Bob Huggins: Much More Than 800 Wins

Posted: December 14, 2016 in News, Opinion, Sports
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huggsmanBarring an shocking upset by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos, Coach Bob Huggins will get the 800th win of his career this coming Saturday. In addition to a lot of wins, that’s also #3 among active coaches and #9 in college basketball history. That, my friends, is one hell of a career.

I first met Huggs back in 1989 when our family was given a private tour of the brand new Shoemaker Center at the University of Cincinnati, named after my Uncle Myrl. My uncle had been a State Representative and Chairman of the House Finance Committee (and later Lieutenant Governor of Ohio), and he’d been instrumental in the construction of the new facility.

Anyway, because if this family connection I was there, and the man who showed us around was the University of Cincinnati’s new coach, Bob Huggins.

At some point I introduced myself, told him I was the coach of the other Bearcats, and thus was born a 25-year plus friendship. Over the next 15-years I took my teams to camp at UC, attended games, and basically got to know Huggs pretty well. We’d go out after camp, hang out when I visited Cincy or attended clinics where he was speaking, stuff like that.

And no, I’m not going into details regarding those visits so don’t go there. Suffice it to say I was mentioned in a book Huggs once wrote, although not by name.

In 2005 Huggs was let go by the University of Cincinnati and a university president I refuse to name, ostensibly because “the Bearcat program under Huggins didn’t fit with the plan to upgrade UC’s academic reputation” but more likely because of a DUI and most likely because Huggs wielded more power at the university and in the city than she did. And by the way, the whole graduation rate reasoning was flawed to put it mildly. But that’s a subject for another day.

Huggs was then snatched up by Kansas State, but a year later his beloved West Virginia came calling with an offer Huggs could not refuse. After all, he’d played college basketball there and had many connections to the university. He loved West Virginia, West Virginia loved him, and it was a perfect fit.

As for me, it’s pretty clear where my loyalties lay. When Huggs brought his Mountaineers back to Cincinnati in an emotional return a couple years after leaving, I was on the floor behind the bench. West Virginia’s bench.

shoehuggsreturn

I know. Awful look for me.

Note: There was an unfortunate (for me) photo on the front page of the ESPN website the next morning. It showed an emotional Huggs with some poor schmuck in the background who’s apparently having a stroke. And that poor schmuck was me. 

But hey, I’m far from the only supporter Huggs still has in Ohio. A year or so ago I was at an AAU tournament with him, and he and a friend of ours went to a little bar near Mason, OH, just outside of Cincinnati. There were probably 20-people in the place when we arrived, but by an hour later that number had quadrupled. People were asking Huggs to pose with them, on their motorcycles, everything. The guy was besieged with people. I swear he could get elected mayor of Cincinnati in a landslide.

huggscollage

Yeah. Looks like a real hardass.

Bob Huggins is one of those guys that people can sometime love to hate, mainly because of his fiery, sometimes explosive sideline demeanor. Huggs has not always been appreciated by some fans, usually those that disapprove of that sometimes in-your-face, aggressive style. I maintain that those people have no idea of who Bob Huggins really is. I’ve been around a few college coaches, and I’ve known none that are more compassionate about their players than Huggs. They know this, and that’s exactly why they allow themselves to be pushed to be better by him. It’s an old school tough love, and that love is returned to him far past a player’s days on the court.

And for well over 30-years it’s worked. It’s amazing what players can accomplish when they know their coach cares about them in the manner Huggs does.

Thus, it’ll be 800 wins total at Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia. 800 wins, man. That includes 25-years with at least 20-wins in 33-years of coaching. Still, for some reason his name is not often mentioned alongside Krzyzewski, Knight, Williams or Calhoun. Makes no sense.

In retrospect, the mess at the University of Cincinnati was the best thing that ever happened to Bob Huggins. He ended up with a job he loves at a university he loves, and in a city and state that loves him right back. They understand Huggs better than any fan base ever has, of that I’m certain. In a college basketball coaching world full of phonies and sleazy shucksters, Bob Huggins is going to give it to you straight. If you think he’s one of those slick-sell salesmen types you’re sadly mistaken, because there’s not a phony bone in him. It’s just not a part of his make-up. West Virginians appreciate that, and so do I. He’s a great coach and an even better man. I consider it an honor to be his friend.

And the best part is that Bob Huggins is still going strong. That’s good for both West Virginia and college basketball.

shoehuggs

Early morning, somewhere in Mo-Town.

Sometimes, fans insist that Huggs introduce them to me. ;)

Sometimes, fans insist that Huggs introduce them to me. [sarcasm alert]

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