Friday, March 12, 1999

UC image out of touch with reality

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BOSTON — Bob Huggins made a hole-in-one at the Jimmy V Golf Classic last summer, and for that he won a 26-foot boat. It was one of life's little ironies.

        Huggins has a 21 handicap. He has hit exactly three buckets of practice balls his whole life. He holed a 186-yard tee shot to win a leisure craft, when his idea of leisure is looking at game tape or studying airline flight guides.

        “When was the last time you took a drive?” I asked him.

        “You mean just to drive?” he said.


        “I don't remember.”

        “OK. Last movie you saw.”

        “At a theater?” Huggins asked.


        “I don't remember.”

        He recalls watching a rental with his seventh-grade daughter Jacque, at some point in the last several months: Gone Fishin'. “Danny Glover and what's the guy's name,” Huggins said. “Little guy.”

        Joe Pesci.

        “Yeah. Joe Pesci,” said Huggins. “Probably saw that over Christmas.”

Favorite warriors
        I asked Huggins who he'd have a beer and a cigar with if he could pick anyone. He said Gen. George Patton. I asked him in his 10 years at UC, who he'd want to take a shot to save his life. He said Nick Van Exel: “Failing never crossed his mind.”

        “One guy to build a team around,” I said.

        “Herbert (Jones),” Huggins said. “Herbert was a great competitor. He could score, he could rebound, he had a lot of courage.”

        “One guy you'd want with you in a foxhole.”

        “LaZelle” Durden, he said. “Toughest guy I've ever had. You couldn't wear him out. Absolutely soaked (with sweat) an hour before practice.”

        Terry Nelson made him laugh. Ryan Fletcher makes him madder than any player he has coached.

        Huggins is happiest when he's smoking Cohibas, drinking beer and hanging out with close friends. He's happy when former players leading productive lives stop by the basketball office.

        We offer this trivia a few hours before UC's NCAA Tournament trip begins, as a public service for those tired of reading about the big, bad Bearcats, who aren't very big (6-foot-8 Kenyon Martin is their tallest starter) or, lately, very bad, either.

        The Boston Globe printed two sentences about UC Thursday. “Musclebound” was in the first, “muscleman” the second. If we were moving pianos, we'd be in great shape.

        At a news conference, a reporter I'd never seen before nudged me as Mel Levett, Kenyon Martin and Pete Mickeal approached the podium. “Thugs, right?” he said.

        Oh, yeah, I said. Hardened. Watch your wallet.

Put it to rest
        No team is more caricatured than the Bearcats. (Other than Duke which, I believe, operates beneath a halo.) The Bearcats are black-wearing, bicep-flexing, trash-talking criminals.

        You might have heard.

        Heaven help them if they reach the regionals or — hide the women and children — the Final Four. By then, we'll have them auditioning for an episode of Cops. Stone Cold Kenyon Martin.

        After a while — say, since about 1992 — this stuff makes you sleepy. This just in, for anyone pondering the “UNLV East” angle: The Bearcats aren't. Take away the stereotypes and preconceptions, they're no different from 60 other teams trying to get to St. Petersburg.

        It's a great story line, sure. But it's getting arthritic. I'd rather talk to Huggins about anything else.

        Last book you read, I asked.

        “One about Sam Giancana,” he said. “Double Cross.

        Fill in the blank: I can't stand people who:

        “Are sanctimonious,” Huggins said.

        I respect people who:

        “Are who they are.”

        Evaluate your daughter's game. Jenna Huggins is a high school sophomore.

        “Not an offensive player. She's a defensive player and a rebounder,” Huggins said.

        Judging from Huggins' 10 teams at UC, he taught his daughter well.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.