Thursday, March 04, 1999

Huggins repeats as Coach of Year




BY MIKE DECOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Cincinnati Bearcats coach Bob Huggins sat in the same place as one year earlier, give or take 750 miles, but he took an entirely different route to wind up as Conference USA coach of the year.

HUGGINS' TROPHY CASE
1998-99: UC—C-USA Coach of the Year.
• 1997-98: UC—C-USA Coach of the Year; National Coach of the Year (Basketball Times);
• 1995-96: UC—Mideast Coach of the Year (Basketball Times); Ohio College Coach of the Year.
• 1992-93: UC—Great Midwest Conference Coach of the Year; Midseason Coach of the Year (USA Today); National Coach of the Year (Playboy).
• 1991-92: UC—Great Midwest Conference Coach of the Year; District 4 Coach of the Year (Basketball Writers); Ohio College Coach of the Year; Midwest Coach of the Year (Basketball Times); National Co-Coach of the Year (Hoop Scoop).
• 1989-90: UC—Metro Conference Coach of the Year.
• 1985-86: Akron—Ohio Valley Coach of the Year.
• 1984-85: Akron—Ohio Valley Coach of the Year.
• 1982-83: Walsh College—Mid-Ohio Coach of the Year; NAIA District 22 Coach of the Year; NAIA Area 6 Coach of the Year;
• 1981-82: Walsh College—Mid-Ohio Conference Coach of the Year; NAIA District 22 Coach of the Year.
        Huggins earned the award for the second consecutive year after leading the Bearcats to their fourth consecutive league title and to the brink of a fourth consecutive Top 10 finish in the Associated Press poll. Just as he was in 1998 at the Shoemaker Center, he was presented the honor at a press conference Wednesday before the the C-USA tournament.

        “Last year was a hard year because of all the things that were going on,” said Huggins, not bothering to recount the NCAA investigation and numerous player suspensions.

        “We were fortunate this year to win some close games and get off to a good start, and it seemed maybe a little easier than it was. But this was a great bunch of kids. They listened and really were as coachable as any group we've had.”

        This is the seventh time Huggins has won a conference coach of the year award. He has been so honored in the Ohio Valley (1985, 1986), the Metro (1990), the Great Midwest (1992, 1993) and C-USA.

        Huggins said much of the recognition for how well the team is coached should go to his assistants, Rod Baker and Mick Cronin, who helped gather the group of “seven new guys” to whom the coach so often refers.

        Huggins also credited the Bearcats themselves. “We listen to our players,” he said. “Sometimes they figure out better ways than we do.”

        Huggins' closest competition was UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, who has the 49ers positioned to reach the NCAA Tournament despite the loss of two all-conference players from last season and two regulars from this year's team to season ending ailments.

        “It's a great honor, being in a league that the great coaches this league does,” Huggins said.

Q rating
        DePaul forward Quentin Richardson completed a clean sweep of Conference USA honors when he added the player of the year award to his freshman of the year trophy and his selection as first-team all-conference.

        Richardson led C-USA in rebounding with 10.9 per game and ranked second in scoring at 19.1 and helped lift DePaul from a seven-victory season in 1997-98 to 16-11.

        Huggins had begun campaigning for Bearcats forward Pete Mickeal, but did not mention the subject until after Saturday's victory over Memphis. Ballots were due to the Conference USA office Friday.

        Richardson is the first freshman in league history to win the award.

        Somewhat ironically, Great Midwest voters avoided presenting their newcomer of the year award in 1995 to dominant freshmen Lorenzen Wright of Memphis and Danny Fortston of UC, whose teams finished first and second, in favor of a player whose team finished fifth: DePaul's Tom Kleinschmidt.



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