Who else is excited for a little bit of March Madness, that time of year when collegiate teams from all over the nation are vying for the bragging rights of being the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion. I’m even more excited during years, like this one, where my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers make a run in the tourney, having now reached the Sweet Sixteen!
Throughout Mountaineer Nation, one man’s name is both famous and infamous…Bob Huggins…aka Coach Huggs…aka Huggy….and, my most favorite of all, Huggy Bear. He can be seen roaming the sidelines of Mountaineer games in his well-known black pullover and black pants, and depending on his mood, that all too well known furious red face. Believe me, his intensity as a coach is not only seen but felt, whether you are watching the game from the stands or even just at home on TV. As a WVU fan, I have prayed at the beginning of games that his blood pressure wouldn’t exceed the legal limit.
Coach Huggins is the 10th member of the 800 win club in Division I history. That very same club includes Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Pat Summit (Tennessee), and Roy Williams (Kansas-North Carolina) just to name a few. Obviously, no one can deny the fact that he is a truly talented and accomplished coach, but he is also an amazing person as well.
Coach’s 800th win came on December 16th, 2016 when WVU defeated UMKC 112-67. Following the game, the Coliseum crowd was treated to a tribute video honoring Coach Huggins that featured current and former players that he has coached throughout the years. It was so heartfelt and sincere that there were very few dry eyes in the crowd.
One of my favorite memories of Coach Huggins is from the 2010 Final Four, when WVU star Da’Sean Butler suffered an ACL injury in the second-half causing him to sit out the rest of the game. In that moment on the court it wasn’t about winning or losing a (very big) basketball game. It was simply a Coach lovingly reassuring his hysterical player, that no matter what, it would be ok, and that he was proud of him.
Recently, during this season’s WVU vs. Texas game, Coach’s defibrillator fired during an arrhythmic episode and he collapsed on the court, causing his players to rush to his side. Huggins ended up being ok, even jokingly blaming the cause for the jolt on the players and refs. As the game resumed, you could see Nathan Adrian hugging him and confirming that he was able to proceed with coaching the remainder of the game. It was another sweet and touching exchange between coach and player nonetheless.
Judging from his coaching demeanor, you would think that he is completely unapproachable. However, he is exactly the opposite. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Huggs on several occasions, and each time, he’s always been kind and his normal charismatic self, which is a definite contrast to the coach we see on the court. He’s humble. He’s gracious. He’s simply Huggy-Bear.
Say what you will, there’s no denying the fact that Bob Huggins is one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history, and that there is more to the man than what we see on our TV’s during basketball season. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to respect him.
It goes without saying, those of us in Mountaineer Nation should feel honored and blessed to have him as our coach when he leads our team into Thursday night’s Sweet 16 appearance. Thank you Coach Huggins, and … Let’s Go Mountaineers!!!