LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The views from (warmer) here:West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins had a very nice early Thanksgiving present handed to him Wednesday.
In case you missed it, Huggins has a rewritten contract and will now coach in Morgantown until, at least, 2017-18 before assuming an Emeritus status with WVU through 2023.It was a very good move by Mountaineer athletic director Oliver Luck. There had been rumblings Huggins was getting more and more frustrated. While he always appears at all Mountaineer Athletic Club gatherings, other WVU coaches routinely bow out, even if such appearances are specifically called for in contracts.
Huggins gives much of his time. Perhaps that's why it was appropriate the contract extension was awarded at Thanksgiving."His passion, caring and love for the university and the state of West Virginia is incredible," said Luck.That's why - if anyone deserves a $3 million coaching contract - it is Huggins. Perhaps more than his team's 2010 Final Four appearance, Huggins seared his imprint in the state's fabric with his appearance at the Upper Big Branch tragedy site and work with the UBB Family Fund. He's helped with causes from the state's Read Aloud program to the Norma Rae Huggins Cancer Fund in memory of his mother.Of course, on the court, Huggins has led WVU to five straight NCAA tournament appearances, including that Final Four appearance and an amazing victory over an ultra-talented Kentucky team.But Luck was smart to extend Huggins' contract for reasons beyond that. The coach not only is beloved in the Mountain State, he has incredible pull. If Luck needs a financial gift to his athletic program, whom is he going to send to meet a wealthy donor?You know the answer. Maybe he could send football coach Dana Holgorsen - but with Huggins in tow to help.Luck also must realize the unique situation he's in with Huggins. West Virginia University is not the most well-heeled university. Coaches like John Beilein and even state native Rich Rodriguez have used the school of late as a stepping stone.
More than likely that will continue with Holgorsen, if he succeeds. Huggins, though, is a slam-dunk Hall of Fame coach not looking to move on. He doesn't seem interested in moving to Michigan or Ohio State or any other larger school.And where will Luck, or any other WVU athletic director, ever find a sure-fire Hall of Fame coach willing to do that after Huggins?The coach, by the way, was thankful."The nice thing," he said, "is [WVU officials] came to me."
Huggins seemed to land quite a nice haul of big men during the early signing period.
Elijah Macon, formerly of Huntington Prep, currently at Brewster Academy, is a four-star recruit. Brandon Watkins, a 6-foot-10 center and nephew of Huggins' friend Warren Baker, also had scholarship offers from Memphis, Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina.
On paper, the gem has to be four-star Devin Williams, a forward at Montverde (Fla.) Academy, originally from Cincinnati.Perhaps not since another Devin - Ebanks, now with the Los Angeles Lakers - has Huggins landed such a highly regarded recruit. Yes, he also signed four-star recruits like current starter Jabarie Hinds and washout Noah Cottrill, but Williams had quite a list of suitors.Huggins had to love the fact that Williams turned down offers from Ohio State, Memphis, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Virginia Tech and Xavier, let alone those from USC, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Illinois.Again, though, Williams is the best on paper. Insiders, however, will tell you to watch Macon.
Off paper, he's the best of the bunch.Perhaps WVU's new sparkling practice facility is beginning to pay off.Maybe I'm not completely tuned in to the national sports sphere, but it seems Tavon Austin's incredible performance against Oklahoma was missed or buried by the majority of the media coast-to-coast.
The Mountaineer football player was simply spectacular against the Sooners. A school record 344 rushing yards in his first college game at running back? A Big 12 record 572 all-purpose yards?Sure, Austin's performance came in a WVU loss. It came on a weekend on which Kansas State and Oregon lost, which vaulted Notre Dame to No. 1.But if basketball player Jack Taylor of Grinnell College can become a national star for scoring 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College, can't Austin get a little love for 572 yards against Oklahoma?Back to hoops. After WVU's win over Marist on Thursday, Huggins was asked if his Mountaineers want to play Gonzaga again in the Old Spice Classic finals. WVU lost to the Zags 84-50 in Spokane, Wash., in the season opener.
"Want me to tell you the truth?" Huggins said. "When somebody beat my [behind] when I was young, they had to beat my [behind] the next day. And the next day. And the next day."And finally ...
I asked WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons about the Classic setup, specifically why Marist was the Mountaineers' opponent."That [Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference] is the host," he said, "and it always has a team in it."Against WVU on Thursday, the hosts couldn't have been more gracious.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.