Of the two All-Big 12 football teams announced earlier this week, it looks like the media has a better opinion of the 10-2 West Virginia Mountaineers than the Big 12 coaches.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 coaches picked just four Mountaineer players to its two all-conference teams - Orlosky and Douglas to the first team, and Daikiel Shorts Jr.
and Gibson to the second team.
That’s two fewer than 3-9 Iowa State managed to land on the coaches’ teams this year.
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops was the coach of the year - and it’s hard to argue with that considering his Sooners ran the table with a 9-0 league record, but Dana Holgorsen had to have also garnered some strong consideration by taking a team predicted to finish seventh in the preseason and winning seven conference games, including 10 overall.
More Mountaineer Sports Notes …
* I know there has been somewhat of a lukewarm response from some fans to 14th-ranked West Virginia’s meeting against unranked Miami in this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Florida, but consider this: Miami is actually favored to win the game.
In fact, four other Big 12 bowl participants this year, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU, are underdogs as well.
The only team favored to win its bowl game is Oklahoma.
By the way, it looks like West Virginia so far has accounted for about 5,000 of the 8,000 tickets allotted for this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl. Those interested in purchasing tickets can log on to WVUGAME.com
to sit in the WVU section.
This year’s Russell Athletic Bowl will be played on Wednesday, December 28 at 5:30 p.m. in beautiful Orlando, Florida.
* Holgorsen was a recent guest on the podcast Pardon My Take, presented by Barstool Sports. Most of the conversation dealt with irrelevant things and the hosts “Big Cat” and “PFT Commenter” trying to come up with off-the-wall questions for Holgorsen to answer, but one question did lead to an interesting response from the recently extended West Virginia coach about fans booing.
Holgorsen was asked about some fans believing that they can do the coach’s job better than the coach can, to which he replied, “It doesn’t bother me. I don’t pay attention to the media. You’ve got to block that out. It’s hard for families, but it’s not hard for coaches.
“Coaches and players can block that stuff out pretty easy,” he said. “Family members, that’s a little tougher. Our starting quarterback, Skyler Howard
, a lot of stuff has been in the media about the fans not supporting him. He’s getting booed and he makes jokes about it a lot. It doesn’t affect Skyler but it affects his family, it affects his mom and his brothers and people who can’t go out there and do anything. I can control some things on game day where I just go out there and coach hard and throughout the course of the week I just keep my head down and go - and players do the same thing - but for families it’s pretty tough.”
* Mike Carey’s 13th-ranked women’s basketball team should finish the non-conference portion of its schedule with an undefeated record. The Mountaineers face USC Upstate on Saturday in the WVU Coliseum and then have non-league games remaining against Longwood and Mount St. Mary’s before opening Big 12 play at TCU on Thursday, December 29.
West Virginia’s two best victories outside of conference play have come against SEC opponents - Auburn in Savannah, Georgia, on November 24, and against Ole Miss at the Coliseum last Sunday afternoon.
Sophomore guard Tynice Martin
has replaced Bria Holmes as the team’s No. 1 scoring option, averaging 19 points per game. The Mountaineers have four players averaging double figures, including last year’s junior college player of the year Kristina King
, now averaging 10.1 points per game.
* The West Virginia University women’s soccer team concluded its best season ever ranked No. 2 in the final NSCAA poll. The Mountaineers dropped last Sunday’s national championship game to USC, 3-1, to end their season with a 23-2-2 record.
* Several of Bob Huggins’ former players now make their offseason homes here in Morgantown while playing professionally overseas. Among them are guard Truck Bryant, now playing professionally in Greece, and Da’Sean Butler, John Flowers and Alex Ruoff, all playing in Germany.
Another former Huggins player, guard Joe Mazzulla, is now an assistant coach in the NBA D-League on Scott Morrison’s Maine Red Claws coaching staff.
Mazzulla hooked up with Morrison through former Butler player Ronald Nored, who got the head coaching job at Long Island this year but was unable to hire Mazzulla because management wanted some older coaches around him.
Mazzulla said his goal is to one day become a head coach, “It’s coming little by little, but I’m still being patient,” he said recently.
* You don’t get a full appreciation for how difficult it can be facing West Virginia’s 40-minute, full-court pressure defense until you sit down along the floor and see it up close as I did in Charleston on Wednesday night. The press begins with 6-foot-8-inch Nathan Adrian
guarding the player inbounding the basketball and the chaos continues right down the floor.
At times it looks like there are seven or eight Mountaineers out there because the passing angles are so tight. Then, once a team does get the ball beyond midcourt, it is dealing with a shot clock that is usually reading around 20 by the time it gets into its offensive set.
West Virginia is now in year three of “Press Virginia” and the players running it seem to have a much greater understanding of where they are supposed to be in relation to the others on the floor.
“When we play the experienced guys they rotate pretty good,” coach Bob Huggins admitted. “They get to the ball pretty quick, and generally speaking, make the right rotations.”
* With Huggins now just two victories away from 800 for his career, the one guy who has been around him for a lot of those wins is veteran assistant coach Larry Harrison.
Larry began working for Huggins at Cincinnati in 1989, left following the 1997 season to work at DePaul and then become the head coach at Hartford, and then reunited with Huggins at WVU in 2007. Harrison has been with him ever since.
Harrison recently recalled the first time he met Huggins at the 1989 Final Four in Seattle, Washington.
“We sat and talked there and like most people, he struck me as being a little bit different than the guy I thought I was going to meet because he was very quiet and soft-spoken,” Harrison said. “I kind of had to initiate a lot of the conversation.
“We probably met for a little over an hour or so and he said, ‘I’m going to hire you but it’s going to take some time.’ I was kind of surprised at that because we had just met. Tom Crean, a good friend of mine, is the one who introduced us.”
True to his word, when Dan Peters got the Akron job that created an opening on the Cincinnati staff for Huggins to hire Harrison.
Harrison laughs while recalling one of the first times they went out on the road recruiting together at Howard Garfinkel’s Five-Star Camp in Pittsburgh.
“I’m coming from American University where the budget is pretty tight and he’s coming from Akron where the budget is pretty tight and we used to stay at the Red Roof Inn and would get a room together,” Harrison said. “One of the things he used to get upset with me about was I’m not a guy when the alarm goes off I jump out of bed and I’m ready to go.
“I’ve got to set my alarm like an hour or two before it’s time to go. So if we had to get somewhere at nine, my alarm would go off at seven,” Harrison continued. “So it goes off and he jumps up and he’s ready to get going and I’m like, ‘Where are you going, Huggs?’ He’s like, ‘It’s time to get up, right?’ ‘No, Huggs, we’ve still got a couple of hours.’”
Huggins gave Harrison a look like he was completely out of his mind.
“After that, he would always tell people, ‘Don’t room with Larry because you are going to wake up two hours before you’ve got to get up,’” Harrison laughed.
* One seat down the bench from Harrison is Ron Everhart, who has known Huggins since Huggs’ playing days at WVU in the mid-1970s. When Everhart finally got a chance to work for him in 2012, it was an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up.
Everhart has worked as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, VMI and Tulane before becoming a head coach at McNeese State, Northeastern and then Duquesne.
“I thought I was a pretty good basketball coach when I got here,” Everhart said recently. “But I’ve kind of turned all the way around to the way he sees things. For example, you say, ‘Hey Huggs, why don’t you look at running A, B or C?’ ‘Okay, that’s good but who is going to pass the ball? Who is going to make the delivery?’ For a lot of my career I had never thought about that. I just thought, ‘Man, let’s just make everyone a good passer.’ Well it doesn’t work that way at this level. You have guys who pressure the basketball at a different level.
“He thinks about everything,” Everhart continued. “The success is in the details a lot of times and he is a very detail-oriented guy and he’s a very intelligent guy. He’s always thinking one step ahead of everyone else.”
* And finally, Huggins told this funny story on his weekly radio show a couple of weeks ago and it bears repeating here.
One year when he was still coaching at Cincinnati, Huggins’ Bearcats were facing East Carolina when the two schools were members of Conference USA. During ECU’s shoot-around the morning of the game, Huggins ran into one of the Pirate assistant coaches as they were about to take the floor. The assistant told Huggins they were going to suspend four of their players before the game that night.
“Geez, that’s too bad,” Huggins said. “How good were they?”
“Two starters and a couple players coming off the bench,” he said. “Two were kicked off the team and the other two were suspended indefinitely.”
“What did they do?” Huggins asked.
“I don’t know.”
A little later, when East Carolina finished its shoot-around and Cincinnati was about to take the floor, Huggins ran into his good buddy Billy Herrion, the Pirates' head coach.
“Billy, what happened? That’s just awful,” Huggins said.
“What the hell do you mean it’s awful, Huggs? Five-thirty in the morning I go down to the lobby to get a cup of coffee and four of my guys come staggering in with one of your guys. I kicked two of them off the team and suspended the other two,” he said. “Now, what the hell are you going to do with your guy?”
“Four guys suspended, huh?” answered Huggins. “Billy, I’m now making him team captain.”
The Bearcat player showing the East Carolina players around town the night before just happened to be a 6-foot-9 guy Huggins ran all of his offense through that season.
Huggins went up to the player before practice and asked him if he was okay.
“Huggs, man, those East Carolina dudes," he said, "they’re amateurs."
Have a great weekend!