The Bottom Line
By Bill Nestor
The New Year has brought several changes to the landscape of the sports scene at West Virginia University. Men’s head basketball Coach Bob Huggins is sure hoping for more of the old to improve the new. I’m not speaking of the efforts of the teams that have struggled in recent years, instead, he would much prefer to build upon what this year’s edition has built in the early stages of this campaign.
Huggins has his squad moving in the right direction and as they transitioned into 2015 they brought with them a Top 20 ranking. What has changed in Morgantown that brought about such a turnaround? The past few seasons were hard for Mountaineer fans to process. Some actually question Huggins and his ability to coach today’s players. All of that talk, or at least most of it, has subsided as prior to January 1st the Mounties held a 12-1 record. The ball dropped and WVU dropped a pair of Big 12 foes (TCU and Texas Tech) in back to back road outings. Maybe Huggins remembered how to coach the game of basketball – clamored a group of special fans in response to the impressive start. From my point of view, I see the same consistent coach that has done this job for so long that he could probably do it in his sleep. Huggins is a model of consistency. Game is and game out, his expectations remain the same and his methods reflect his beliefs.
The difference in this group of players and those of recent past is their level of coachability. Huggins can lead his horses to water but he can’t make them drink or in this case – dribble.
He can show a promising player the road to the next level but that doesn’t ensure that he will take it. Many of the failures that have taken place have been a direct result of players simply not complying with Huggins and his orders. If players don’t put the time in then their skills will not be sharp and the entire team will suffer. This roster is full of talented players that understand the only way to find playing time is to do what is asked of them. Everything is different this season and you can tell when the athletes step onto the floor. The way they carry themselves and the looks on their faces tells you that they are serious about getting the job done which ultimately leads to winning. Isn’t that exactly what their mentor is all about? When players and coaches are on the same page it is a wonderful thing – just ask Huggins.
Another change in Morgantown occurred in the Athletic department as Oliver Luck stepped down and a man by the name of Shane Lyons stepped in. Luck left in the middle of December but had aided in the search for his successor. Lyons has an impressive resume. His most recent stop was at Alabama where he was the deputy athletic director. Lyons, a Parkersburg native, earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from WVU in the late 80’s.
He signed a five year contract that will pay him 550,000 annually, plus incentives. Lyons will now oversee nearly 20 programs with an approximate budget of 77 million.
This doesn’t appear to be a stepping-stone move for Lyons and helping to keep him in Morgantown are his family roots. His parents and three siblings all reside in the Mountain State. He becomes the 12th man to run the Athletic Department in school history.
That will do it for now. Until next week…take care and God Bless!