The Kinder Garden - 2/14/02

West Virginia's performance against Virginia Tech last night at the WVU Coliseum was the worst I have ever seen by a Mountaineer team.

I'm not just talking about the on court play, although that was bad enough. I'm focusing on the abysmal lack of effort and desire displayed by most of the Mountaineer squad.

I can handle losing. I don't like it, and I want it to stop, but I can handle it if I feel like the team and coaches tried their best. As a fan, first and foremost, that's all I can ask.

What I can't handle is mailing it in, and that's exactly what I saw last night in the Big Empty, otherwise known as the WVU Coliseum.

Players went through the motions. The coaching staff talked to their players, but no fire was evident. Loose balls were gobbled up by Hokies. Rebounds weren't contested. Passes were lobbed, and defense was an afterthought.

Coach Gale Catlett apparently agreed, as he questioned his team's pride and work ethic in his brief postgame comments.

There's plenty of blame to go around here, but the intent of this column isn't to point fingers and say "it's the coaches' fault" or "it's the players' fault". Assigning blame doesn't do anything to solve the problem.

The point is that most West Virginia fans, with a largely blue collar heritage, will support their team if they believe it's playing hard and giving their best effort.

Unfortunately, that's not happening now. The observers of last night's disaster were disgusted with what they saw. And they're likely to tune out this team until it at least puts forth an effort.

How that change will be effected is another matter. Debate about the coaching staff has run hot and heavy, but since a change there isn't likely to occur during the season, fans will have to look elsewhere for a ray of light.

That's where the players come into the picture. They have to put aside whatever problems they have with their coaches, their teammates and their prior performances and just play hard. It's pretty obvious that the coaching staff has lost a great portion of this team, so I don't think any amount of motivation or speechmaking will get back. The team has to decide to do it for themselves.

This is a change that will have to come from within. Whether it's playing for pride, or for the name on the front of the jersey, or for the family, this team has to pull itself together and at least compete as teamates over the last five games. If it doesn't, the repercussions will last far past this dismal season.

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