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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Articles on Bob Huggins

Great by Andy Katz on Bob Huggins

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- No one could have foreseen the love affair between Bob Huggins and Mountaineers fans being to this degree.
Huggins' transformation from a controversial figure at Cincinnati to the beloved West Virginian has been one of the most impressive turnarounds in college basketball.
Long gone are any of the problems he had at Cincinnati, including an embarrassing public video of a DUI arrest, a battle with then-president Nancy Zimpher and a hostile firing.
The celebration of Huggins and West Virginia was hard to project. Even when Huggins was close to signing with the Mountaineers in 2002 (but couldn't leave the Bearcats at the time), there was no indication that he would be celebrated as much as he has been in the past three seasons.
North Carolina hired back alumnus Roy Williams, and he led the Tar Heels to national titles in 2005 and 2009.
Syracuse never really had to say goodbye to alumnus Jim Boeheim.
But there is a thread running quite deep with Huggins and the people of West Virginia, and it seems unrivaled by any other coach currently working at his alma mater. The Mountaineers fans milling about in Syracuse couldn't say enough about how much Huggins is theirs, a regular guy, a person whom they can relate to regardless of the situation.
Huggins' nonconformist attitude -- with his black windbreaker, the passion he exudes for the state, his tears when John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was piped into Madison Square Garden upon winning the Big East tournament and then the Carrier Dome after winning the East Regional -- doesn't get lost among the faithful.
There have been other West Virginia natives or coaches who have strong ties to the state. They include John Beilein, Gale Catlett and Fred Schaus. But Huggs is so much more a regular guy, someone who doesn't hesitate to hoist a beer and chat up just about anyone. He has had his issues, from the DUI to a heart attack to being fired. He's experienced just about everything a traditional working man has dealt with in the highs and lows of a job. He may be paid more than most, but he has experienced similar workplace issues -- from making mistakes, stress from a boss, getting fired and hired again.
"He means a lot to a lot of people,'' said West Virginia sports information director Bryan Messerly, a native of the state as well. "It means a lot the way he talks about the coal miners like he has done. The day we had his press conference on the floor of the coliseum, there were thousands of people on a Good Friday during spring break [in 2007] to see him introduced.
"What he has said about growing up in the state of West Virginia and what it means to him is dead-on,'' Messerly said. "We don't have professional teams, and the state has embraced him and this team. It has been a tremendous feeling.''
Ed Pastilong is the athletic director who tried to hire Huggins in 2002 and then finally did so in 2007. He was also at West Virginia in 1975 when Huggins played.
As the final 13 seconds ticked away during West Virginia's win over Kentucky on Saturday night, Pastilong thought back to his conversation with Huggins in 2007. "I never thought this would work out,'' Pastilong said. "I always thought he would stay at his previous institution [Cincinnati] for a long time. And then all of a sudden the stars lined up and the opening occurred, and I asked him if he wanted to come home.''
Huggins had just been given a second chance at Kansas State. One year wasn't enough for the Wildcats, but this was West Virginia. This was his last shot to coach the Mountaineers.
"I knew if we could bring him back that he would have so much pride, not just for the university but for the 1.8 million in West Virginia,'' Pastilong said. "Kentucky loves its team, but West Virginians love their team. They're in love with this basketball team. Bobby is a man of his word and an honorable person. I knew Bobby didn't want to be at Kansas State for just one year, but he knew that this was his last chance to come back to West Virginia.''
Pastilong said as soon as Huggins arrived in 2007, he knew a Final Four was possible. "He has a magic when he talks to basketball players,'' Pastilong said. "They respond to him. He works them hard, but they walk off that court and they love him.''
You can hear that in Joe Mazzulla's voice. He has been with Huggs for three years and calls him "Huggs," not "Coach." He is a classic Huggins player -- a hard-working overachiever with a skill set that needed to be developed.
Assistant Larry Harrison was with Huggins when the Bearcats went to the Final Four in 1992. When Huggins got the West Virginia job, he called Harrison and asked him if he thought they could win a national championship in Morgantown.
"I said you can do it,'' Harrison said. "West Virginia has always had a good influx of New York guys. We're in the Big East and [with] you as a coach, we can recruit players from anywhere. He said, 'Do you want to do it again?' I said, 'Let's go.'''
Huggins, who might be the loudest talker in the business and rarely changes his expression aside from when he barks at officials, hasn't mellowed much since his heart attack or from his time at Cincinnati in the '90s. "It's the same intensity and drive,'' Harrison said. "But let's say in a 40-minute game or a three-hour practice he's probably in the face of the players for 30 minutes instead of 38 and the same [percentage] is true in practice. I think a lot of things bounce off him now that maybe didn't before.Huggins' college friends used to come up and hang out with him after Bearcats games. Now they're hanging around more often.
"He's the type of guy that made some mistakes in his life, but he doesn't look back on it,'' Harrison said. "He's around people who accept him for who he is, not just as a basketball coach, but as a person. He does a lot of charity work in the community. He goes out with his buddies. He's a regular guy. He's comfortable in this environment and this situation.''
Huggins deferred all enjoyment after the East Regional victory to his players and to the people of West Virginia. "I've been through this and I don't need all of this, I don't, I don't,'' Huggins said of all the attention. "I'd be very happy without it.''
There is internal pressure that he put on himself to win, but nothing has been hounding him from the exterior since he arrived at West Virginia. "I have no outside pressure whatsoever,'' Huggins said.
That's exactly why he's allowed to be comfortable in his clothing. Huggins said he once sweat through his suit so badly that he put on a windbreaker at Cincinnati. Then-AD Bob Goin was OK with the look, but new president Zimpher didn't appreciate it. "Whoever started saying coaches had to wear suits?'' Huggins said.
Huggins scoffs at the notion that the team and he are on a redemption tour, saying that is something the media have created. Huggins said injuries along the way prevented the Bearcats from getting back to the Final Four from 1992 to 2005.
So getting back for the first time in 18 years hasn't moved him much. Sitting in the locker room at Syracuse, I asked the glum-looking coach how excited he was. His response was "Can't you tell?'' "I'm happy for them,'' Huggins said of his players.
If the Mountaineers win the title, Huggins plans on taking the trophy around the state in a bus. He might try a pickup truck with no rearview mirror since he loves that story of being in a truck without one when he was a boy. The moral? Never look back.
"We'll pick some spots and we'll just drive around in the bus and take it to different places,'' Huggins said. "Understand they piped the games into the mines, piped into the work places. Everybody didn't want to go to work. They wanted to watch the game. That's how important it is to the state. It would be neat to go to them and reach out to them and let them touch the trophy.''
If his team does win the championship, don't doubt Huggins would do this. He is a man of the people now, a Mountaineer-bred man who loves representing them as their coach in every way possible.

Some sports writer who couldn't make it at si wrote this article on Huggins, I think his name is Rick Reily, or piece of poopy!

I don't like Bob Huggins. Don't like his zero-point-zero graduation rates. Don't like his three-hour practices. Don't like the Vegas sweatsuit top. The artless, sledgehammer style of his teams that sucks all the air out of the gym. Not to mention the joy. Still, Huggins is brutally effective, kind of like a Russian gulag, only with slightly less charm. If his West Virginia Mountaineers win this Final Four, I'd hate to be a CBS tape editor. There may not be One Shining Moment.
Don't get him. Don't admire him. Don't understand his nickname -- Huggy Bear. The man is about as huggy as an ulcerous porcupine. It's like calling Dick Cheney "Smiley."
But I do get that a whole lot of people love him and one of them, Joe Mazzulla, has a story that makes me wonder if I'm wrong.
Mazzulla is Huggins' little point guard, a kid who anybody else but Huggins would've left on the bench all season. The Mountaineers are in this Final Four because he didn't.
Get this: Huggins stuck with Mazzulla when his shoulder was so useless that he was shooting free throws with the wrong hand. Huggins stuck with Mazzulla even though the kid hadn't made a 3-pointer all season (until the Elite Eight). Huggins stuck with Mazzulla through thin and thin.
Mazzulla is Huggins' little point guard, a kid who anybody else but Huggins would've left on the bench all season. The Mountaineers are in this Final Four because he didn't.
This is a kid who, last February, thought his basketball days were over. He was about to have radical shoulder surgery that doctors said no hoops career had ever survived.
Mazzulla came to him on that day with tears in his eyes. "Coach, you think I'll ever play again?" And Huggins took him by the shoulders, looked him in the eyes and said, "Well, you're always talking about you being the best soccer player in the state of Rhode Island; you can always go play soccer. You don't need arms for that."
See? Lovable!
But Huggins brought back Mazzulla as soon as he could dribble, even though Mazzulla couldn't even shoot a jumper.
He even put Mazzulla and his 6-foot-2 frame under the basket in his 1-3-1 zone D. Put a shrimp under the basket when he could raise only one arm!
Sticking with Mazzulla against all sanity proved even smarter when WVU's best guard, Darryl "Truck" Bryant, broke a bone in his foot last week and couldn't play in the Sweet 16 weekend.
So, as reward, Mazzulla went out and beat Kentucky for Huggins on Saturday night in Syracuse. And when he was done making his first 3 of the year and scoring a season-high 17 points and pestering Kentucky's big men the way mice pester elephants (at one point, Kentucky's huge center, DeMarcus Cousins, looked down at Mazzulla and said, "Are you being serious right now?") and becoming the East Region MVP in a 73-66 win, he went looking to hug one man -- Huggins.
"I had to find him," Mazzulla says, "I never want him to forget that I love him. What he did for me, how he stuck with me, nobody else would've done it."
And he's not the only one on the team. They all talk about "Huggs" like he's their favorite IRS auditor. "We all have one thing in common," says Mazzulla. "We're all trying not to get yelled at by Huggs."
Same goes for the parents, sort of. "I like him," says Karen West, mother of shooting guard Jonnie West and wife of West Virginia and Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West, "but I just wish he could coach without all the swearing."
There's no point in going over all the reasons Huggins is bad for basketball. That's just kicking a man when he's up. And boy, is Huggs up. Eighteen years after his last Final Four, eight years after his heart attack in the Pittsburgh airport, six years after his DUI, five years after choosing to "resign" over "be fired" at Cincinnati (where he had four years of 0.0 graduation rate), three years after pulling a one-and-done at Kansas State and leaving them with a crazy-eyed, death-staring Huggins wannabe named Frank Martin, the world is cuddling The Huggy Bear again.
"The first time I heard he was coming," remembers West Virginia's best player, Da'Sean Butler, "I was like, 'I'm getting ready to go to Michigan.' But I'm glad I didn't leave. It's been great. I'd be doing all kind of nothing right now."
Instead, Butler has known the joy of playing for a team where the endless practices leave the players "bleeding [with] swollen lips, and black eyes," says WVU forward Wellington Smith. And that doesn't even count their ears. Says Mazzulla, "He yells at us so much that he doesn't give us enough time and energy to not get along with each other."
Ahh, togetherness.
West Virginians and Bob Huggins are the perfect fit. They're both gritty and loyal and not particularly interested in what people think of them. Do you realize that they pipe the play-by-play of West Virginia games down into the coal mines now?
Otherwise, according to the state's governor, too many workers try to get out of working their shifts. Come to think of it, Huggins would've made a good mine worker. He's hard-working, a little dirty, and happiest in places where the light doesn't shine too brightly.
I get why some people love Huggy Bear, but I'm just never going to be one of them.
And when they put him in the Hall of Fame, I think I'm going to hurl.

And every time you speak or write Rick, I want to hurl. You are a typical guy that was the last one out in dodgeball, the last one picked, etc...... The best part about it is that Huggins is throwing the dodgeball and picking teams now and you can't stand it............ DUCK!

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