Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Huggins saga typified 'Misinformation Age'


Rumors swirled, but few were true

By Michael Perry mperry@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The email was sent close to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

        “... I know that you cannot believe this any more than all of the other junk, but I will pass it along so that you will at least have a head's up in case you have not heard. Somebody in the (West Virginia) athletic department said Huggins signed the contract at 6:30 p.m. (Saturday) night. He will meet at 6 a.m. with his players Monday and there will be a press conference at the (WVU) Coliseum at 12 noon Monday to introduce him. I am so confident that my father and I are driving 2.5 hrs to be there in the morning to be a part of it.”

        This person was not alone.

        Television trucks awaiting a possible press conference to announce Bob Huggins as West Virginia's coach showed up outside the WVU Coliseum over the weekend and remained there until early Monday afternoon. The Charleston Daily Mail sent a reporter to Morgantown for a possible Monday announcement.

        From the time West Virginia officials received permission from UC to speak with Huggins about their vacant basketball coach's job, rumors and speculation spread for days through Internet chat rooms and radio talk shows, not to mention some media outlets.

        Not everything found its way into print or onto the airwaves.

        For instance, the Enquirer was told Friday — definitively — that Huggins had signed a contract with West Virginia two days earlier. Someone else said an agreement was reached for him to take over at WVU last Tuesday when Huggins met with West Virginia officials in Pittsburgh.

        There was a rumor that former Chicago Bulls and Iowa State coach Tim Floyd was in Cincinnati last Wednesday, presumedly ready to step in as the top candidate to replace Huggins. To which UC athletic director Bob Goin said that night, “I wouldn't know Tim Floyd if he walked into my office.”

        There was a rumor in Morgantown that the pep band was asked to hold off on spring vacation so members could play at Huggins' press conference Monday.

        Someone said a deal had been worked out so Goin could join Huggins in West Virginia as a consultant of some kind.

        Huggins was in Morgantown. He wasn't in Morgantown. He was spotted outside WVU president David Hardesty's office Wednesday. He didn't meet Hardesty until Sunday night. Huggins wanted more money from UC. Money wasn't an issue. He had an offer. He didn't have an offer. And what about da plane, da plane?

        The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday that Huggins was staying at UC. Several Web sites reported Friday he was leaving.

        All week UC associate head coach Dan Peters was thinking: “It's all crazy. One person is going to make the decision, and when he makes it, everybody's going to know.”

        Huggins said he heard nothing until Friday night when a local TV station reported he was leaving. That's when he called another station to say that wasn't true. Other than that, he said, he was unaware of what was being said on the Internet or radio shows.

        “The people that I talk to know better than to tell me that stuff,” Huggins said. “I know it's hard for everybody to believe, but I don't get caught up in all that.”

        On Saturday, one Web site said Huggins had contacted his staff to say he was working on a contract with West Virginia. Peters, for one, did not talk to Huggins until Saturday night.

        It was all put to rest Monday when Huggins took himself out of consideration for the WVU job.

        Several of his players said they were never worried.

        “Somebody at home (in Houston) called me and told me that he was thinking about leaving,” soph omore Field Williams said. “I just played it by ear.”

        “I know Huggs,” freshman Jason Maxiell said. “He wasn't going to go anywhere. I never really thought about it.”

        Huggins said he spent Monday night “running around trying to catch up on everything I didn't do for two or three days.”

        He met with his players Tuesday afternoon, talking mostly about what they needed to do this spring.

        “He just said everybody's got to make a decision at the end of the year whether to leave or come back, and he came back,” junior Leonard Stokes said. “I didn't think he was going to leave, but it's a big relief to know that he's here for sure.

        “Now we've got to get ready to lift and play open gym and do all the things we usually do at the end of the season.”

        Weightlifting sessions begin at 7a.m. today. Things are back to normal.

       



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