Sunday, October 22, 2000

20 questions with Huggins




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        He's probably out of here in five years. When Bob Huggins' contract is done, so is he. He will fish or play golf or do nothing. This is what he says.

        “My whole life has been regimented. Very goal-oriented, filled with things I had to do, or thought I had to do. I'm looking forward to the day I can do what I want, not what somebody else wants.”

        It's Huggins' 20th year coaching college basketball, his 12th at UC. In the past year, he has seen a national title run crumble with Kenyon Martin's leg. He has been wooed by the woeful L.A. Clippers. He has given heavy thought to how much longer he wants to coach basketball.

        I sat down with him Friday and played 20 questions. Here's what Huggins had to say.

        If your life depended on winning one game, who'd be the coach?

        If I had good players, Mike Krzyzewski. If I had bad players, (Wisconsin's)

        Dick Bennett.

        Who'd take the last shot?

        (Nick) Van Exel. No question.

        Who was your best teacher?

        My dad.

        What was his best lesson?

        I asked him once if I could have long hair. He said no. This was kind of the era of the Beatles. Early '70s. I said, Dad, everybody has long hair. He said, If you're like everyone else, that's what you are: Everyone else. I want you to be different. I want you to aspire to be special.

        Probably, the reality of it was he was too cheap to send me to a barber. If it was short, he could cut it himself. And he did. Until I went to college.

        If you get to the pearly gates and St. Peter is standing there, who do you want arguing your case?

        Bob Goin. If Bob Goin had been here when I got here, we'd be Duke or UCLA right now. I really believe that. Rick Taylor was very competent, but he irritated people. And Gerald (O'Dell) just wasn't very smart. Bob's really good at finding the positive.

        What would you want him to say on your behalf?

        That I cared about people.

        Who'd be your worst nightmare?

        Rick Evrard. (The NCAA's investigator in the Charles Williams case.)

        Finish this sentence: For basketball players, college should be ...

        The greatest experience of their life.

        Too often, college is ...

        Unappreciated.

        Your office walls are jammed with framed pictures and magazine covers. The biggest portrait you have is of Jim Valvano. Why?

        One of the last games he did (for TV) was one of ours. (UMass in 1993.) I was in the locker room before the game and somebody said, V wants to see you. He was in this little room at the convention center in Springfield, Mass. Everybody knows he's pretty close to death. Like an idiot, I walk up and say, How ya doin'?

        He says, How'm I doin'? I'm dying, you (jerk). What kind of question is that?

        Then he says, I love Chinese food. I told my wife we're bringing in a chef to the house to cook nothing but Chinese food.

        I said, You eat Chinese food every meal? He said, Yeah, it's a heckuva thing, only now I have this uncontrollable urge to iron shirts.

        I was fascinated with how Jimmy dealt with people. I was always kind of shy and reserved. This guy walked into a room of 400 people and owned it. He entertained, whether it was two people or 400 people.

        What makes you laugh?

        Red Skelton.

        Red Skelton?

        Clem Kadiddlehopper, Freddie the Freeloader. Cracked me up.

        If you could spend a day with anyone, who would it be?

        George Patton. In one sense, he's the biggest (butt) kisser who ever lived. In another, he's a tyrant. Lombardi, too.

        Lombardi?

        His persona's not who he really was.

        Are we talking about you, too?

        Maybe. (Lombardi) was seen as this hard, tough guy who drove everyone to the max. He did that. The side people didn't see was that he probably opened the door for African-American players in a place that was probably the last place in the world you'd think that would happen. Black players had to stay in hotels in Green Bay. At the end of the year, he'd pay their hotel bills.

        What's the one trait you value above all others?

        Integrity and loyalty.

        What's the one you dislike the most?

        Lack of loyalty and integrity.

        What's your perfect day?

        Sleep in. Hang out. Do what I want to do, not what I need to do or have to do. I don't get to do that.

        Fill in the blank: Ten years from now, if I could do anything it would be ...

        Fish. Play golf. Travel. Do nothing.

        How likely is that to happen?

        Very.

        Might that day come sooner than others think?

        Oh, yeah.

        In five years, when your contract is up, could we see you driving away with the golf clubs and the fishing reel in the trunk?

        Yes.

        Is that definite?

        If I'm having fun doing this, I could do it a little longer. The probability (of that) for more than five years is very slim. But I work for a wonderful guy. I would not be here if it weren't for (Goin). I'd have left. I'd be in Los Angeles right now” coaching the L.A. Clippers.

        What makes you think you could have had an impact on that mess out there?

        I have a pretty strong will. I understand guys like that better than anyone they could hire.

        Guys like what?

        College guys. Five of their top eight players should still be in college. I understand and relate to those guys better than anyone they could bring in.

       

        How close were you to taking that job?

        Probably not that close. I like living here. My kids like living here. I like working for (Goin). It was a quality of life issue.

       

        Macanudo or Monte Cristo?

        Monte Cristo. I'm not a big Macanudo guy.

        Bush or Gore?

        I don't know. I'd like to listen to the last debate.

        They already had the last debate.

        They did?

       



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