Dapper Dan and Haberdashery Huggs.
Once upon a time, Marshall University basketball coach Danny D’Antoni and West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins wore those fashionable titles.
And wore them well.
That’s because they dressed for success.
They dress for comfort. Huggins sits courtside on his wooden barstool usually wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath a short-sleeved top, warm-up pants and sneakers. Meanwhile, D’Antoni paces the sidelines wearing his array of black, white and green Marshall long-sleeve T-shirts, casual pants and comfortable shoes.
Both coaches have been wearing variations of that attire for years.
Here’s the irony.
Despite dressing for comfort in a college sport that was dominated by coaches wearing suits and ties, D’Antoni and Huggins actually have become fashion trendsetters during this COVID-saturated 2020-21 basketball season.
It’s true. Just look around. All the college basketball coaches are dressing like D’Antoni and Huggins now.
“Well, I’ve always been a trendsetter,” said Huggins drolly. “Of course, you get a job ... I got the University of Cincinnati job and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got a big-time job, I’ve got to dress like those other guys dress.’ So, I wore a suit and sweated through the suit. I mean, my suit was soaking wet when the game was over with.
“I walked in one day after the game ... no, it was halftime. And I’m soaked. I’m drenched. And my [athletic director] said, ‘You don’t look very comfortable.’ And I said, ‘I’m not very comfortable.’ And he said, ‘Well, you know, coaches really ought to dress comfortable.’“
That was all Huggins needed to hear.
“That was the green light for me,” he said. “I haven’t put a tie on since. But I’m glad coaches have [started to dress like Huggins]. I mean, I remember going to Rutgers and guys are just drilling me, saying, ‘Why don’t you wear a suit?’ Or ‘What’s your philosophy behind not wearing a suit?’ Or ‘Are people offended that you dress the way you dress?’
“I’m not a banker,” replied Huggins. “I’m a ball coach. And this is how ball coaches dress. And this is how ball coaches are supposed to dress. That made news for a little while.”
D’Antoni also has created some commentary with his wardrobe of “Hillbilly Ball” and “304” and “Thundering Herd” long-sleeved T-shirts.
“Oh, no question,” he said with a chuckle. “I watch film and I watch TV guys and there’s always going to be one little line or blurb in there about how I’m dressed.
“The last one was when we were in Florida [playing FIU] and he said I was dressing like Don Johnson on ‘Miami Vice.’ I was wearing a black V-necked T-shirt with black jeans and shoes. He said I was ready to hit the clubs. In the younger days, he was totally correct. Today, it’s just the easy way to get home.”
The casual sideline attire has indeed become a trend for college coaches.
“Yeah, I hope it doesn’t go back,” said D’Antoni. “I’m not. I don’t care whether it goes back or not because I’m not. I’m going to stay right where I am. I might put a sports coat over top of it, but I’m not going anywhere but where I am. I might and I might not. I haven’t decided. It depends on how cold it is.”
Will this coaching fashion trend stay this way or not? It just might depend on well-dressed University of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“Calipari is casual now,” said D’Antoni. “He’s without a tie, but he’s in a suit and an open-collared shirt. He went totally casual, but he ended up getting his butt whipped and went back to the suit. I think he’s superstitious.”
Huggins believes Calipari is the ultimate litmus test for this fashion trend.
“If Calipari doesn’t go back [to the suits and ties],” said Huggins, “no one is going back.”
Either way, Huggins and D’Antoni aren’t going to change their wardrobes.
Who would have guessed two native-born West Virginians would end up becoming trendsetters?