MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins did not mince words when West Virginia lost at Oklahoma on Saturday — so much so that it would be fair to wonder whether the message was one that players might be inclined to tune out.
Huggins spent half an hour delivering his postgame message in the locker room before airing some of his grievances in public.
“‘We won the other day [against Iowa State] and everyone said ‘why are you so down?’” Huggins said in his postgame radio interview. “I saw it coming. Before, when I talked, I had every eye on me. Now I don’t. When Larry [Harrison] talked, all eyes on him. Now they’re not. That’s attitude.
“It’s not hard to see. But it’s impossible to fix. I can’t fix someone else’s attitude. I’ve got to deal with mine… they’ve got to deal with theirs. I just know that the guys we have depended on all year are not the same dudes. They are not the same people.”
Huggins’ stinging criticism is meant to motivate, but with West Virginia fielding a team that ranks 300th in the country in experience, it could also have a deflating effect on younger players. That would obviously be a disastrous consequence with games looming against No. 3 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor this week.
Cue Chase Harler.
While the senior guard from Moundsville is one of Huggins’ favorite players to turn to off the bench, his greater value to the team may come off the floor. Harler has the ability to translate Huggins’ language to his teammates in more positive terms.
“If he’s getting on a guy, I might walk up to that guy and tell him ‘He’s just saying that because…’ Just take what he’s saying and try to apply it,” Harler said. “He’s not doing it out of spite. He’s just trying to get everyone better.
“I try to be a bit of a morale coach around here every once in awhile.”
As Harler alluded to, he struggled with understanding that his first two years as a Mountaineer. Now that he gets it, he tries his best to make sure underclassmen don’t interpret Huggins the same way he once did.
“He’s just doing it because he cares. My freshman and sophomore years, I took it too personal, like he doesn’t like me,” Harler said. “Just don’t take it too personal. He wants to win. He probably sees stuff in us that we don’t even see in ourselves.”
Harler didn’t think Huggins crossed any boundaries after the Oklahoma game.
“If he senses us getting complacent, which we have over the course of the year, which had led to a loss, he’ll be very straightforward with what could happen if we keep up with this attitude or whatever,” Harler said. “I think we all kind of bought in and understand he’s doing it because he cares and he wants us to win.”