Friday, March 15, 2002

Huggins: Next win will be his 500th


Coach would be third youngest to reach mark

By Mark Curnutte, mcurnutte@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

500
    If University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins wins tonight in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, he will become the 58th Division I men's coach to win 500 career games.

    Mr. Huggins also will be the 10th-fastest to reach the milestone in terms of total games coached. A coach must have a minimum of 10 years in Division I to qualify.

    Here are the 15 coaches who reached 500 the fastest, the school with which each is most associated and the career record of each at the time of the victory:

1. Adolph Rupp, Kentucky, 500-83.
2. Jerry Tarkanian, Nevada Las Vegas, 500-104.
3. Henry Iba, Oklahoma St. 500-131.
4. Phog Allen, Kansas, 500-146.
5. John Wooden, UCLA, 500-152.
6. Dean Smith, North Carolina, 500-153.
7. John Chaney, Temple, 500-162.
8. Ed Diddle, Western Kentucky, 500-167.
9. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse, 500-169.
*10. Bob Huggins, Cincinnati, 500-171.
11. Bob Knight, Indiana, 500-183.
11. Lou Carnesecca, St. John's, 500-183.
13. Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State, 500-185.
13. John Thompson, Georgetown, 500-185.
15. Denny Crum, Louisville, 500-187.
Source: NCAA.
* If Cincinnati wins tonight

Huggins' milestones
Huggins won 71 games at Walsh College and 97 at Akron and has 331 victories at Cincinnati. Here are his milestone victories along the way:

No. 1 — Walsh 91, Oberlin 59, at Oberlin; Nov. 22, 1980. After one year as a graduate assistant at West Virginia then two as an assistant coach at Ohio State, the 27-year-old wins his opening game as a head coach. Walsh finished 14-16, and Huggins finished with 16 technical fouls.

No. 50 — Walsh 65, Mercyhurst 56, at Walsh; Jan. 6, 1983. In his third and last season at Walsh, the Cavaliers go 34-1, not losing until the opening round of the NAIA finals.

No. 72 — Akron 64, Western Illinois 57, at Akron; Dec. 1, 1984. Mr. Huggins wins his opening game as head coach of the Zips.

No. 100 — Akron 79, Tennessee Tech 69; Feb. 10, 1986. Akron begins a run of six wins in seven games that takes the Zips through the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. Akron lost 70-64 to Michigan in the first round to finish 22-8.

No. 150 — Akron 102, Stephen F. Austin 77; Dec. 3, 1988. Akron wins the championship game of its McDonald's Zip Classic. The Zips go on to finish 21-8 in Mr. Huggins' fifth and final season at Akron, losing in the first round of the NIT. Akron hasn't been in a postseason national tournament since Mr. Huggins' departure.

No. 169 — Cincinnati 66, Minnesota 64; Nov. 25, 1989. Mr. Huggins gets his first UC victory in his first game with the Bearcats and in the first game at Shoemaker Center. Football player/walk-on Steve Sanders hits the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

No. 188 — Cincinnati 75, Bowling Green 60; March 16, 1990. Mr. Huggins wins the first postseason game of his UC career in the first round of the NIT at Shoemaker Center.

No. 200 — Cincinnati 69, Xavier 56; Jan. 30, 1990. At Shoemaker Center,Mr. Huggins records his first Crosstown Shootout victory after losing the previous season. Mr. Huggins is angered by Pete Gillen's comment after that game that the XU coach would hate to meet some UC players in a dark alley.

No. 232 — Cincinnati 85, Delaware 47; March 20, 1992. In a game played at the University of Dayton, UC gives Mr. Huggins his first NCAA Tournament victory.

No. 235 — Cincinnati 88, Memphis 57; March 29, 1992. The Bearcats win the NCAA Midwest Region title game in Kansas City to earn a Final Four berth.

No. 250 — Cincinnati 80, DePaul 54; Jan. 30, 1993. Another milestone victory comes at home as the Bearcats improve to 15-1 en route to a 27-8 season, including an NCAA Elite Eight loss in overtime to eventual national champion North Carolina.

No. 300 — Cincinnati 116, Dayton 63; Feb. 12, 1995. The Bearcats snap a three-game losing streak while UD suffered the most lopsided loss in the program's history.

No. 323 — Cincinnati 79, South Florida 60; Feb. 4, 1996. Mr. Huggins moves into first place on UC's all-time victory list with his 155th. He passes the late George Smith, who was 154-56 (.733) from 1952-60. Huggins is 155-59 (.724) in seven years.

No. 350 — Cincinnati 65, Tulane 64; Feb. 6, 1997. Bobby Brannen threw a baseball pass the length of the court to Danny Fortson, who made a layup with less than two seconds left in regulation.

No. 392 — Cincinnati 77, Duke 75; Nov. 28, 1998. Melvin Levett's last-second dunk edges the Blue Devils in the Great Alaska Shootout.

No. 400 — Cincinnati 81, UNC Wilmington 52; Dec. 30, 1998. The No. 3 Bearcats (12-0) earned their 23rd consecutive win at Shoemaker Center and remained one of five unbeaten teams in Division I.

No. 450 — Cincinnati 74, Youngstown St. 65; Dec. 20, 2000. The Bearcats win the first of three in a row at the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.

No. 499 — Cincinnati 77, Marquette 63, March 9, 2002. UC records its school-record 30th victory of the season by winning the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament at Firstar Center.

        At the height of March Madness, Bob Huggins has quietly approached a landmark victory in near-record time.

        The University of Cincinnati men's basketball coach will become the third-youngest Division I men's basketball coach to win 500 career games if the Bearcats win their first-round NCAA Tournament game tonight against Boston University.

        It is all but a certainty. UC is a No. 1 seed and Boston University is a No. 16 seed, and a No. 16 has never upset a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament.

        Mr. Huggins, who is 499-171 in 21 years at the University Cincinnati, Akron University and Walsh College, would rank behind only Oklahoma State legend Henry Iba and Texas Tech's Bob Knight as the youngest to the 500-win mark, according to Enquirer research.

        Mr. Iba won his 500th in 1952 at age 47. Mr. Knight was 48 years, 2 months, 20 days when his Indiana Hoosiers gave him his 500th career victory in 1989. Mr. Huggins will be 48 years, 5 months and 22 days today.

        Mr. Huggins also would become just the 58th Division I coach to reach 500.

        “I didn't know I'd coach long enough,” Mr. Huggins said this week when asked about the milestone. “I don't think that much about it.”

        He has done it efficiently. Mr. Huggins would reach 500 with the 10th-fewest losses. Mr. Knight had 12 more losses when he won his 500th.

        Mr. Huggins also would join Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and College of Charleston coach John Kresse as those to reach 500 victories in their 21st seasons. Only Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian, who won the bulk of his games at Nevada Las Vegas, got to 500 quicker — 20 seasons.

        “It just means I've been doing this a long time,” Mr. Huggins said of his victory total. “I just enjoy coming in every day and working with these guys.”

        Mr. Huggins' most successful season was 10 years ago, when he took UC to the Final Four, but he has another contender this time. The Bearcats already have a school-record 30 victories, making them the only Division I team to win 25 or more games in each of the last seven seasons.

        Mr. Huggins had the advantage of starting young. After two seasons as an assistant at Ohio State, he landed his first head coaching position at Walsh College in 1980 at age 27. The NAIA school, a Catholic college in North Canton, wanted to hire Mr. Huggins' dad, Charlie Huggins, who won four state titles as an Ohio high school coach.

        “His dad said, "Hire my son,'” said Jim Clark, sports information director at Walsh.

        Walsh did. Bob Huggins would go 71-26 in three seasons at Walsh.

        “He won the same way here that he does at Cincinnati, with pressure defense,” Mr. Clark said.

        Mr. Huggins' fast run to 500 wins is even more impressive when you consider he took a season off. He left Walsh to work as an assistant at Central Florida in 1983-84 to Chuck Machock, who had become friends with Mr. Huggins when both were on Eldon Miller's Ohio State coaching staff. Mr. Machock later served as a UC assistant to Mr. Huggins and now is in his 10th season as UC basketball radio analyst.

        After one season at Central Florida, Mr. Huggins was back in charge as head coach at Akron. He would lead the Zips to a 97-46 record in five seasons, including an NCAA Tournament appearance — a first-round loss to Michigan in 1986. Two NIT appearances would follow. Akron hasn't been to a national tournament since Mr. Huggins left.

        Meanwhile, Cincinnati had built an on-campus arena, Shoemaker Center. The Bearcats would finish the 1988-89 season with a 15-12 record under Tony Yates, playing home games at the Cincinnati Gardens.

        Mr. Yates was fired March 6, 1989, after compiling a 70-100 record. Mr. Huggins signed a five-year contract and, at his first press conference March 29, said he could return the UC program to its Final Four glory days — and soon.

        Mr. Huggins won his first game at the brand new Shoe, 66-64 over Minnesota, on a final shot by a walk-on who was a football player, Steve Sanders. Mr. Huggins would lead the Bearcats to a 20-14 finish, including a first-round NIT victory over Bowling Green.

        In his third season, led by a group of junior-college transfers, Mr. Huggins' Bearcats went 29-5 and reached the Final Four, UC's first appearance in the national semifinals since Cincinnati made five straight appearances from 1959-1963. He had made good on his promise to return the UC program to national prominence.

        One of the starters on that Final Four team was guard Anthony Buford. Mr. Buford had played for Mr. Huggins for two seasons at Akron, then played a third season for the Zips after Mr. Huggins left before transferring to UC. He had to sit out a year because of NCAA transfer rules. It was worth it to him, to play again for Mr. Huggins.

        “The reason he has won so many games so fast is, he starts with defense,” said Mr. Buford, who started all 34 games for the 1991-92 Bearcats and has been the TV analyst for UC games since 1996. “He has always said, "If we're having trouble scoring, they better be having more trouble scoring.'”

        Mr. Huggins looks for players who can score on their own on offense. Then he can teach them how he wants defense played, Mr. Buford said.

        ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a former coach, is a Huggins fan.

        “He's got a great system, and the kids buy into it,” Mr. Vitale said. “His consistency is the sign of his excellence.”

        UC has averaged 25.5 victories a season in 13 years under Mr. Huggins, for a total of 331. The Bearcats' 11 consecutive NCAA Tournament berths comprise the third-longest active streak in the country. In addition to the Final Four, Mr. Huggins has led UC to two Elite Eight appearances.

        In the past, Mr. Huggins has been approached by the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA as a coaching candidate. And speculation is, this season might be Mr. Huggins' last at UC. He has been linked to both the NBA Denver Nuggets and to West Virginia, Mr. Huggins' alma mater.

        But consider this projection: If Mr. Huggins stays at Cincinnati, and maintains the impressive victory pace he has established for 13 seasons, he could reach 800 career victories around age 60.

        It's a place only three other coaches — Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876) and Jim Phelan (819) — reside.

       



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