Saturday, February 16, 2002

Bob Huggins


If it's UC or W.Va., he'll stay

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bob Huggins doesn't strike you as the sentimental sort. If he's ever been made misty in his time at the University of Cincinnati, it must have been allergies.

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        If he ever leaves, a hankering for home would seem to be low on the list of probable causes.

        On the face of it, the new basketball vacancy at West Virginia should not worry Bearcats fans nearly so much as the ongoing threat of an opportunity in the NBA. West Virginia might be Huggins' alma mater, but it is only a lateral move in terms of geography.

        A good coach might win there, but he probably wouldn't win big. Morgantown is not exactly Mecca, and its small-town sensibilities could be a hard sell in urban recruiting. Since 1988, only one West Virginia player has been deemed worthy of an NBA draft choice. Bob Huggins surely would raise the program's profile, but he'd be hard-pressed to change the state's demographics.

Money doesn't drive him

               If Huggins yearns to win it all, he's far better situated at UC. If he needs a fresh challenge, the NBA would seem the more natural move. If he wants to rediscover his roots, he should be content to pluck a few strands from his scalp.

        “I don't know what's in Bobby's head or heart,” UC athletic director Bob Goin said Friday. “I do know that he played there ... and it's easy to love West Virginia if that's where you're from. That (going back) would be an emotional high.

        “Does it have the same potential as the University of Cincinnati? Can he win the national championship? That's something he has to evaluate. He and I have not talked about it much.”

        Huggins declined to discuss the West Virginia opening Friday afternoon, and his pregame radio remarks were evasive. “I don't know if they'll come calling or not,” he said. “I don't know what to say except I'm happy here.”

        But his agent has fewer qualms about fueling speculation. Bret Adams says Huggins would “probably listen” if his old college calls, but he was not entirely sure what Huggins would want to hear.

        “You have to remember that Bob turned down an $8million guaranteed deal with the (Los Angeles) Clippers to stay in Cincinnati,” Adams said. “I don't think there are a lot of guys in the business who would have turned that down to stay in Cincinnati.”

        When his name surfaced last spring in connection with UNLV, Huggins steered speculation to his pal, Charlie Spoonhour.

        “Why would I go there?” he asked.

        “Money?” a reporter guessed.

        “How much money do you need?” Huggins said.

Winning is the issue

               By completing this season at UC, Huggins will qualify for an annuity worth close to $2 million. He will get that money no matter where he works next season, and he will be handsomely compensated wherever he coaches.

        The issue, then, is not so much monetary as mindset: What makes Huggins happiest?

        “He's psychotic enough when it comes to winning that the status of the program or the money involved is secondary,” Adams said.

        When Gale Catlett left UC for West Virginia in 1978, he did so under duress. His senior-dominated team had been a disappointment, and the NCAA was about to put the Bearcats on probation.

        Catlett skipped town ahead of the sheriff. Bob Huggins has no reason to run.

        Contact Tim Sullivan at 768-8456 or e-mail: tsullivan@enquirer.com.
       

       



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