Wednesday, December 30, 1998

Huggins, Bearcats can reach milestones




BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[huggins]
Bob Huggins hugs Pete Mickeal after one of the sweetest of his 399 wins - last month's victory over No. 1 Duke.
(AP photo)

| ZOOM |
        Most likely, tonight will be No.12, No.23, No.84, No.400. A statistician's dream, this game between the University of Cincinnati and UNC Wilmington. Is there significance to any of those numbers, though? Do they say anything about UC or its coach, Bob Huggins?

        If No.3 and heavily favored UC can defeat UNCW tonight, it will match the third-best start in school history. If UC wins, it will extend a 22-game Shoemaker Center winning streak that is eighth-longest in NCAA Division I and the 83-game personal streak held by junior forward Pete Mickeal, dating to his two years at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.

        And it will be the 400th victory of Huggins career.

        Which he says does not mean a lot.

        “It means I've done this a long time,” Huggins said. “How do you measure how good a coach is by what his winning percentage is or how many games he's won?

        “There's a lot of guys that win — can't coach a lick. They can recruit, and they've got very good P.R. skills, but they can't coach.”

YOUNG LION [huggins]
At 45, Bob Huggins will be among the youngest NCAA basketball coaches to reach 400 career victories. Some prominent coaches and their age when they won 400:
  • Bob Knight 44
  • Mike Krzyzewski 46
  • Dean Smith 48
  • Jim Calhoun 51
  • Denny Crum 51
  •         As a point of comparison, Huggins uses Saint Louis coach Charlie Spoonhour, who is 310-161 in his 16 years as a head coach, not exactly Hall of Fame figures.

            “But I don't think there's anyone who could dispute he's one of the best tacticians in the game,” Huggins said. “He didn't inherit ready-made programs, like a lot of guys have. It makes a heck of a difference.

            “If you win at Carolina or Kansas or somewhere, does that make you better? Re sources have a lot to do with it. Resources, tradition. There's a lot of factors.”

            Huggins leaves no doubt he believes in his ability. He views personal milestones as the sort of validation others may seek, but not him.

            He will, nonetheless, become one of the youngest men to reach 400 victories, a mark achieved by 91 men before him, 33 of whom still are coaching. Indiana's Bob Knight was 44 when he defeated Kentucky in 1984 to attain that distinction. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski was 46 when his Blue Devils defeated Iowa in December 1993.

    THE FIRST 399
    A breakdown of Huggins' career 399-148 record:
  • At Walsh College: 71-26
  • At Akron: 97-46
  • At Cincinnati: 231-76
  • At Shoemaker Center: 130-19
  • In NCAA Tournament: 13-8
  • In NIT: 2-4
  • In Metro Conference: 17-11
  • In Metro tournament: 1-2
  • In Great Midwest: 30-14
  • In Great Midwest tourney: 10-0
  • In Conference USA: 38-7
  • In C-USA tourney: 7-1
  • vs. Top 25 at UC: 28-32
  •         Huggins, 45, won his first game as a head coach in 1980 at age 27. He left an assistant's position at Ohio State and took over the program at Walsh College, then an NAIA weakling that had experienced just three winning seasons. In his third year, Walsh entered the NAIA Tournament with an unbeaten record and finished 34-1.

            “I knew when I went to Walsh that if I wanted to get out, I was going to have to win really big,” Huggins said. “It wasn't going to be one of those 22-10 — that wasn't going to get you out of there. And I wanted to move.

            “It was a huge risk. Everybody thought I was crazy. But I wanted to coach. I was spending four or five days a week on the road at Ohio State. It was a great learning experience, and I made contacts that turned out to be valuable for me now, but I wanted to get in there and coach some.”

            He won 71 games at Walsh, another 97 in five seasons at Akron and then moved to Cincinnati, where he recorded 20-victory seasons in all but one of his first nine seasons.

    UNC WILMINGTON at UC
    • When: 6 p.m. today
    • Where: Shoemaker Center
    • Records: UC 11-0; UNCW 2-7
    • TV: Ch.19
    • Radio: WLW-AM (700)
    BY THE NUMBERS
    • 7: Number of road games UNCW will have played after tonight.
    • 38-10: 38-10: UNCW's record under coach Jerry Wainwright at home.
    • 0-16: UNCW's record against ranked opponents.
    • 2: Number of those games played in Wilmington, N.C.
            Since establishing the Bearcats as a national power in his third year, Huggins has averaged 26 wins a season. At that pace, he could surpass the current record for career wins — 879, held by North Carolina's Dean Smith — before his 63rd birthday.

            It's possible Knight or Krzyzewski could claim the record before Huggins can get there. It's almost certain, though, he never will make it.

            “Why would I want to do that?” Huggins said. “I still enjoy doing it, but when I'm 60 ...”

            He insists he has no intention to coach that long.

            “I'm really good at when I say, "That's it,' that's it,” Huggins said. “It's like when I got done playing. I was done. I didn't have a need to show people I could still play. I'm not going to have any need to prove I can still coach.”

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