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Old Friends Bob Huggins, Jim Boeheim Reunite in NCAA Second-Round Matchup



(Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Two of the winningest active college basketball coaches, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, have known each other for a long time. The two first met on the basketball court on Nov. 27, 1976.

Syracuse was playing West Virginia at the Springfield Civic Center. It was the second career game for young, first-year head coach Jim Boeheim. He was coaching the Orange against a WVU team lead by senior guard Bob Huggins.

West Virginia won, 83-78, and Huggins said he does not let Boeheim ever forget it.

“Every time I see him I bring it up and he doesn’t want to talk about it,” Huggins said Saturday. “That was a big comeback for us. We were down and made a big run at the end.”

Since then, the two have remained friends as Boeheim turned Syracuse into one of the most storied college basketball programs in the country and Huggins moved from Akron to Cincinnati with a stop at Kansas State and finally back to his alma mater.

When Huggins took over as the coach at WVU in 2007, he and Boeheim’ faced off yearly as rivals in the old Big East conference. They played every year from 2008-2012 but have not faced one another since Syracuse moved to the ACC and WVU left for the Big 12.

Now, they are two of only six coaches to log 900 career wins and they will finally reunite in the second round of this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

“He’s a great guy, we kid each other all the time. He kids me about being old, I kid him about being big,” Boeheim said Saturday. “He’s a great coach, he’s what basketball is all about. He lives to coach and he won’t quit coaching, ever. They think I’m coaching [old], he’ll be coaching way past this, way past me.

It has been so long that the two programs have played that now Syracuse’s best scorer is Jim’s son, Buddy Boeheim, who averaged 17.7 points per game. Huggins said he remembers Buddy as a youngster more than a college player.

“I remember when he was a little kid, I mean a little, little kid,” Huggins said. “I don’t think there was any doubt he was going to end up being a player, he’s terrific. He’s got to be one of the best shooters in college basketball.”

Buddy too remembers spending time with Huggins as a kid. He said he has a specific memory of Huggins during Syracuse’s famous six-overtime game against UConn in 2009 Big East tournament.

“During the six overtime game as a kid…after the second overtime I was sweating, I was crying, I was just a mess,” Buddy said. “Me and my mom went back to the locker room and Coach Huggins was sitting in there with us eating carrots waiting to see who the winner was.”

Syracuse won 127-117 and moved on to play WVU in the semifinal round.

“He told us, ‘we’ll see you guys tomorrow’ and ever since then, I’ve really liked him,” Buddy said with a smile. “We beat them the next night in overtime so that also helped.”

WVU and Syracuse will tip-off at 5:15 p.m. EST Sunday afternoon from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

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