Huggins autograph signing in Hurricane benefits cancer research

DEREK REDD | The Gazette-Mail
West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, left, autographs an original painting for Ron Smith of Belle during an appearance at Sports Fanz in Hurricane. Proceeds for the event went to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund.

West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins got some good exercise for his autograph-writing hand Thursday in Hurricane — and for a good cause.

Huggins was at Sports Fanz collectibles store in Hurricane, signing autographs and taking pictures with dozens of WVU fans who braved the raindrops and stood in line for a few minutes with the coach. Proceeds from the event went to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund, a fund Bob Huggins created to honor his mother, who died in 2003 following a battle with colon cancer. The fund supports clinical cancer research.

Huggins was at a function in Wheeling on Monday evening, with proceeds going to the fund. He was headed to an 800 Club function after Thursday’s signing to accept a donation. An annual fish fry in Morgantown also raises money for the fund. The endowment fund is something near and dear to Huggins’ heart and his way of doing something more to help cancer research.

“I wanted to do something,” Huggins said. “We all send flowers and cards. And the cards are nice, but what do you do with them? And the flowers are nice, but what do you do with them? I think it serves everybody better to make a donation to the [WVU Cancer Institute] and that’s decided to do in my mother’s name, and it’s been great.”

It also was important that his fund benefit the WVU Cancer Institute. Huggins was born in Morgantown, played for WVU’s men’s basketball team under Joedy Gardner and has been the Mountaineers’ coach since 2007. His love for the Mountain State plays a big part in the focus of his philanthropy.

“My thing is, it all stays here in West Virginia,” he said. “It’s not like one of these national charities that you give money to and it doesn’t stay here. I think we’ve got plenty of needs here, and it ought to stay here. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we found a cure for cancer in West Virginia? I think it would be the greatest thing to happen in this state.”

The fans who turned out to Sports Fanz on Thursday were happy to congratulate Huggins on WVU’s fourth Sweet Sixteen appearance since he took the helm in Morgantown. The Mountaineers got a boost when Jevon Carter decided return to school for his senior season, and Huggins appreciates the support he has seen all over the state.

“West Virginia fans have been absolutely phenomenal,” Huggins said. “We broke the attendance record a year ago, and I think with the home schedule we have this year, I think we can break it again.”

Huggins also had something to say about a former WVU basketball great in the news — Jerry West. West, who was a special advisor to the newly crowned NBA champion Golden State Warriors, reportedly will take a similar role with the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s impressive, Huggins said, that at age 79, West is still looking for new mountains to climb.

“He lives for challenges,” Huggins said. “He lived for challenges as a player. He lived for challenges as an [executive], probably the greatest executive in the history in the NBA. ... The Clippers need him. The Clippers have a long history of making bad decisions, and I don’t think that guy has made a bad decision.”

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