The story of the life and career of Bob Huggins is forever tainted, but it didn’t have to be. And the most frustrating part of it all is that Huggins only has himself to blame.
There is absolutely no denying that West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time. But we are firmly at the point that there’s also no denying his legacy is forever tainted, and he only has himself to blame.
The recent news about Huggins being arrested for driving under the influence in Pittsburgh is history repeating itself. Huggins put Cincinnati basketball on the map, yet was removed as leader of that program after a similar situation over 20 years ago. Ever since then, the Bearcats have barely recognized Huggins. It took years and years for him to be welcomed back to honor some of his great teams there. UC took hours to recognize Huggins’ induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame on social media. Now everything he’s meant for WVU and the state of West Virginia is trashed as well. And for what? Stupidity.
And now with the dust barely settled from Huggins using a homophobic slur on the air during a radio appearance, and managing to avoid being fired at that time, he’s back at it again. It’s almost as if Huggins was determined to self-destruct his career at this point. Many even speculated Huggins may have been drunk while speaking in such a reckless way on the freaking air.
WVU administration made it crystal clear, that while Huggins would stay on as head coach, he would do so under a zero tolerance policy moving forward. Being arrested for a DUI sure broke that stipulation.
All of this doesn’t change the fact that Huggins has won well over 900 games, led multiple programs to a Final Four, also advanced teams to at least the Sweet 16 eight times, the Elite Eight four times and won a Big East Tournament championship in an era the conference was viewed as historically elite. What it does do is make people think of the off the court crap as well, and for some, maybe first and foremost. It’s hard to feel too bad for Huggins though because he only has himself to blame.
Nothing that's happened with Bob Huggins off the court makes him not a Hall of Fame basketball coach. His overall resume can't be denied. However, everything that's happened off the court taints his career legacy wise, and that's no one's fault but Bob Huggins himself.
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) June 17, 2023
It took time, but Huggins moved past what happened at Cincinnati, perception-wise. Most in the basketball community loved and appreciated Huggins for having success despite never coaching at a blue blood and for getting the most out of his players. The conversation about Huggins the man became focused on the money he raises for cancer research annually with the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment, created to honor his late mother.
Huggins was undoubtedly going to be honored with his name on the WVU Coliseum court, something that’s customary for college basketball Hall of Fame coaches. Will that happen now? Probably not. Will there be a statue or any other tribute beyond what already exists in Morgantown? Probably not. Or at least not for awhile. How could they now? Imagine how that would look.
Again, nothing that’s happened takes away from what he’s accomplished as a coach. There will be West Virginia fans who will honor his legacy as a coach above all else. Look at how many people who defended him in the midst of dropping an anti-gay slur and even turned their venom at WVU and those who criticized him. But nationally, the perception of Huggins is forever tainted.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Huggins’ latest blunder is the fact that it was completely avoidable. Fist off, Huggins knew he had no room for error when he went out that night. Huggins, who has used a personal driver in the past, decided to drive in Pittsburgh on a night the city was home to the Taylor Swift concert and more packed than any normal Friday night. His poor judgment only intensifies from there.
I’m not going to say a grown man should never drink alcohol again, but Huggins’ history with alcohol has done nothing but caused problems. And if he had to drink, had to be out in Pittsburgh and had to get home right then, there’s still no excuse for driving, certainly not with so many other options at his disposal.
Even with his contract being restructured and his salary being reduced, Huggins still has obviously accumulated a wealth to pay for an Uber or Lyft. Hell, I bet Wren Baker himself would’ve chartered a private jet to come scoop up Huggins if he received one text about his head coach needing to get home. Countless people who have been rooting for him, including people associated with the rival University of Pittsburgh, would have likely helped in that situation. And I really mean that.
Pitt head coach Jeff Capel waxed poetic about how much he idolizes Huggins before the Backyard Brawl just this past season. Capel himself may have assisted the legendary coach of his rival if necessary. Why? Because no one really wanted to see things unravel like this for such a prominent figure in the sport.
This is all happened at such a bad time too, and Huggins knows that. Huggins acted selfish once again. There have been struggles on the court in recent years, but Huggins had the program headed in the right direction coming off a return to the NCAA Tournament and acquiring a top transfer class for 2023. Huggins’ last ride season could’ve ended with some celebration, at least about what happened on the court. It could’ve been another special year to add to the many others of the past for a Hall of Fame coach.
Instead, we are left wondering what could have been and fans will be charged with having to argue about Huggins the person, just as much as Huggins the coach, for years to come. And again, for what? Plain old stupidity by a 69-year-old man who can’t get out of his own way even after being offered chance after chance.
Wish Bob Huggins well. Appreciate the good times and the memories. But don’t defend him. Just let him go, at least for now.
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