- By John Antonik
- December 22, 2010 11:39 AM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bob Huggins can coach, we all know that, but if he ever gets tired of dealing with 18-year olds he can always get a talk show or move over into the entertainment business - he’s that entertaining.
Last Saturday after West Virginia’s tougher-than-some-expected 74-63 win over Cleveland State, Huggins touched on a variety of subjects during his 16-minute press conference.
Huggins was asked about the emergence of 6-foot-7 senior Cam Thoroughman in the post position and his new-found shooting abilities. Cam is making 53 percent of his field goal attempts during the first-third of the season, and has also considerably improved his free throwing shooting percentage as well.
“Cam was a self-proclaimed good shooter and it’s funny because he kept trying to get everybody to say, ‘Tell him how I used to shoot it when I was a freshman.’ I said, ‘Cam, shooting the ball is like riding a bike, man. Once you learn how to ride a bike you can be off a bike for 10 years and get back on and ride it.’ You don’t lose that much,’” said Huggins.
Having listened to Thoroughman talk so much about his past shooting exploits, Huggins sought out former West Virginia coach John Beilein this summer during a recruiting trip. It was under Beilein’s watch that Thoroughman came to WVU.
“I said, ‘John, I have to ask you a question. Could Cam Thoroughman ever shoot?’ He said no, absolutely not,” Huggins said to laughter.
Huggins explained that Thoroughman is playing so well this year because he’s playing within himself. The challenge now, according to Huggins, is to try and get some of his other players to follow suit.
“They didn’t guard him and he’s smart enough to pass it and ball screen and do the right things,” Huggins explained. “That’s like I try to explain to some of our guys at halftime. There is a reason they don’t guard you. They want you to shoot. Generally they don't guard the guys they want to have shoot it.”
Huggins talked about his reluctance to use the 1-3-1 zone that has been so effective during his previous three seasons coaching the Mountaineers.
“We started the season thinking we could play some 1-3-1 and this is just not a great 1-3-1 team,” he said. “I can’t put John Flowers in enough places.”
Huggins was asked to give his thoughts on watching one of his players shoot the ball over the shot clock Saturday against Cleveland State.
“The people that don’t come and watch this bunch play are really missing a lot,” he said. “I think this is like 29 years of coaching for me but I grew up in a gym. My dad was a coach. I haven’t seen that in bitty ball – and they’re bad. You get those fourth and fifth graders and I’ve never seen that.
“Honestly, this group does something all of the time that you just say, ‘I’ve never seen that before.’ You miss a lot if you don’t watch them.”
Huggins said he used to be awed by some of the things his Cincinnati players used to do on the floor – for different reasons.
“I had teams when I used to go, ‘Wow.’ I would have to turn my back at some of the things Kenyon (Martin) used to do,” Huggins said. “He made plays that you just didn’t think anyone else in the world could make and I didn’t want to see him with my jaw dropped open. So I would turn around so he wouldn’t see me. But not like this group. This group is very unique.
“Every day is a new day with these guys, and I mean that sincerely,” he said. “Things just happen that you go, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that before.’ I don’t know.”
Finally, Huggins was asked to reflect on his three seasons coaching at Walsh (West Virginia’s exhibition opponent tonight) in the early 1980s. His first team at Walsh in 1980 was 14-16 and Huggins was completely miserable because he detests losing so much. After the season the president called Huggins and his assistant Dan Peters into his office to tell them what a great job they did their first season there.
“He says, ‘You know, I’m so excited about the job you two guys are doing. If you can keep the program right where it is you’ll have a job here the rest of your life,’” Huggins recalled. “I looked over at my assistant and I said, ‘I can’t speak for him, but you just scared the hell out of me!’”