Wednesday, November 14, 2001

U-Cincinnati basketball preview


UC enjoys stability, wins with Huggins

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Roster/Breakdown
UC recruits
Schedule
Date Opponent Time
November
Fri. 16 at Okla. St. (ESPN) 9 p.m.
Tue. 20 Wright St. (19) 8 p.m.
Sat. 24 UNLV (ESPN) 3:30 p.m.
Wed. 28 Dayton (19) 8 p.m.
December
Sat. 1 Duquesne (19) 6 p.m.
Sat. 8 Coppin State (19) 6 p.m.
Mon. 10 Toledo (19) 8 p.m.
Fri. 14 at Xavier (ESPN) 9 p.m.
Mon. 17 Richmond-& (19) 8 p.m.
Thu. 20 Mississippi State-&& TBA
Fri. 21 Louisiana-Monroe-&& TBA
Sat. 22 Championship-&& TBA
Sat. 29 Akron-# (19) 6 p.m.
January
Sat. 5 at East Carolina (19) 7 p.m.
Tue. 8 Charlotte (19) 8:05 p.m.
Sat. 12 at Houston (19) 8 p.m.
Wed. 16 DePaul (ESPN2) 9 p.m.
Sat. 19 Louisville (CBS) 2 p.m.
Tue. 22 at St.Louis (ESPN2) 9:30
Sat. 26 at South Florida (19) Noon
Tue. 29 East Carolina 8:05 p.m.
February
Sat. 2 at Marquette (19) Noon
Wed. 6 at Charlotte (ESPN2) 9:30
Sat. 9 at W. Forest (ABC) 1 p.m.
Tue. 12 St. Louis (19) 8:05 p.m.
Fri. 15 Southern Miss (ESPN) 7 p.m.
Tue. 19 at DePaul 8:30 p.m.
Fri. 22 Marquette (ESPN) 7 p.m.
Wed. 27 at Louisville (ESPN2) 9:30
March
Sun. 3 Memphis (ABC) 1 p.m.
Wed. 6 Conference USA Tourn TBA
Sat. 9 Conference USA Tourn. TBA
Home games bold.
&-Las Vegas Classic, at UC.
&&-Las Vegas Classic, at Las Vegas.
#-Rock-N-Roll Shootout in Cleveland.
        Bob Huggins is about to begin his 13th season as University of Cincinnati men's basketball coach, the longest tenure in the program's 101-year history.

        But his achievements are as much about consistency and quality as quantity.

        Twelve winning seasons. Twelve postseason tournaments, including 10 consecutive NCAA berths. Eleven 20-win seasons, including 10 in a row. One Final Four. Two Elite Eights. Four Sweet 16s. One season as the country's preseason No.1-ranked team and another at No.2. Six conference tournament titles and eight regular-season championships.

        All with a program that essentially had disappeared off the college basketball map for 14 years.

        “For the older set, it's hard to imagine (UC) without thinking of Ed Jucker and Oscar Robertson,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “But for people born in the '60s and after, Cincinnati is synonymous with Huggins.”

        Since Huggins was named coach March 29, 1989:

        • Xavier is on its third coach (Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta).

        • Miami is on its fourth (Jerry Peirson, Joby Wright, Herb Sendek, Charlie Coles).

        • UC is on its fourth athletic director (Rick Taylor, Gerald O'Dell, interim Tony Perzigian, Bob Goin).

        “I didn't come here to leave,” Huggins said. “I thought it was the best city in Ohio and there was great (basketball) tradition. I figured if people had got it going before, you could get it going again.”

        Huggins, 48, has brought stability and an identity to the Bearcats. He also has endured an NCAA investigation that led to penalties against the program and criticism over NCAA graduation rates, the use of junior-college players and four straight second-round losses in the NCAA Tournament before last season's surprising Sweet 16 appearance.

        “Certainly, the attitude across America when you think of Cincinnati basketball is, you think of aggressive defense and intense rebounding, and it all reflects the personality of their leader,” ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. “Bob Huggins believes in discipline ... and good, tough, hard-nosed discipline is really the core of developing young people.”

        There are 35 Division I head coaches who have been at their schools longer than Huggins, but only 11 are from major conferences.

        His name is as readily associated with the Bearcats as Jim Boeheim's at Syracuse, Mike Krzyzewski's at Duke, Gene Keady's at Purdue and John Chaney's at Temple.

        “Continuity means everything for a college basketball program,” Bilas said. “Whenever there's turnover in a program, for whatever reason ... it's rare when you don't have sort of a short-term falloff. Cincinnati's not had to deal with that.”

        The question many UC fans don't care to ponder: How long will Huggins stay?

        He has said repeatedly that he is happy in Cincinnati, especially with Goin as his immediate boss. But there are those who believe he may have interest in West Virginia, his alma mater, when 61-year-old Gale Catlett retires; Catlett, a former UC coach, is entering his 24th season with the Mountaineers.

        The NBA continues to have appeal. In August 2000, Huggins turned down an offer from the Los Angeles Clippers. He spoke with the Indiana Pacers in spring 2000, and the Miami Heat talked seriously with him in 1995 before Huggins withdrew from consideration.

        He has not interviewed with another NBA team since the Clippers.

        “I think certain coaches fit a puzzle at their respective schools,” Vitale said. “Can I see him somewhere else? I'm sure he can succeed somewhere else. But the bottom line is, I don't think he's going to leave there that easily. He's got a great situation.”

        Huggins will collect an annuity expected to be worth more than $1 million July 1, 2002, said his attorney, Bret Adams. Huggins' contract runs through June 30, 2005. Last March, Huggins talked casually with Goin about an extension.

        Goin said the two have verbally agreed to roll over the final four years of the 10-year contract Huggins signed in 1995. That means that after this season, the contract would run through June 30, 2006.

        “His contract is not an issue,” Goin said. “He's not going to get fired from this job — unless he punches me or something.

        “And if he would walk in and tell me, "Bob, I think I'd really be happier in this situation or happier than I am here,' I would want him to do it. I'd want him to be happy. He's given a lot to the university.”

        Goin said Huggins knows he's appreciated.

        Huggins said UC officials came to him about a new contract after the Bearcats went to the 1992 Final Four, then again in '95.

        “I've never worried about a contract,” he said. “I have never, ever gone to them about a contract, other than last year when I just said something to Bob because everybody kept talking about that annuity and that I was leaving and I thought it hurt recruiting. ... It's never been about money.

        “I like going to work. ... I want to leave on my own terms, whenever that is.”

        Huggins brushes off suggestions that he will leave UC after collecting the annuity. He talked about his involvement in Greater Cincinnati, where he participates in at least three charitable events during the offseason, raising money mostly for the Bob Huggins Foundation.

        He said he really has no timetable on how long he will coach at Cincinnati.

        “I would've been foolish not to listen to some of the things (NBA) people were talking about,” Huggins said. “You listen, and then you make a decision on where you want to work and the quality of life. It's hard to beat the quality of life here.

        “The city's been great to me. I've made a great living. I've enjoyed living here. I would dare say there hasn't been a sports personality that has been in the community more than I have, that's been involved in more charity things, that's been out there trying to make the city a better place.”

       



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