At the end of the WVU/Texas 2006 NCAA tournament game, one of the announcers made a statement about the WVU team, “Take a good look WVU fans, it will be a long time before you see another team like this one." Certainly the announcer was paying tribute to Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle, and the way the team played, as a team. Yet, there was an undertone to that statement, WVU wouldn’t have a team that good for some time.
The way John Beilein’s Mike Gansey, Kevin Pittsnogle led teams played, was a thing of beauty. The national attention their play garnered, was as well. For a time, teams were “Pittsnogled”, and not just against WVU, but nationally. Talk radio shows across the land referenced teams being “Pittsnogled”.
The 2009-10 Bob Huggins coached team is void of such a national moniker. The current team still boasts two players in the national spotlight, Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, with Kevin Jones steadily increasing his national visibility.
It doesn’t take long, for even the average fan, to point out the differences between John Beilein and Bob Huggins. Beilein was reserved, methodical, and together at all times. Huggins is in your face, intense, and unafraid to show it. Beilein’s cerebral style, to Huggins’ physical take no prisoners approach.
John Beilein’s teams used fewer players than Bob Huggins’ current team.
This year’s supporting cast is more talented and larger in number. On any given night, both Butler and Ebanks can have an off night offensively, and WVU can still win. That wasn’t the case when Gansey and Pittsnogle wore the old Gold and Blue.
Offensively, Beilein coached the Princeton offense, which is as precise an offense as there is in all of basketball. WVU lived and died on the three-point line, rarely winning the second chance points battle.
Huggins coaches a motion offense, allowing the athletic ability of his players to dictate the progression. WVU still shoots the three ball. Should WVU miss now, it is considered an opportunity. Second chance points are a staple of the current team.
Beilein’s and Huggins’ differences don’t stop on the offensive end. Beilein preached a trapping zone defense, attempting to negate the lack of athleticism his team had.
Huggins preaches a switching man to man, attempting to accentuate the athleticism his team possesses. The length of the current WVU basketball team is mentioned often. Opposing teams continually demonstrate problems solving that length.
John Beilein’s teams rarely held the rebounding advantage, while Bob Huggins’ team is expected to own the rebounding advantage. This widens the gap between the two teams athleticism and further solidifies the differences in coaching philosophy.
As a life long WVU fan, I am proud of the accomplishments of the John Beilein coached teams. The memories those teams provided will always bring a smile to my face. John Beilein brought national prominence to the WVU Basketball program. Yet, those teams didn’t reach the level of play that WVU enjoyed in Jerry West’s day.
The 2009-10 Men’s Basketball team could turn out to be the best that has ever played at WVU. At the very least the current team may be the best since the WVU basketball teams of the late fifties, early sixties.
Bob Huggins has put together a team that is currently 10-0, and ranked 6th nationally. One of only six unbeaten teams remaining. All of this having been accomplished without playing their best basketball.
It is becoming more and more apparent that Joe Mazzulla will not return to form. Mazzulla’s surgically repaired shoulder simply won’t let him. Currently, that leaves one true point guard in the rotation, Truck Bryant. Bryant is currently battling an ankle injury of his own.
Highly touted Casey Mitchell has been hampered by a knee injury, slowing his progress. Dalton Pepper, a true freshman, has been getting considerable minutes. Deniz Kilicli, won’t be eligible until the Pitt game, February 3rd.
What contribution will these three players make late in the season, and into the post season? Are there others on the roster that will develop as the season progresses?
It is often stated that early season accomplishments mean nothing in March. Bob Huggins, and his staff, are proven basketball coaches. Inconsistencies of today will materialize into consistencies. The potential exhibited currently, will be realized in March. Huggins’ tenacity will translate to the teams court performance.
Time will tell the 2009-10 team’s place in WVU lore. The ride we take with this team, as fans, certainly will be enjoyable. The long wait, referenced by the announcer, is over.
If we could just find that allusive label. Possibly, National Champions, now that would be memorable!