On a recent Big 12 basketball conference call, Huggins' short allotted time was taken up mostly with questions about his team. But when the topic turned to the new rules which loosen restrictions on coaches' contacts with players, both current and potential, the Mountaineer mentor flashed his wit.
Changed rules, which took effect Friday, allow coaches unlimited contact with recruits via text and other forms of direct electronic communications. Other changes implemented earlier this summer allow coaches more time to evaluate recruits, and to spend time with current, enrolled players on the floor in weekly practice sessions.
Huggins, while clearly in favor of the new rules, was realistic when analyzing the reasons for the lifting of restrictions.
“I think there's been a lot of research and time put into it, and it's just too hard to keep track of,” he said of the communications rules. “If you can't legislate it and you can't enforce it, you ought to just give in and make it legal. I think that's what happened with prohibition."
“I just learned to text last year,” he continued to general laughter. “I am kind of an old fashioned coach, I guess.”
While Huggins always gets laughs with his wit, he usually makes a point with it as well, and the one he espouses here is clear. There's simply no way to monitor texting and direct messaging, and to classify those modern communications methods differently than telephones and snail mail is an exercise in futility.
How much will the new rules affect his recruiting style? You can't put a lot of stock into his one-liner – the guess is that he'll take full advantage – and figure out whatever remaining bugs he has in working online.
Turning serious, Huggins praised the new rules, especially the one that allows coaches to have contact with their players over the summer, pointing out that coaches have been in a difficult situation when it comes to mentoring and monitoring their charges.
“I've had this discussion on many committees and with many NCAA members. We are supposed to be responsible for them, but we can't be around them. I think this is very positive. We've fought long and hard for access. I would like to have more, but this is a step in the right direction. The more time they spend around coaches, the better off they are going to be.”
Huggins noted that he and his staff won't spend any additional time up front preparing for the wave of new conference foes.
“We'll scout as each game approaches. We have 11 or 12 or 13 pre-conference games we have to be concerned about and try to win. I have some familiarity being at K-State for a year, and having Erik Martin with me, but we will do that more as the season progresses.”
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With two transfers no eligible and several guards added via recruiting, Huggins now has more than one true, experienced point guard on his roster – something he really hasn't enjoyed in his time at his alma mater.
“Our first year we had Darris Nichols and Joe Mazzulla who wasn't a true point guard. Joe worked to become one, and then we added Truck Bryant, but Joe got hurt. Then Truck got hurt, but fortunately we had Joe healed up. We've never had more than one guy that could handle the ball. We did last year, but they were both true freshmen.”
With both Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne returning after a year's seasoning, and transfer Juwan Staten added to the mix, Huggins anticipates more up-tempo play.
“We are looking forward to it. With more guards, we can do more things and play faster. With Staten, he's a true point. When you have 190 assists in the Atlantic 10, you are a true point guard. He's a pass first guy, he has great explosion and we are looking for him to push the tempo.”
Huggins also sees great potential in big man Aaric Murray.
“He's big and long, and I think he can be a factor around the rim. That's someone we haven't had in a while. He can block shots, and he needs to rebound the ball.”
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Huggins might not have been the first person in line cheering West Virginia's move to the Big 12, but he acknowledges that the shift has caused a good deal of excitement among the fan base, and realizes that the shifting landscape of college athletics demanded the move.
“There's a lot of excitement here about being in the Big 12. We've been in the Big East for 16 years, and anytime you get something new its refreshing and exciting. I think everyone is looking forward to Big 12 teams coming into Morgantown. I think we played at Syracuse four years in a row, and Louisville played here four years in a row. You didn’t get to see all the teams every year, and you don't develop the rivalry like you can when you play home and home.
“I think with the climate of what is going on we have [landed well],” he summed up. “It looks like there will be continued movement, and a four-team playoff in football. I think we are positioned in a great place right now.”