Huggins begins new era for West Virginia fans
By VICKI SMITH<, Associated Press Writer
April 7, 2007
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Very briefly, Bob Huggins showed his sensitive side.
West Virginia's fiery new coach was decidedly soft-spoken at his first news conference Friday, admitting he got choked up walking into the arena in which he played 30 years ago.
Next fall's season opener may even draw a few tears.
"I'll have a hard time not crying," the West Virginia alum said. "I mean that sincerely. ... For me not to be emotional is probably not realistic. I'm probably going to have a towel -- you know, so I can hide, so you don't see how bad it is.
"I don't want them to think I'm soft," he said. "'Cause I'm not soft."
Huggins was hired just two days after John Beilein jumped to Michigan. That opened the door for Morgantown-native Huggins to come home to what he's long told people was his dream job.
"I want to stay here as long as I can do what I'm supposed to do and as long as you people will have me," he said Friday.
The 53-year-old Huggins played for the Mountaineers from 1975-77, then spent the first year of his coaching career here as a graduate assistant.
He received a five-year contract from WVU that guarantees him $800,000 in the first year, the same salary he was drawing at Kansas State. Over that five-year period he will earn about $5 million, plus incentives, said Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.
"It's a very good contract both ways," Pastilong said. "Financially it was lateral (for Huggins), and secondly, it was very similar to what we were operating with in this position in the past."
Huggins said the negotiation was probably the shortest in history, joking that Pastilong refused to lend him reading glasses to study the fine print on his contract: "Eddie said, 'It'll be fine, sign here."'
Though Huggins had turned down West Virginia once before in 2002, he couldn't refuse his alma mater again. He was the first choice to replace then-retiring Gale Catlett, but negotiations broke down in the final hours and he wound up staying at Cincinnati.
"I wanted to be here since I was a little kid. Sometimes for whatever reasons it's not the right time," Huggins said of why he didn't take the job five years ago.
"Thanks for letting me come home," he said.
Although he's established himself as one of the premier college basketball coaches in the nation over the past quarter-century, Huggins has had his troubles away from the court.
He spent 16 seasons at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments and one Final Four. But critics targeted his program for low graduation rates, a series of player arrests and NCAA rules violations that ultimately led to probation and a reduction in scholarships.
Huggins said it would take too long to explain why criticism over graduation rates was unfair, but he noted the NCAA does a better job now of calculating those rates.
"I think people forget the fact that I graduated magna cum laude," he said. "If I didn't care about academics I wouldn't have had a 3.97."
Huggins sat out the 2005-06 season after he was fired from Cincinnati, but he returned to the sidelines after Kansas State hired him in March 2006. He had five years left on his contract and must pay $100,000 for breaking it early.
He led the Wildcats to a 23-12 record and an NIT berth, and signed what is considered to be the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.
He stands just 10 wins shy of 600 career victories.