Man ought to be properly remembered. Tell me the time he didn’t get it done.
The turn comes quick, far faster than most people are capable of preparing for it. We’re humans after all. We’re not necessarily programmed to understand that we - our work and ourselves - are often disposable in the eyes of others. Everybody knows this feeling. After the end of a long relationship, there’s a moment of sitting there thinking, “What just happened?” as if it really had just happened, as if it wasn’t the accumulation of a thousand small disagreements. Such a verbose way of describing a small fleeting moment of madness.
How else does one explain a brief flirtation with the long knives for Bob Huggins? I saw it today with my own eyes, an attempt to insist that Huggins was somehow responsible for the allegedly grim reality that our basketball team this year - a year removed from a glorious run to the Final Four - really isn’t that good. And not only are they not good, but they’re unlikely to be better next year, when the team loses its best defender (John Flowers), best point guard (Joe Mazzulla), best grinder (Cam Thoroughman), and best son-of-the-NBA-logo (Jonnie West). Oh, and Casey Mitchell, who is better left not thought about, as any attempt to understand the man results of pounding headaches and nosebleeds.
On the one hand, the critic was substantively right. Huggins success at WVU has been fueled by largely by players that were not his own: Joe Alexander in his first year, Da’Sean Butler in his third, with Joe Mazzulla, Alexander Ruoff, Darris Nichols, Wellington Smith, John Flowers, Cam Thoroughman and others offering significant contributions for runs made to the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four. Huggins’s recruits have been…shall-we-say…less than inspiring. Yes, he brought Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones, but Ebanks is gone after only two years (and, like Alexander, stuck in the NBDL) and Jones, now the focus of other teams instead of being a third-banana (as he was during his first two seasons) looks very, very containable. Truck Bryant has never turned into the harder-than-hell-nosed point guard capable of getting to the basket at will. Deniz Kilicli looks unlikely to turn into the low-post force we were imagining, if only because it takes him twenty minutes and a Power Point presentation of the available options to decide what he’s going to do with the ball whenever he gets it. This year’s recruiting class was an utter disaster, with Darrious Curry being told he’d be unable to ever play the game (owing to a diagnosis of a disease now in apparent dispute), David Nyarsuk failed to make the grades, and prized recruit Noah Cottrill apparently chose other less painful pursuits. Only Kevin Noreen has seen the floor, and his time has been limited mightily despite having a nose for both the basketball and the hoop. To put that another way, Bob Huggins doesn’t like playing freshmen unless they’re exemplary players. Which makes it unlikely, although perhaps necessary, that our incoming class eats up minutes next season.
That’s enough apparently, enough for the knives to slowly get pulled across the whetstones. Yes, the team got a Sweet Sixteen, and then, two years later, a Big East Championship and an appearance in the Final Four, but what about this year? What about next year? What about the year after that? It’s no longer a matter of what have you done for us lately, but rather, what are you doing for us next? And if the answer to that isn’t, “At least as much as before but probably more!” then there are fans willing to move on.
The fear - here anyway, as we’ve written about this on numerous occasions - is that this mindset, this “Goddammit do something now! I want instant gratification now, now, now!” mindset, is taking hold of Mountaineer Nation, and that even somebody as immediately beloved as Dana Holgorsen is going to face the same wall of resentment and criticism if he can’t meet whatever goals the fanbase sets for him, no matter how unrealistic or potentially unattainable. (“Whaddya mean we can’t win the national championship ever single year?!?!”) Meanwhile we miss the accomplishments that are genuinely worth appreciating.
Any fan ought to be able to recognize that this year’s team just isn’t that good. But suppose Huggins can steer them to 20 wins, plus another victory in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. If this year’s team makes the NCAA tournament (and I’m hypothesizing that 21 wins with our brutal schedule would be enough to do it), wouldn’t that represent an incredible accomplishment given this team’s limitations? Even if it does represent an unrealistic dream - and hoo baby, does 21 wins really seem unrealistic after that loss to Marquette - its realization would be incredible. That we’d have our fans missing that reality because the team hadn’t returned to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, or whatever the perceived goal was at the beginning of the imaginary season that they had privately imagined would represent a tragedy of fandom of the highest order.
So yes, we’re humans, and yes, we’re disposable, but abandoning this year’s team, or worse, its coach, merely for the crime of not measuring up to one of the greatest teams in Mountaineer history would be an awful thing. Those fans headed in that direction really need to pull over to the side of the road to consider, if only briefly, the ramifications of such a hellbent strategy.