MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – In the long, storied history of college basketball, there have only been six head coaches to win more games than West Virginia’s Bob Huggins.
With a victory over Missouri Saturday afternoon, Huggins moved into a tie for seventh-most all-time coaching wins with Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp at 876 wins.
When asked about the accomplishment after the game, Huggins brought up his father, one of the winningest coaches in Ohio high school basketball history, who used to tell him that having a lot of coaching wins just means that he is old.
“You look at every one of those guys on there, and they’re old,” Huggins (66) joked. “I’m more caught up in we’re 16-3 and we need to be about 29-3. More than that I guess is we’re going to win the conference tournament.”
There is truth to the sentiment that age plays a big factor as the three active coaches ahead of Huggins on the list, Roy Williams (69), Jim Boeheim (75) and Mike Krzyzewski (72), are all older than he is.
After the game Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin joked that he and Huggins do not have a great relationship at the moment, given Huggins’s team had just beaten him, but said he has always admired Huggins.
“He’s a legend, I’ve always admired him,” Martin said. “I admire the fact that over the years he’s allowed his player to have a voice. Especially in his years at Cincinnati, just giving them the chance to grow as young men. Especially when you come from certain environments. I thought he’s always been one of the best at that.”
Martin said one of the hallmarks of a good coach is the ability to sustain continued success.
“His teams have always been tough. They compete, they play hard, they play together,” Martin said. “I think the sign of a great program is when you have a good coach is the names on the back of the jerseys will change, but the program is still the same. That’s a measure of his programs and what he’s done over 40-plus years.”
Continued success is one of the trademarks of Huggins’s long career. In 38 years of coaching, Huggins’s teams have only had three losing seasons. His .703 winning percentage is a testament to the success he’s had.
The players on this year’s team realized that they are just a small part of Huggins’s legacy, but want to leave as much as a impact on it as they can.
“I’m trying to get him as many wins as I can before I get out of here,” senior Jermaine Haley said. “We definitely take (Huggins’s legacy) into consideration. He’s going to be a hall of fame coach and just to be a part of that – I don’t even have words to explain what that is. I’m glad that we got the win for him tonight and we’ll continue to get more wins throughout the season.”
Huggins is a nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2020 and it is widely believed that he will be selected. The class of 2020 will be announced during the Final Four in Georgia in April.