THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Coach Bob Huggins, the West Virginia coach. We’ll go straight to questions.
Q. Bob, with your pressure style of basketball, do you now recruit to that, or do you recruit as you always did, and teach it, and drill it when they get there?
BOB HUGGINS: Obviously we’d like to get people we think could develop into somebody very good in that. But we’re just trying to get the best guys we can get. We recruited, the last class and this class, I think we’ve recruited guys that will end up being pretty good at it. But we’ve got a couple pretty good players. It’s kind of interesting, I did it in Cincinnati when I first got there. I get to Cincinnati and I start looking at film, and I see Louisville and what Coach Crum had down there, and he had live five first-round picks, and I’m like I’m never going to get guys that good. So maybe we can get 15 guys better than their 15. Then I got Danny Fortson, and Danny wasn’t real good at pressing, but he could really score the ball. So I’m like why do I have Danny out there running around, fouling people, when I ought to have him down there fouling everybody else out? So we quit doing it. We’ve just recently gotten back to it.
So to answer your question, I have no idea.
Q. You guys are picked second, obviously, in the preseason. I don’t know how much attention you pay to this kind of thing, but there is a perception sometimes that Kansas’ dominance in this league has been bad for the league’s image over the years. Do you agree with that? How important is it for somebody else to kind of knock them off?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, the answer to the first part of your question, all those guys lied. They lied. There isn’t one of those guys that don’t think they’re going to beat us. So why would they vote for a second if they think they’re going to beat us? I don’t believe them. Kansas’ dominance is really — it comes down to three things: They’ve got a great coach, they’ve got great players, and they never lose at home. Until we start beating them at home — and we had chances, we had chances. We missed free throws and a lot of crazy things happened at Allen Fieldhouse now. So we end up losing. If we had beaten them, I think somebody else would have had a chance to maybe tie for the league championship or whatever.
But we’ve got to beat them at home. People have to go into Allen Fieldhouse and win once in a while. Because the rest of us all lose at home, and I think if you look at it, that’s without a question, the difference. That has a lot to do with the job that Bill does. Bill does a great job. And they have really good players.
But I don’t know why that would taint anything, you know what I’m saying? Because they’ve been one of the top three or four teams in the country for how many years, and that’s not going to change. They can be in whatever league you want to put them in and they’re still going to be. Don’t listen to those people.
Q. You have a lot of freshmen coming in. What kind of impact do you think they’ll help with the team that’s senior laden?
A. We’re going to play a lot of people, so they’re going to play. Our two bigs are going to play, whether it’s the 6’10” freshman, whatever he is, 6’8”, freshmen, they’re going to play. I hope we can get into other people’s bench and make them play guys that they haven’t played a lot and just a cumulative effect of what we do.
We did an interesting thing. Juwan Staten played almost 39 minutes a game as a junior. We changed style and started playing faster and pressing and all that. I think the people in the circle felt like he wasn’t playing enough. So he went back and charted possessions, and he actually played more possessions playing 28 minutes the way we play now than he did the way we were playing another way, and he played 39 minutes a game. So we’re going to create a lot of different possessions. That’s really what I look at.
When we first started doing it, I looked at the stat sheet, and it said they shot 57%, and I’m like — I can’t say what I said. But I’m looking at that. Then I look at the number of possessions, the number of possessions we had, the number of turnovers, our possessions compared to their possessions, our shots compared to their shots, it’s worth it.
Q. Are you still able to recruit the type of talent that you’ve got when you were at Cincinnati that you’re getting at West Virginia defense? Do you still believe you’re getting the type of famed, uber star-type athlete that you were getting there?
BOB HUGGINS: No. It’s a different recruiting base. We’re in a state of 1.5 million people. There were 1.8 million people in Cincinnati alone. Ohio is a state of a whole bunch of cities, so there is going to be a whole lot more players. We’ve tried to recruit everybody from our state that could play, and we have had two guys on our team now, or three, actually, we had a walk on. The guy walked on, he’s seven foot tall from Cameron, West Virginia. 300 people. I said, What do you all do in Cameron for fun? He said, Coach, our idea of going to the mall is going to the Dollar General.
Nathan Adrian has had a really good career for us, and he’s playing terrific right now, from right there in Morgantown, and Chase Harler. But other than that, we don’t get guys from our state, which makes it so much harder. You know. You talk about really a lot of the guys that I had, they were Ohio natives or they had ties, they had relatives. They had ties in Ohio. Kenny Satterfield’s father lived in Toledo. People didn’t know that. But he had Ohio ties. But we recruited him out of New York, but he had Ohio ties. So, you know, it’s just a whole lot different.
Q. The state went through the devastating flooding in summer. How did the state get through that, and what was the role of the university through that?
BOB HUGGINS: Well, it’s been hard. To say anything other than that would be a lie. They’ve shut mines down left and right, people are out of work. Southern West Virginia has taken a huge hit. Now Northern West Virginia is doing pretty good, but Southern West Virginia has taken a huge hit. Then the flood came, and it’s hard. What do you do? Mylan Pharmaceuticals gave a million dollars. A million dollars, a million dollars is a lot of money. We all would agree a million dollars is a lot of money, but it doesn’t even touch the devastation that happened. Then you go to a deal, and I’m running around trying to think, okay, we’ll build somebody a house. Who do you pick? Who is the person? You know, so you go into a town of 500 people and you build one guy a house, and there are 499 people not very happy with you, you know? Why was it him? Why wasn’t it me? You know, it’s harder to fix than what anybody realizes until you’re really getting involved and really try to help fix it. The devastation at The Greenbrier. I mean, Jim’s going to spend, I mean, literally hundreds of millions of dollars to fix that. We’ve been hit as hard as any state’s maybe ever been hit when you combined a loss of jobs because of the mining industry and the flood.
It’s hard. I mean, the great thing is about the people in the state of West Virginia is they love West Virginia. They just absolutely love West Virginia, and they love West Virginia University. I had the question about Cincinnati, but you know, we don’t have the Bengals, and we don’t have the Reds, and we don’t have the Indians, and we don’t have the Cavaliers or the Browns. We have West Virginia University. So every kid grows up wearing a hat that says WV on it, or they wear a shirt or pants or whatever that has the WV on it. And whether they go to the university or not, they’re West Virginia fans.
So we’ve had West Virginia fans throughout the country because if you grow up there, you’re a West Virginia fan. You listen to it on the radio. You watch it on TV. I grew up sitting in my grandfather’s lap listening to the Mountaineers. So I understand. I grew up in Dug Hill. It’s just a way of life, and they’re proud, proud people, proud people. But it’s hard. It’s been really hard. We’ve had so many people forced to leave the state just to find work because of what’s happened with the mining industry.
So I forget what your question was.
Q. You answered it.
BOB HUGGINS: Did I? I usually do. I get around to it. But, anyways, that’s why I try to have our guys understand what they represent. Senator Manchin, way more eloquently than what I can do, said to them one time, once you put that uniform on and you have that West Virginia across your chest and you run out there, people talk about representing your team and your family. He said, it’s way more than that here. You’re representing your team, your family, your university and the entire state. And that’s a hell of a responsibility when you think about it. I try to just pound that in our guys’ heads all the time; that, man, you’re representing 1.5 million people. You’re just not representing yourself anymore. That’s the neat thing about it. It doesn’t happen a lot of places.