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: Mar 23, 2009
Posted on: April 5, 2010 1:26 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Amen to that. nothing like a bunch of bi%ches that find comedy in heartfelt moments like that. Iwill remember it for a very long time and if my son ever wanted to play college ball and he had a chance to, I would love for him to have a coach like Huggins.

Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: April 5, 2010 1:10 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Well done.  Huggins, Butler and the entire WVU Hoops family have provided us much to be proud of here in WV.

Since: Apr 23, 2008
Posted on: April 5, 2010 12:42 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Watching the game on Saturday was a bummer as I was pulling for West Virginia but it was quite a highlight to see Huggins' soft side.  He truly is a great coach and gets the best out of his kids. 

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: April 5, 2010 10:58 am

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Thanks for the personal touch!  Both scenes (visualized and described) offer the college sports fan another opportunity to realize the Heart of the sport - The coaches and their passion to give. 

Since: Sep 27, 2008
Posted on: April 4, 2010 10:14 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Good article, I appreciate that story and maybe some coaches could learn a little from this story. 

Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2010 6:49 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

I appreciate the caring comments from almost all Duke fans concerned about Da'Sean after his injury.  If you're wondering about the idiots who insulted Da'Sean and Huggins for that moment, see the comments on Gary Parrish's update about it now being confirmed that Butler has a torn ACL.  Some of their comments were sickening.  However, I can say that you are right; it is a very small minority making such disgusting statements.

Parrish said this may mean that Butler doesn't get drafted because he can't work out for NBA teams.  That would be a horrible injustice.  This is a great player and wonderful young man who will work harder than anyone else and be a credit to any organization.

I've also heard from several people on here talking about how that moment last night completely changed their opinion of Huggins.  No reasonable person could watch that last night and not be moved by the emotion passing between coach and player; it was as close to father and son as you can get.  That's why we love Huggins and our WVU teams so much.  There's a bond there that can't really be described until you experience it.

Get well soon, Da'Sean.  Our prayers are with you.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2010 6:12 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

As a Duke alum, I'm not sure where you saw people making fun of the injury or Huggins' reaction?  If that's the case, they represent a vocal and ugly minority for which I would apologize...but you cant really change ignorance on their part. 

On my facebook feed at the time of the injury, the thing I noticed most (myself included) were all the posts by my previous Duke classmates stating something along the lines of "I hope Butler's ok" at the time of the injury.  I didnt see one single mockery of the injury (and still havent yet) among all my classmates...

Since: Mar 10, 2010
Posted on: April 4, 2010 5:57 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

I live in Dayton, Ohio and while Higgins was at UC, got to listen to his post-game radio chats from time-to-time.  While some nights were painful to listen to, especially after the Bearcats had played a game that was not up to their talent level, many nights were absolutely hilarious.  I also got the feeling that, like the gruff father figure he appears to be, he cared immensly for his players.  Many nights he would praise a player who, while not having a great stat line, played his heart out and "left it on the floor."  I also see many parallels to Bobby Knight in the way Huggins is portrayed in the media, and like Coach Knight, feel that he has been given short shrift in the national media.  The injury to Da'Shaun Butler was a killer for WVU, but it also allowed many to see the "softer" side of a man I feel is one of the greatest basketball coaches in America.  BTW, I am not, nor have I ever been a UC fan. 

Since: Oct 13, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2010 3:29 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Being a K-State fan, I was distressed when we hired Huggins; I was glad when he left. Little did I know. He's made quite the contribution to K-State, and it's super to see what he did last night.Reminds me of an encounter I had with Bob Knight back in the late 80s. Friends have a mentally handicapped son. He would do math only if they were IU basketball stats. I wrote Knight in January, asked him to file my letter away and write young John after the season was over, and just encourage the young man. Four days letter John had a warm, encouraging hand-written note from Coach Knight. The boy was over the moon.These coaches who are so "passionate" for the game are also "passionate" about wanting their players (and others) to become all that they can possibly be. It may look "rugged" to us, but so often it's because they feel so deeply about the people around them - most often their players. K-State's Frank Martin is the same kind of guy. THANKS, Bob Huggins!

Since: Nov 5, 2009
Posted on: April 4, 2010 1:27 pm

"Huggy Bear" makes an appearance

Great story and it's no surprise to me to hear that it happened.  Huggins is a great coach who loves his players, and his players love him.  Sure, he yells at the refs sometimes, but in my opinion it's usually because he expects them to be out there trying as hard as the players.  I have no connection to WVU except I am a WVU fan now because of the coach.  I love watching his teams.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or