West Virginia basketball head coach Bob Huggins has been nominated to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, “It’s a great honor” said Huggins at practice Friday afternoon, “but its not why I got into this business, I love being around these guys, I love the game of basketball” continued Huggins.
Huggins is the only active coach being nominated. There are five other collegiate coaches that have been nominated, but are all retired; Gene Keady (Purdue), Lefty Driesell (Maryland), Steve Fisher (Michigan) Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Eddie Sutton (Oklahoma State).
“What’s a hall of fame coach? I don’t know” said Huggins, “I don’t know what their definitions are. I look around the hall of fame and I see guys that have won a ton of games. I’ve tried to do it the right way, I’ve tried to do it within the rules and guidelines that are set forth, and I’ve been blessed with wonderful guys. The guys that I had, that nobody else wanted to recruit, turned out to be the best of the best. I’m blessed”.
Huggins is currently the 8th winningest coach among division 1 basketball, with 829 wins. He is just one win away from tying Jim Phelan and two wins away from taking over 7th place.
Jevon Carter was asked, what he thinks makes Huggins the great coach that he is, “He’s always working. He’s a hard worker. He said nothing was ever given to him and he said when he feels like stops working, someone will pass him up”.
There always seems to be a special bond Huggins has with his players. Mountaineer and college basketball fans will always remember that moment in the Final Four game against Duke. The image of Huggins getting down onto the floor holding and calming an injured Da’Sean Butler, but all Butler was worried about was letting down his coach.
There is that sense of loyalty amongst Huggins’ players over the years, and Carter gave a little insight in just why that is, “He’s like a father figure to all of us. He cares about all of us individually, its more than just basketball with him”.
Huggins spent his first three years as a collegiate head coach at Walsh College, where he won two regular season and conference titles, and in his third year, led them to an undefeated regular season and won the NAIA district Championship.
His second stop of his coaching career took him to the University of Akron. He led the Zips to their first ever NCAA tournament bid, in just his second season at the helm, and in their 5th year at the division 1 level.
Huggins started to become a household name when he made the move to Cincinnati in 1989, resurrecting a once storied program and showing his fiery passion for the game on the sidelines.
During his 16 years in Cincinnati, he made the post season every year. His first two years he took the Bearcats to the NIT, and in just his third year, he led Cincy to their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1975 and Final Four appearance since 1963.
He took the Bearcats to 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and went to 4 Sweet 16’s, 3 Elite 8’s and a Final Four, while claiming 8 conference tournament titles and 10 regular season titles.
Huggins spent 1 year at Kansas State, taking them to their first post season appearance (NIT) in 8 years.
He wasn’t looking to leave Manhattan, Kansas, but when his Alma Mater came calling, he knew it was time to head home.
When Huggins came to West Virginia, it was the first time he didn’t have to build or revive a program. The Mountaineers had just come off an NIT Championship, and in the two previous years, a Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearances. It was time to get them to that next level.
In his third year (2009-2010) with the Mountaineers, Huggins brought home their first conference tournament championship, since 1984, their first Big East Tournament Championship and their first Final Four appearance since 1959.
During Huggins tenure with West Virginia, he has had 1 NIT and 8 NCAA bids, going to 4 Sweet 16’s an Elite 8 and a Final Four.
Add all that up and its 13 regular season conference titles, 12 conference titles, 4 NIT’s, 23 NCAA Tournaments, 8 Sweet 16’s, 4 Elite 8’s and 2 Final Fours.
Bob Huggins has had success everywhere he has coached and continues to get his teams to perform at a high-level night in and night out.
This nomination has been long overdue. It’s time to recognize one of the all-time great college basketball coaches, and put him into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.