MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Coach Bob Huggins contends the attrition facing West Virginia basketball is “not nearly alarming as has been portrayed by some people” because transfers are making the entire Division I landscape nomadic.

During a 50-minute session with reporters Saturday—staged in the wake of Terry Henderson becoming the second sophomore starter to leave WVU this spring—Huggins defended his coaching style, reinforced the state of the program and predicted that next season’s team would meet his competitive standards.

“We’re going to be fine,” he said. “We are fine.”

Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

West Virginia transfer Terry Henderson averaged 11.7 points as a sophomore and was slotted to be a key player in next season’s lineup.

After reaching the NCAA tournament for five straight years, Huggins’ last two teams have been anything but fine. They have combined to go 30-35 with the only postseason exposure reduced to a one-game cameo in this spring’s NIT.

The prospects for making next year’s NCAA field have been downgraded by the departures of two developing standouts—Eron Harris (17.2 points per game) and Henderson (11.6 points), who were roommates last season.

Harris announced shortly after the season ended that he planned to transfer and subsequently has drawn interest from a slew of elite programs, including Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville. Yet Henderson asked for his release only this week as spring semester closed.

While Huggins had an inkling one of the guards might leave, he admitted “one of them totally caught me off-guard.”

Huggins apparently was referencing Henderson, who became the 12th signee to transfer out of West Virginia or fail to enroll since the 2010 Final Four appearance. That figure was a point of contention for Huggins, who criticized two newspapers for being “misleading” in reporting that attrition culled 12 of 16 players in that span.

“I just wish when you throw figures out there, that you throw accurate figures,” he said. “We’ve signed 23 guys since the Final Four; we haven’t signed 16. We’ve signed 23. So that 12 of 16 number is not accurate, it’s 12 of 23.”

Remi Dibo may become No. 13. Huggins said the 6-foot-7 forward told an assistant he planned to skip his senior season in order to pursue a pro career in his native France. That’s another 7.3 points lost, though Dibo’s defense and rebounding were lacking.

MORE: Watch Huggins and the complete news conference

Huggins, himself the product of a transfer that led him to attend WVU in 1975, repeatedly referenced the increasing normality of players switching schools. For the second straight year, more than 500 Division I players are transferring. Some, like Harris and Henderson, will be forced to sit out a season, while others who have earned their undergraduate degrees will be eligible immediately at their new programs.

“It’s not just here. It happens everywhere,” Huggins said. “It’s kind of the times.”

While reluctant to say he feels the need to “re-recruit” players each offseason, Huggins refuted the notion players are leaving because of a disconnect with the staff.

“You’ve never heard any of these guys say they didn’t have a relationship with the coaching staff,” he said.

And what about the assertion that the 60-year-old Huggins’ boisterous and demanding style doesn’t suit today’s players?

“Every former guy who comes back says to me, ‘Why are you being so soft? Why have you changed so much?”

The closest the coach came toward sounding testy Saturday occurred when a columnist questioned a perceived slip in recruiting.

“We’ve been in postseason six of the seven years I’ve been here. Five consecutive (NCAA bids)—tied for the most in school history. A Final Four, the second in school history,” Huggins said. “If I’m recruiting that bad then I’m doing a heck of a job coaching.”

Huggins declined to reveal Henderson’s rationale for leaving, saying “I’m not going to get into personal stuff.” But despite losing two guards whose development seemed ready to payoff next season, the coach talked about a lineup infused by three newly signed guards and the long-awaited availability of forwards Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton.

There’s also the returning centerpiece, All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten, who said he passed up the NBA draft partly because he felt next year’s team was good enough to play in the NCAA tournament. If that happens, it will be with a decidedly different cast than Staten anticipated.

“The reality is we have five new guys coming in that I think are pretty good,” Huggins said. “And don’t forget, we’ve got probably the leader for the Big 12 player of the year coming back and he’s going to have the ball in his hands.”

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Comments

  • Bob

    Huggins' inability to clean house of his staff who have delivered poor recruiting classes is the biggest problem with WVU BB.

  • william

    How bad does it need to get, before this terrible coach is fired!
    What an EMBARRASSMENT this joker has been for the state of WV!

  • scott

    I love Bob....but this isnt good...not good at all.

  • richard

    keaton miles is an idiot who needs to keep his uneducated mouth shut. he can't play at a high level. he'll never make it in the SEC. when he was interviewed at WVU.......you had to really listen because he sounded so uneducated.

  • Phil M.

    I'll admit I'm a Huggins loyalist. But, I would like to hear from some of these young men as to why they are leaving. I'm not a big fan of pulling these kids out of the game and yelling at them every time they make a mistake. That doesn't build a lot of confidence. I'll say it again I don't like Bob's recruits. Give me a smart kid who may be a little less talented and more coachable. I'll make him better if he's smart and willing to learn. That is if I'm a great coach and I think Bob's a great coach, just not the most open-minded.

  • Chris1529

    Does anyone think Staten will leave now too?

  • DWM

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned how fortunate we are to have a College Basketball Hall of Fame coach to lead our basketball team.

    He is the best coach WV has had in any sport for the last 20 years, yet, the trolls that hate Huggins or WVU take this opportunity to slam him and his program.

    In a few years, between five and ten, when Huggins retires, you'll be on here wondering what we'll do without Huggins.

    He has two mediocre years and you all complain. Maybe Rich was right to leave when he did.

  • Dave

    The real measure of success is results.

  • jay zoom

    been out of town a few days got back and heard the great news. Henderson gone heard dibo is leaving as well. good luck to all. heard one and done (Huggins) - news conference. we be fine (maybe in 3 or 4 years) all colleges have this problem. yes some do but not within the starting line up. this guy better learn how to treat his players and respect them as he expects them to respect him' an allum from florida said last night on the sports line as long as one and done cusses and treats his players the way he does on the floor (where all the world can see on tv) not to mention the locker room WVU will have a problem. THANKS OLLIE

  • uncle phil

    South Korean Ferry Captain to passengers - "We're going to be fine."

  • Daniel

    There's a reason why Coach Huggins refused to come back to Morgantown for so long! Number one: look at all the negativity surrounding him (posts by idiots that have no idea what they are talking about); Number two: recruits are hard enough to talk into coming to WV, let alone staying; Number three: It's hard to soar like an eagle when you're being circled by buzzards (media)! I've spoke to the man on several occasions and he's about as nice a guy as you can expect, considering the circumstances. If you don't like the product on the court, don't attend! No one ever blames the athletes for their selfish views of "me first." He preaches team first and there is no "me first" in team! He's proven his worth over the duration of his career! The rest of you couch-potatoes should enjoy the fact that WV has a HOF coach, just like Jerry West is a collegiate and NBA HOF'er. Jerry never brought a National Championship to Morgantown either!

  • John Curtis

    Bob Huggins has been, and still is, one of the best pure basketball coaches in America. Look around, even today on the ESPN site under college basketball - full of bits about players transferring. The players today are not the players of yesteryear who put team, school, and honor above themselves. The "golden era" of college sports is behind us in the realm of honor. But Huggins is not behind the times.

    • mad hatter

      the past three seasons tell a totally different story,,, he's a has been and needs to end it with class

  • Mister Man

    Stop worrying. I'm sure Marshall will pick it up in three or four years.

  • Mister Man

    I just looked at ESPN headlines. Five more transfers.

  • mad hatter

    "we're going to be fine, and we are fine"...

    it's called accepting mediocrity as our plan of attack. the BB program under huggins has proved to be a joke on all the hard working people who pay his wasted salary.

    we really needed that 23 million dollar practice facility to help develope our players, and bring in top notch recruits...Thank you donors for building us an unused facility by the men's BB program... Huggins really thinks we are a bunch of ignorant hill billies, and paying him 10,000 bucks at day , might just prove we are what he thinks we are.