MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Terry Henderson Sr. answered the phone Friday afternoon and listened closely, but still couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
He wanted to give the man on the other end answers, but Henderson himself had questions.
Like, why was his son transferring from West Virginia? How was it possible this phone call from Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins was the way he was learning about it? And what could the father working in Maryland do for his son visiting home in Raleigh, N.C.?
The first two were puzzling, and are still without complete answers, but Huggins would solve the third.
He flew to Raleigh on Friday to talk to Henderson Jr. and, perhaps, convince him to stay at WVU. Of all the surprises throughout the day, Henderson Sr. didn’t consider that to be one.
He remembered the day he dropped his son off at WVU in the summer of 2012 and the manner in which he commenced the union between his family and Huggins.
“Mr. Huggins,” Henderson remembered saying, “can you please hold out your hand?”
Huggins obliged and Henderson dropped an imaginary set of keys into the extended hand. “He’s all yours,” the father said.
It was supposed to be the building block of the relationship, the one that was yanked from the base Friday when Henderson Jr. announced he would transfer.
“What that meant,” Henderson Sr. said, “was, ‘Here’s my raising my son, my coaching my son, here’s my fatherhood, and I’m giving you the keys to that. It’s your turn. You’ve got him the next four or five years or however long it takes. Whatever happens, it’s up to you.’ ”
It lasted only two years and Henderson said he’s as upset by the development as he is confused by how it came to be. One thing he knows is that the departure was not up to Huggins.
“This is a weird situation, but I know, because he told me all the time, and he told me as recently as Friday when we had our last communication, that he’s a Terry fan,” Henderson said.
“Bob Huggins was a guy in my circle. You don’t just let guys in your circle. Coach Huggins is a great coach and a great guy for the kids. He teaches them life skills and how to be a professional. I don’t know, but it’s just not a Huggins thing.”
Henderson Jr.’s announcement caught many off guard, from his father to his coach to his now former teammates who were under the impression Henderson was coming back, even after his friend and classmate Eron Harris decided to transfer.
Henderson Sr. even said his son had been dedicated to the weight room and conditioning and was back above 200 pounds after losing a lot of weight during a lengthy illness late in the season. Henderson said he hasn’t learned a lot about his son’s decision, but that he hopes to figure things out when his son visits him in Maryland this weekend.
“A lot of things don’t make sense,” Henderson said. “For Terry and the kind of kid he is, for him to turn away from something, something had to be wrong. I mean, really wrong. You could never imagine him being that kind of person or showing that kind of negativity.
“Now, a lot of the other kids leaving, you can say, ‘Yeah, OK.’ Aaric Murray, you saw tirades on the court and his displeasure with the program and say, ‘Yeah, OK.’ I’m not trying to single him out, but I’m just putting it out there, like how you can see things from some of those players. But with Terry, you didn’t see any of that. Maybe he opens up soon and starts talking.”
Henderson Jr., who was recruited by former assistant Jerrod Calhoun, but never played for Calhoun before he was named the head coach at Fairmont State, didn’t return a message for this story. Harris declined an invitation to speak on his decision, too, even though he and his father have spoken to other outlets. Both intimated that Harris didn’t fit with the program.
Henderson Sr. suspects that’s not the case with his son.
“Bobby’s a lot like me,” he said. “I’m retired from 23 years in the Air Force. I know discipline. Terry is very disciplined. He can take an argument, he can take a lesson, he can take a chewing out, even though you don’t have to do that to him because he doesn’t give you an opportunity to do it.”
Henderson said he wasn’t aware of any problems his son had with Huggins or the assistants, with the way he was used the past two seasons or the way he might be used in the future. Huggins wouldn’t offer specifics or even opinions about Henderson Jr.’s transfer Saturday, but did suggest players are sometimes at the mercy of outside influences and the tales those people tell.
Henderson Sr. acknowledged it was unusual not to be in the loop for his son’s decision, but said Henderson Jr. has a lot of people in his inner circle, including former AAU and high school coaches and teammates, NBA players and new and old WVU teammates, and that he now knows his son spoke with many of them.
What they told him or how his son arrived at his decision remains a mystery for now.
“In talking to Terry a little, I’m just not sure,” Henderson Sr. said. “I know all the issues going on there with all the other kids, but he never gave me a whole lot of reasons. He’s a kid who keeps to himself, and he’s always been that way. He’s a Christian kid who doesn’t make a lot of noise. Getting information out of him is sometimes like pulling teeth. I’m his dad and I don’t even know what’s going on in his head.
“I do know it had nothing to do with his work ethic or his schoolwork and it had nothing to do with Coach Huggins himself. Maybe there’s something with the program, I’m not sure, but Terry’s always talked about how good of a coach Coach Huggins is and how good of a person he is, so we know it’s not that. The issue probably goes a little deeper than that.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.