What about Bob?
When West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong announced Bob Huggins as WVU's new basketball coach at a press conference on April 6, the long time administrator said, "It was probably the shortest negotiation ever. I asked if he was ready to come home and he said absolutely."
According to Pastilong there was only one choice to replace John Beilein who had announced April 3 that he was leaving WVU to take the head coaching job at Michigan.
"After talking with central administration, members of our staff and talking to Jerry West, we felt we needed to find out if Bobby Huggins wanted to be our coach or not," Pastilong explained. "If he was interested, let's hire him and come on. If he's not, then let's open it and have a full search."
What seemed like a no brainer to many was met with disappointment by many. Huggins was the lead candidate to replace Gale Catlett in 2002, but just when it appeared Huggins would be WVU's basketball coach he decided to remain at Cincinnati. To this day many WVU fans believe Huggins turned down the WVU job. The real story is somewhat sketchy, but the job was either never officially offered, or the offer was rescinded.
Huggins comes with some baggage and that was a concern at the highest level of the hiring process in 2002. The baggage is essentially Huggins' poor rate of graduating his players. Part of that is that many of Huggins' players leave school early to play in the NBA, and those players count in the equation.That has never been an issue at West Virginia, but it may well become one.
A byproduct of Huggins' low graduation rate is the perception that his players are thugs. Well, Huggins' teams are well known for playing in your face defense with attitude, so, yes, he has coached a few tough guys, doesn't mean they were thugs though. Then during his final year at Cincinnati, Huggins was arrested for DUI and was later let go at the university.
So the WVU hire two weeks ago was questioned by many. Really all with seemingly valid concerns. For the record, Huggins was my choice five years ago and he was my choice two weeks ago.
With that being said, I'll ask myself the question, could Huggins have pulled off at West Virginia what Beilein did? You know an Elite Eight, a Sweet 16 and a NIT Championship.
Obviously we'll never know the answer, but Huggins would have had some formidable teams by now. One thing he can do is recruit and win games. He is leaving behind a top five recruiting class at Kansas State which many felt would be the one reason he would not take the WVU job.
But he is here now. He has a friend in Pastilong. He has friends on the Board of Governors. Jerry West and Rod Thorn were asked for and gave Huggins enthusiastic recommendations. That may not eliminate the doubt some of you have, but it has quieted the critics to a large degree.
I hope the graduation thing gets better, and I think Huggins will want that rate as high as possible at his Alma Mater. But I am also looking forward to winning games with NBA type players on the court.