Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

His Hall of Fame Bona Fides Huggins Has the Resume; All He Needs Now Is the Invitation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

His Hall of Fame Bona Fides Huggins Has the Resume; All He Needs Now Is the Invitation

Article excerpt

Five Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaches will lead teams into the NCAA tournament when the field of 64 gets started Thursday. There should be a sixth. West Virginia's Bob Huggins belongs. Someone please tell me why he shouldn't be in. Please explain to me why he wasn't even nominated for the Class of 2017.

It can't be Huggins' resume. He has won 817 games - third most among current coaches behind Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim and eighth most all time - in 35 seasons at Walsh College, Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia. This tournament trip with the No. 4-seeded Mountaineers is his 24th. He made it to four Final Eights and two Final Fours. He has been national coach of the year six times.

It shouldn't be because of the way Huggins' 16-year run at Cincinnati ended. He was forced to resign after the 2004-05 season for a number of reasons: An NCAA investigation that resulted in probation and a loss of scholarships, a poor graduation rate among his players and his DUI arrest. None of that is admirable, but other coaches in the Hall of Fame have had issues with the NCAA. Boeheim, whose Syracuse team didn't make this year's tournament. John Calipari. Other Hall of Fame coaches have been at the center of major off-the-court scandals. Rick Pitino comes to mind. Huggins is far from perfect and knows it, but he's comfortable in his own skin.

"I don't cheat," he told ESPN, pointing out he wasn't specifically charged in the NCAA's Cincinnati investigation. "I've never cheated."

Huggins' work at West Virginia the past 10 seasons should put him over the top for the Hall of Fame. This trip to the NCAAs is his eighth with the Mountaineers, who finished second to Kansas in the Big 12 Conference and lost to Iowa State Saturday night in the Big 12 tournament title game. His success has been especially impressive for two reasons. One, West Virginia had to join the distant Big 12 to find a home for its football program. Huggins has adjusted much better than Jamie Dixon did after Pitt's move to the ACC. And two, West Virginia is a small state that produces few quality players. Senior Nathan Adrian is a rare prominent exception on this season's team, joining former Mountaineers star Kevin Pittsnogle.

"I've never been at a place where I can select the way some guys do," Huggins said. "We have to take what we think are good prospects and try to put them in a place to be successful."

The formula has worked for Huggins. He took the Mountaineers to the 2010 Final Four. This season's team has at least an outside shot to get back. West Virginia opens against No. 13 seed Bucknell Thursday afternoon. If the seeds hold, it will have to beat Bucknell, Notre Dame, Gonzaga and Arizona to make it to Glendale, Ariz., the first weekend of April. …

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