Bob Huggins appears content to let West Virginia’s play do the talking

Perhaps media members assembled at the Big 12 basketball media tip-off were too in awe of Bob Huggins’ outfit to ask him any questions.

Undoubtedly using one of college basketball’s lowest personal wardrobe budgets on an annual basis, Huggins’ pullovers are his in-game trademark. But he was far more nattily attired at media day, wearing two-thirds of a three-piece suit featuring blue-and-gold leather shoes and a WVU-themed waistcoat.

Once he got behind the microphone, Huggins was asked a whopping two questions after the following opening statement:

“We’re ready to get started. That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

One of the questions wasn’t about the Mountaineers, but his impact on the rules committee’s efforts to clean up play in the post.

“How are you going to clean up post play when you’ve got two 6-foot-10, 275-pound guys leaning up on each other?” Huggins asked. “There’s going to be contact. A thing that needs to be called is if they’re displaced. If it affects their shot, you shouldn’t be able to do that.

“But this thing where we’re going to have a no-contact sport? Those people have never played our game. You’ve got 10 big, strong, fast guys in a confined area. There’s going to be some contact.”

Huggins was also asked about the development of sophomore power forward Derek Culver.

“Derek’s not going to change how he plays. That’s his identity,” Huggins said. “[Last season] would have given him some confidence, but other than that, I’m not sure what it would have done for him. Why don’t you ask Derek that? He’ll probably lie to you, but you should ask Derek anyway.”

Fortunately, Culver was a bit more effusive when questioned by Big 12 Now.

“He hit it on the head,” Culver said of Huggins’ description. “I can play aggressive at times and I can try to shy away. But the times I shy away from making contact with players, I don’t really get into my game like I want to. Physicality kind of helps me playing in the post.”

Culver averaged 11.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game as a freshman. He also picked up four or more fouls in eight of his 26 games.

“Coach threw me in the fire early, and I had to make do with what I had,” Culver said.

The Youngstown, Ohio native shared some details about the less-gruff side of Huggins since it wasn’t necessarily on display Wednesday. Culver was suspended for West Virginia’s first eight games last season, and now he’s thankful it happened.

“Huggs really helped me other than just basketball,” Culver said. “Him sitting me down and teaching me life lessons — if you say you’re going to do something, you have to be committed — that really showed me a lot outside of basketball. That’s how I know Huggs really, truly cares for me as a person.

“Huggs will go to the very, very last straw to bat for you. I don’t want to sound like the cliche ‘Oh, the coach does that.’ But for you to see a person go out to the point where — it could be him dealing with whoever, and you have confidence Huggs has your back.

“People don’t realize — I don’t want to say he has a soft side, because there’s nothing soft about Huggs. But his love that he has for his players is what people don’t really see. On camera he might be fired up and rowdy, but after the game he’ll be the first to hug you and tell you good game.”

Huggins and the Mountaineers are picked fifth in the league by fellow coaches in this year’s preseason poll following a disappointing 15-21 season that saw West Virginia finish last in the Big 12.

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