Out Of Options

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is faced with an untenable situation with his current team. He doesn't have enough players who either care, know the offensive and defensive systems or are motivated by lack of playing time to improve. What's left for the veteran coach to try?

Huggins' comments following another error-filled loss to Oklahoma State went a bit further in explaining what he's faced with his unteachable team this year. It also revealed that some players with almost two years on campus still don't know the system.

"We can't run a set becase I have guys that have been here for two years that don't know what they're doing," he said. "It's totally inexcusable. I can't call a set unless I have certain guys on the floor. I can't make a substitution if we are going to run a set because I'll have one guy stand where he's not supposed to stand and screw everything up."

Huggins has been quick to blame himself for recruiting some of the players he has, and has also vowed to fix the problems. He's said 'It's on me', more often than anything else when discussing this season's shortcomings. But he also notes that the players themselves have some blame to bear.

"It's totally inexcusable when they have the resources they have to watch things and learn things and look at things," he said, speaking of their brand new practice facility and all of the video systems and game and practice tapes available for review.

The question, at this point, is why Huggins continues to play those individuals that don't know the system. He answered that with one of his stories that gets the point across quite clearly.

"It's kinda like if you are a supervisor and you have a guy who won't do right, and you say 'You're out', and you put another guy in and he won't do right, and you put another guy in and he won't do right and you put another guy in and he won't do right. You kind of throw up your hands and say, 'What am I supposed to do?' That's kind of how I feel. I wouldn't play 'em if they guys I had would do right."

From that, it's easy to see that Huggins believes he couldn't employ enough players to practice or play a competitive game if he were to bench everyone that continues to make mistakes, or is unconcerned with the results. But with the season pretty much down the tubes, should such a move be totally out of the question?

If Huggins has just five players that know what they are supposed to do, maybe it's time to just play those players. Even if they are totally out of position. Even if they include walk-ons. Even if it results in 50-point losses. That might be an extreme maneuver, and in reality it might not be the best thing to do. It would certainly cause even more grumbling among those few remaining fans who are watching WVU basketball this year. But if it's a choice between that and continuing to run a shuttle service between the bench and the scorer's table – a move that has resulted in no appreciable improvement -- then maybe he needs to do so to really make his point.

In past seasons, Huggins has pulled all five players off the floor in one fell substitution swoop in order to make a point, so there is a precedent for making such a move. However, that has usually been in response to lack of hustle or a brief meltdown. He's never faced a situation such as he has this year, when he's been unable to reach players on such a large scale.

Such a move might be looked upon as "giving up", and that's certainly something that Huggins never does. However, it's clear he's out of option in terms of getting a significant percentage of his players to respond. They aren't affected by running on the treadmill, or lack of playing time, or verbal corrections gentle or profane. They are, as he says, 'the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet', but along with that they are apparently players without anything that means enough to them to cause them to work to improve. Huggins has searched for answers high and low, but one of his final comments, which trailed off as he described searching his bench for substitutions, shows just where this season has ended up.

"I keep looking down there..."

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