Talking With Huggie Bear

By Josh Herwitt - October 24, 2007

NEW YORK -- Bob Huggins, welcome to the Big East.

The West Virginia head coach, who left Kansas State last April after guiding the Wildcats to 23 wins in his only year in Manhattan, Kan., has started to settle in at his alma mater in Morgantown, W. Va., and plenty of reporters were certainly interested in hearing about Huggins' thoughts on joining the Big East.

"It's a talented league," offered Huggins, who has coached in Conference USA with Cincinnati and the Big 12 with Kansas State. "It's got great coaches. It's not like you're gonna say, 'I can out-coach this guy, this guy and this guy. That doesn't happen."

And here at Big East Media Day, his colleagues hold a similar sentiment for Huggins and his coaching successes over his 25 seasons.

Whether he's played any games in the Big East or not, Huggins already has the respect of his conference colleagues.

"Huggs is a very colorful personality, a tremendous coach and a great recruiter," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said about his colleague. "West Virginia is very lucky to get him.

"Every time you play him, you gotta lace 'em up because you're gonna know you played West Virginia after you play them this year."

Like Pitino, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim shared a very similar sentiment of Huggins during the informal interview session.

"He's a tremendous coach," he said. "[But] I really worry more about the players than the coach. I don' t worry about coaches. They can't score anymore. Lou Carnesecca told me that."

As far as Huggins' team goes, West Virginia does have some good veteran experience under its belt with Darris Nichols (10.9 pp, 2.9 rpg), Alex Ruoff (10.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Joe Alexander (10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Da Sean Butler (10.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg) all returning to Morgantown, but the Mountaineers will need some more depth to legitimize its chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament this year.

And for as fiery a coach as Huggins has been portrayed over the years, the 54-year-old seemed rather cool and calm at Big East Media Day, taking his time to answer a couple of questions of mine and giving an answer that seemed honest and forthright.

"There's a lot of good coaches in the Big 12," Huggins said when I asked him about the transition from the Big 12 to the Big East. "There's a lot of great coaches here. In this league [the Big East], there's two Hall of Fame guys and probably another two or three that are going to end up in the Hall of Fame.

"This has historically and probably will remain the best league in the country. What you find out that everyone aspires to be the Big East. Everybody wants to be the Big East."

But if there's one thing that Huggins might miss about leaving Kansas State, it's having the opportunity to coach freshmen sensation Michael Beasley, who could be off to the NBA after this season.

"Who wouldn't of," Huggins said of Beasley, who he recruited to come to K-State. "He's not just a great player, he's got great enthusiasm. He brings incredible enthusiasm every day. He really wants to be a great player, and he wants to learn."

If that's the case, then it's something that Frank Martin will certainly enjoy this season.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 03:20 PM on October 24, 2007

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