Friday, February 26, 2010

Bob Huggins

The Bearcats roll into Morgantown tomorrow afternoon to play West Virginia, who is coached by an old familiar friend. This post would have been much better if the blog had existed last season when Bob Huggins returned to Cincinnati, but this is almost as good because it's the first time that both teams are good. Bob has coached against Cincinnati the last 2 seasons. The first game, he wore this.
And West Virginia scored only 16 second half points as Cincinnati crushed them 62-39. Last season, Bob Huggins did this.
As he should have after an emotional pregame video and standing ovation. And because Cincinnati topped West Virginia again when Deonta Vaughn made a jumper with 1:38 to go to give UC a 62-60 lead, then John Flowers hit 1 of 2, and Rashad Bishop got a steal from DaSean Butler, followed by Steve Toyloy missing roughly 40 free throws in the last 30 seconds, and Devan Ebanks stepped out of bounds to have Vaughn and Yancy Gates ice the game at the stripe. Fun times those games.

I write this mainly because I wanted to remember the best UC coach of my era. I was an usher my freshman year, and after nearly every home game I got to shake his hand at some point and tell him great win. I also got his autograph a starling number of times at UC football games. Although he was never in the stands, he was always somewhere on the concourse. One time, my grade school teammates accosted him and Mike "Rock" Reicheneker, who none of us knew in like 1996, and who none of us know now (sorry Mike) and Huggs told us to get Mike's autograph because he was a big star. Of course we believed whatever Huggs said, and I have a shirt signed by them both. I know Mike was #13, and that it took 10 minutes to find how to spell his last name. I was also part of the Huggins kids club or whatever it was, as was I with Tony Yates, where you got shitty seats to some blowout game, but one time there was an autograph session. It was the Dontonio Wingfield year I believe. I just remember that I really wanted Damon Flint's, and especially LaZelle Durden's autograph.

I always would listen to Huggs post game interviews on 700 after the games. There was, and is, something about the way he always sounds so disdainful during interviews that makes me feel bad for him. It's like he hates doing the interview so much, but knows he has to, and does it with the most boring voice in the world. I always found it weird how he would be yelling and screaming and carrying on, and 10 minutes later he would monotone "Well Chuck, we just didn't rebound." It's been a long time since I've heard a Huggins post game interview, but I imagine West Virginia fans write the same thing now.

A classic Bob Huggins thing seems to be wearing suits one season, and then sweatsuits another. I never knew why he does this, and I find it weird. I remember hearing on talk radio that he would be on the best dressed coaches list, and the next, on the worst dressed coaches list. Obviously this is a sweatsuit season. I remembered his UC windbreaker seasons being the not as good ones, and the suit seasons being the better ones. Like if Huggins knew his team was going to be great, he would wear a suit and look sharp. But this season, his team is very good, and yet the sweatsuit.

I have always been a huge Huggins defender, or at least, I was. I would spout the facts that he would give in interviews about UC having juco's, and guys who came back later to get their degrees, when people would say UC didn't graduate anyone. I always defended every shady player that UC recruited when all the Xavier fans, Kentucky fans, and so on would call them thugs. I don't think I ever defended a player I hated more than Art Long. I remember Art Long not being good, and always in foul trouble, but I spoke of him like he was Bill Russell. I would tell my Xavier friends that Reuben Patterson was misunderstood. I would soon pretend I never said that at all when allegations came up in his NBA days. I would defend any UC player no matter what they did under any circumstances because Bob Huggins recruited them, believed in them, and I did too.

On the day of his heart attack, I remember being devastated by the news. It was a rough time not knowing if he was going to come back to Cincinnati and coach. I held my breath, however silly this sounds, when he would yell at the refs and get heated with his face turning red. Even now, looking at Huggs, I wish that he would get into great shape and chill out.

The day that was worse than the heart attack was the dui arrest news. It made me lose a ton of respect for Bob Huggins. I am of the opinion that drunk driving is one of the worst things that a person can possibly do. I know, I take quite the strong stand. I also think cancer is bad. I think drunk driving is inexcusable, especially if you have the resources and the intelligence to know better. I have never, and will never do this, and I hope none of you do either. The dui didn't wipe out all of Huggins' accomplishments, but it cast a rather large shadow on them. The news, and subsequent video, were more disappointing than every first weekend tournament loss. I don't want to get into the whole thing with him getting fired in detail, but I think it should have been done right off the bat. UC's administrators, namely the woman who will not be named, handled the situation in the worst possible way. They had no choice but to fire Huggins, and instead waited a year to do so. It killed all recruiting with the Andy Kennedy situation, and damaged nearly everything Bob Huggins built. I honestly believe that if UC fired Huggins a week after the arrest, we would have not gone through half the hardships that we have endured. UC would have hit a swoon of course, but there wouldn't have been a year where only Deonta Vaughn came to the program. Huggs could have resigned, and maybe there wouldn't have been a major backlash by the fans like there is to this day.

When I see Bob Huggins coaching West Virginia, I can't help but think that things worked out like they had to be. He looks happy coaching at his school. I know he loves Cincinnati, but it seems that he is home. I wish that Cincinnati fans who are still bitter, and wish that Huggs would come back or shouldn't have left, would accept that fact. We are in a new era of Cincinnati basketball, one in which everyone has moved on. Everyone, but some die hard fans. Well, allegedly die hard fans. Can you really be die hard when you give up on the team? That's beside the point. When we see Bob Huggins on the sidelines tomorrow, the novelty will start to wear off. I mean, it already has. We will probably never get to the point where it will wear off completely, but it will soon be a footnote on the game. Especially in Morgantown. I imagine when Huggins comes back to Cincinnati next year, there will still be a standing ovation, but hopefully by then there will be one for Mick Cronin, and the Bearcats as well.

Good luck tomorrow Huggs, I'll be rooting for you to fail miserably.

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