Blog Entry

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Posted on: April 3, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 8:17 am
Thomas Beisner

If you're a West Virginia fan, things really couldn't have gone much worse for you on Saturday night.  Your team got beaten on the boards and their usually stout defense suddenly disappeared, allowing Duke to shoot 53% from the field and their "Big 3" of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to combine for 63 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds.  And, worst of all, your All-American senior Da'Sean Butler put up one of the worst stat lines you could have hoped for:  10 points, three rebounds and one awful knee injury.

It was that knee injury, though, which occurred about midway through the second half, that gave West Virginia something they could smile about on a night that they'd been waiting for since 1959.

Bob Huggins.

Mountaineer fans don't have to be told what a great coach they have in Morgantown.  They've seen it on the court the past three years as the homegrown coaching titan has racked up 80 wins, 31 of which came this year.  But, outside of West Virginia's state lines, Bob Huggins' name doesn't quite carry the same reverence.

Few coaches in the game get as much flack from fans and media as Bob Huggins (including the devilish one on the opposing sideline for this game).  Some of it's because he's short with the media.  Some of it is because of the physical nature of his teams.  Some probably stems from his DUI arrest and, honestly, some of it is probably because the guy has more track suits than Carl Lewis.  But, as his star player laid twisting in pain after his leg gave out on him, Bob Huggins was as far removed from that "monster in a track suit" reputation he's found affixed to himself.

After taking a verbal shot at the referee in defense of Butler, Huggins huddled over the senior, held his head and tried to calm him down by whispering closely.  He wiped tears off of Butler's eyes and clutched him as if he was his own child.  When it was time for Butler to leave the court, Bob Huggins stood, visibly shaken and teary-eyed.

It was a glimpse into a close bond that Huggins so famously develops between his players and, I'm proud to say, it's the type of kindness that I've been privileged to experience.

When I was 13, I attended the Bob Huggins Basketball Camp at the University of Cincinnati and, despite being about 6'5" and in the eighth grade, no one was mistaking me for a prospect.  I was one of the kids who was there just to step on the floor at the Shoemaker Center and see Danny Fortson up close.  You didn't have to pass a skills test to get into the camp and I can promise you that none of the coaches were starting a "Thomas Beisner" file. 

I learned pretty quickly, though, that that didn't really matter much.

On one of my first nights at the camp, stuck without a roommate or a television, I left the dorm and wandered over to the gym, figuring that I'd just shoot around and kill some time.  After messing around for awhile, I heard someone walking through the gym behind me and turned to see the man whose name was printed on my t-shirt in size-52 font.  Yep, Bob Huggins was in the building.  And I was terrified.

I figured this encounter would end with me either getting in trouble and getting kicked out or with Cincinnati's head coach completely ignoring the most awkward evening workout in Bearcat history and just walking away.  Instead, much to my 13-year old surprise, I got an introduction and a private 20-minute instruction session with a coach who was just a few months removed from the Elite Eight and surely had something better to do at 9pm than work with a talent-less eighth-grader. 

For those twenty minutes, he was a lot more "Huggy Bear" than he ever shows on TV and he helped me with mechanics on my jump shot, making me flick my wrist and bend my Osgood Schlatter knees more.  Not realizing what a hopeless endeavor it was, he had me fire off jumper after jumper, observing and rebounding (when they came close to him), giving me the attentiveness one would show their own kid.  He made small talk with me about my Texas high school and I think he even smiled a few times.  He seemed to be enjoying working with this lanky, acne-faced teenager as much as this lanky, acne-faced teenager enjoyed working with him.

As you might expect, my basketball career didn't work out too well.  Despite Huggins' best efforts that night in the Shoemaker Center, I never got a sniff of a D-1 scholarship and I never ended up in Rivals' database.  I'm pretty sure that I didn't even get to meet Danny Fortson that week.  But, for the past 13 years, I've carried an incredible memory and a great deal of respect for Bob Huggins that has nothing to do with his wins and losses.  After watching his touching moment with Da'Sean Butler on Saturday, I think the whole nation just might too.
Category: NCAAB

Since: Sep 10, 2009
Posted on: April 6, 2010 12:07 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

These are the stories most "fans" don't ever hear.  This is what good college basketball coaches and programs are all about.  There is so much big money and media/fan scrutiny now that these coaches need to be very guarded most of the time.  Living in Lansing, MI I get to see one of the very best in the business in Tom Izzo quite often.  You can tell the criticism of the media and "spoiled" fans wear him down sometimes.  As he often says, he's a victim of his own expectations.  Thankfully, he loves the kids, fans and games enough to stick around.  There was a recent billboard campaign in almost the entire state of Michigan which I'm sure Izzo appreciated.  It was taken out by private money and was very simple.  The billboards have a large basketball sitting in a dark gym and simply read, "Thanks Tom".   

Since: Jun 28, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 8:34 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Great to see this.  Awesome coach too - one of the best in the game.  As a Memphis fan I HATED playing Cinnci!  He out-coached Cal in every game.  And yeah, he out-coached him again this year! :)

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 4:53 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

get a clue jackass!!!!    another media washed idiot without the complete facts of what they term as low grad rates.. huggs had a lot of transfers and juco players that did graduate.. if they are not there 4 years they are not credited statistically, however they did graduate!

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 4:44 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

  • its nice to see the rest of the country got a sense of the real huggs! the media never showed this side of huggins while here in cincy...

Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 4:25 pm


Please tell me how a coach that is legendary for low graduation rates can be termed as 'caring?'  Complete hypocrisy!!

Since: Mar 19, 2008
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:40 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

While watching the game and then seeing Butler hit the floor in pain and agony, I felt the passion and love that Huggins showed towards that young man and the full attention that he gave to him. It was well needed as his athlete responded to Huggins and was comfort by him in the time of need. It was a great gesture on coach H part that shows that he put health in front of wealth and showed his gentlemen like character.

Since: Apr 5, 2010
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:39 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

**** Xavier!!??

Just wanted to comment that UC should be better than XU based on size and resources, but they are not and UC fans have a hard time understanding why.  Committment and integrity - plain and simple.  Plus XU continually graduates its athletes at a far higher rate than UC ever will.  Its much easier to get players when they aren't expected to perform academically.  Can you say Calipari?

I think it was commendable how Bob stuck by Butler when he went down.  Although I feel the gesture would have gone unnoticed by most UC fans had it been Chris Mack (not Mick) and Jordan Crawford.  If Derrick Brown (know the name?) hadn't left for the NBA, XU would have made the Final Four most likely.  Funny how a small school can keep winning despite not being able to get players - coaching & recruiting excellence perhaps?

Go X

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:32 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

I always wonder why a lot of coaches don't do this more. A player gets hurt to that level and it's not one where they come off the field of play on their own power. That level of an injury any coach has that level of concern. But I can also understand the nature of head coach, this is a guy who has to be compassionate yet stand tall in the duty to the rest of the team. Perhaps during this time, as others have done, to rally the remainder of the team. This was more a white flag of surrender ? Because it apparently wasn't WVU's night. Then again, there was 8 minutes to go and the game was still winnable ? You never know in CBB ? But the way it turned out, I have no issues with Huggins, even respect him more for it.

Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:25 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

I loved it when Huggins kept saying "They can't foul, they can't foul any of us" to the referees. That was one of the more classy moves I have ever seen when Huggins got down and was right there for De'Sean Butler......trying to calm him down when you know that not only was he in pain, but his emotions were getting the best of him from this being his last collegiate game ever and that happening. Most of the time you see coaches go out there and stand next to their player, but never get down on their level and calm them down like Huggins did. It makes you appreciate coaches like him that try to keep his players and graduate them, shows that he cares about them quite a bit (Unlike some coaches that just recruit one-and-dones, but I won't mention any names).

The only thing I wish is that we could all have seen this side from Huggins without Butler being hurt, because obviously he is a good ball player, and a tremendous person/teammate.

Good luck De' thoughts and prayers are with you!

Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:03 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Great story....

Gives a true insight into the man...

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