Scouting Synopsis

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins often talks of his team's need to outwork its opponents. That mindset extends to the coaching staff, which must balance a variety of duties throughout the season, many of which go unnoticed. One of these duties is the scouting of upcoming opponents. In this interview with BlueGoldNews.com, assistant coach Larry Harrison breaks down WVU's approach to scouting.

In playing two and sometimes even three games each week, rest is a somewhat-foreign concept for a college basketball player. Note the use of the qualifier "somewhat" in that previous sentence. At least the players get that much. For coaches, rest is just another four-letter word, especially during the season.

A lengthy list of responsibilities awaits coaches each morning when they arrive at their jobs, assuming they even bothered to head home the night before instead of simply catching a few hours of shuteye on a couch in their office. Coaches must toe a fine line between operating in the present and looking in the future.

In the present, of course, they must keep up with the day-to-day operations of the team. Watching game or practice film from the day before is standard. So, too, is checking in with other areas of the program such as academics, compliance, strength and conditioning, etc.

Looking to the future, recruiting is essentially a year-round job, whether it means evaluating a prospect's film, getting letters in the mail to potential recruits, checking in with committed players and/or their coaches and even hitting the road between games to get a first-hand look at how a player might fit into their system.

Somewhere in the middle of managing the day-to-day life of the program and ensuring that future prospects are thoroughly evaluated, though, rests the current schedule. And while standard coachspeak preaches to focus on one game and one day at a time, the reality is that preparation for future opponents begins weeks in advance.

"My next scout is Cincinnati and I'm working on them now," WVU assistant coach Larry Harrison explained on Tuesday, one day before the Mountaineers were to play Notre Dame and some nine days before they were scheduled to face the Bearcats. "I've already started working on scouting them more than a week in advance."

No matter how deep and talented a team might be, it can't count on getting a win simply by showing up. Being prepared is essential for success in every walk of life. In a current sports culture that blinks nary an eye when coaches with winning records are shown the door for not winning enough, the importance of preparation is magnified even more.

So, how does it work? In Morgantown, at least, the scouting report is accumulated over time from watching not just one game but several.

"What I'll probably do, or what I plan to do, is I'll take their last two or three games, and then the two games they have right before they play us," Harrison said. So, when it's all said and done, I'll probably watch at least five or six games before I put together the report.

"I think you probably try to watch at least three or four tapes no matter who the opponent is," continued Harrison, who also worked alongside WVU head coach Bob Huggins at Cincinnati. "If you get a little bit of extra time, then try to watch a few more in that time."

In devouring the film of several games, attention to detail cannot be understated. While the basic premise of what teams do offensively and defensively seldom sways, subtle changes are made throughout the season, if for no other reason than to keep both the present and future opposition on their toes.

"At this point in the year, teams might put a little bit of a wrinkle in here or there just to do something a little bit different with one of our sets or one of our plays," Harrison said. "Even though each team has their patterns, they might do something a little bit different than they've done before. You have to make sure you have that covered. You've got to be on top of that and cover your bases."

In addition to watching film from games this season, WVU's coaches almost always look back to past meetings with a given opponent. After all, it's probably a stretch to expect the entire coaching staff to remember every detail of a game that took place more than a year ago. Although they surely remember the game's outcome, they might want to look at what exactly that particular opponent did that was so effective against their schemes, and vice versa.

Case in point, the win over Notre Dame. Last January in South Bend, the Fighting Irish smacked the Mountaineers by a final of 69-56. In watching film last week of that loss, West Virginia's coaches noticed that the 1-3-1 zone disrupted Notre Dame's offense enough to slow it down. So when the Fighting Irish began last week's game by cutting up WVU's normally-effective man-to-man defense to the tune of making 10 of its first 12 shots to start the game, Huggins aligned his team in the 1-3-1.

Again, Notre Dame was slowed, this time long enough for the Mountaineers to get some much-needed offense, overcoming a 10-point deficit and never looking back en route to the win.

On the other hand, in a conference as talented as the Big East, there isn't a whole lot out there that the league's veteran coaches haven't seen.

"No," Harrison said with a chuckle when asked if there were any unexposed secrets within the league. "Not many. That's why this conference is even harder because everybody knows what everybody else does. Hopefully, when you get into the NCAA tournament, the battles that you've had in the conference can help you out because you see so much."

Oh, and about that NCAA tournament: no matter what opponent WVU draws in the opening round (provided they get there), chances are that the West Virginia coaching staff is already at work scouting them out. Any game that has been televised from the beginning of the season until now is recorded and on file in a film database accessible only to the staff. For example, when the Mountaineers drew Arizona in last season's opening round, it only took a few minutes to call up nine different games featuring the Wildcats.

Huggins has noted several times that his team – while talented – must outwork opponents in order to win games. That mantra extends to the coaching staff, too, as the continuous nature of the job allows little time for rest.


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