for him.
Instead of quitting, Huggins had a laser-like focus on improving his team. The Mountaineers were terrible shooters, so Huggins went out and got the two best perimeter scorers in JUCO, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil, who are both key contributors to the current team.
The team that finished 15-21 was filled with cancerous locker room personalities (i.e. Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris). Huggins dismissed both and recruited players that were not only skilled athletes but also wanted to be in Morgantown and who would buy into his system (see: Miles McBride and Oscar Tshiebwe).
Bob Huggins can’t fake it. He can’t paint a rosy picture and he can’t act like everything is fine. He doesn’t blame his players and take jabs at their effort in post game conferences because it’s a particularly effective strategy; he can’t help himself. He’s very much aware that he can put players in position to be successful and win if they listen to him explicitly.
A constant failure to take what he’s told them countless times in practice and execute it in the game is maddening for him. He’s incapable of keeping that in and to himself. For him to allow you, the fan, the viewer, to think that the product you saw on the court was what he wanted, what he had coached, would mentally and physically destroy him.
The 2018-2019 team was not a Bob Huggins team. That team was a product of players not listening to him and not buying into the system. This year’s team is a Bob Huggins team, and that’s why they’ll go so far and do so well.
The fire within him will burn until his ultimate goal is accomplished. He will finally win a national championship for the great state of West Virginia, or Bob Huggins will die trying.