MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins has found himself pulled peripherally into a legal spat between an NBA player and his former agent, and there have been suggestions made that the West Virginia basketball coach should be concerned.He's not, nor does it appear he has any reason to be.The legal case involves Michael Beasley, whom Huggins recruited to Kansas State in 2006, and Beasley's former agent, Joel Bell. Beasley fired Bell prior to his rookie season with the Miami Heat in 2008 and weeks before Beasley signed an endorsement deal with Adidas.Bell filed suit against Beasley for breach of contract in January of this year, and late last month Beasley filed a countersuit. It is in that countersuit that Huggins' name pops up.
Beasley's countersuit involves accusations that Bell bankrolled the Washington AAU club DC Assault and that part of his reason for doing so was to eventually steer athletes to him as an agent. He accuses DC Assault organizer Curtis Malone of being Bell's "runner,'' a term for coaches and hangers-on who actively steer players toward specific agents.Beasley's suit, though, goes deeper than just those accusations. He claims that Bell and others financed a move by Beasley's mother to Kansas when Beasley played his one college season at Kansas State. It also claims that in order to get Beasley to attend Kansas State, Huggins hired Dalonte Hill away from UNC-Charlotte and paid him $420,000 as a way to recruit Beasley.Hill had been Beasley's coach with DC Assault.Huggins on Thursday was asked about the suits and defended his hiring of Hill. Huggins pointed out that Hill was also primarily responsible for recruiting Jacob Pullen, a standout who played alongside Beasley at Kansas State and was a four-year starter, as well as others."Let's be honest, you hire guys that can recruit players,'' Huggins said. "Dalonte Hill was the lead guy in [recruiting] Jacob Pullen, who really had a pretty big impact on Kansas State basketball. And Jacob had no affiliation at all with D.C., DC Assault, none of that. Dalonte's good. How stupid am I to hire a guy who's going to recruit one guy who's going to be there one year and then I'm stuck with a guy who doesn't do [anything]?''
Huggins was only at Kansas State one year but he left before Beasley arrived, and Hill stayed on as part of Frank Martin's staff. Martin had been hired by Huggins as an assistant coach and was named to succeed him when he left.Furthermore, Huggins didn't pay Hill $420,000. It's not clear what Hill's salary was during the year that Huggins was at Kansas State, but it was after he left that Hill signed a new contract. He signed the contract that would eventually pay him $420,000 in May of 2008, long after Huggins left. Then in 2010, Kansas State extended Hill's contract and his compensation rose to $423,750.Hill didn't fulfill the contract, though, instead opting to join new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon earlier this year.Lost in the controversy, though, is another rather significant point. Even if Huggins hired Hill in order to have a better shot at Beasley - which he denies - it is not illegal or a violation of any rules. NCAA rules prohibit schools from hiring someone in a non-coaching capacity in order to influence a recruit, but not from hiring a coach.And if payments were made to Beasley's mother to move to Kansas, those happened long after Huggins left for West Virginia.Even at that, Huggins said he doesn't think there will be an issue with Kansas State and its dealings with Beasley.
"It's not going to be a K-State problem because I know the whole deal,'' he said.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org