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By Staff | Mar 1, 2017

There’s always someone better!

I know there has to be! But show me a better coach than West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and I’ll eat my hat. I’m talking about wins and losses here. I’m talking about coaching. Someone who knows the game inside and out. Someone who has over 800 career wins at the collegiate level. I’m talking about a program builder, a top recruiter and game strategist. He gets the absolute most out of his players.

Huggins has directed his alma mater to more than 220 victories, the 2010 NCAA Division 1 Final Four, the 2010 Big East Championship and eight post season appearances. His team also made the sweet 16 in 2015, a season when he led the Mountaineers to 25 victories. He’s someone who gets the most out of his players.

Huggins has coached 18 NBA draft selections as well as12 All-Americans. He has also guided 68 all-conference selections in Division 1. In 2008 coach Huggins had four players earn major awards, one of which was New Martinsville’s Ted Talkington who was named the Big East Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the year.

He is someone who excites the crowd. Someone who jumps up and down the official’s back, puts is finger in their face, throws his hands in the air and sometimes uses a few choice words, yet they still respect him.

He is someone who knows how to discipline and still be loved. Someone who is always open to the media, often short on words but never lost for something to say. Someone who keeps fighting even after losing, coach Huggins has a passion for the game like none other, he simply loves it. He knows his players well and is like a general who drills his men but stands behind them. Don’t knock his team, he won’t stand for it.

In 2002 while employed as the coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, Huggs suffered a major heart attack on the last Saturday in September, but was present for the team’s first practice two weeks later. Show me anyone else who could do that.

Show me someone who can fall to the floor with heart problems, rest a moment and finish the game; come on show me someone! West Virginia has the best and there is no doubt about it.

Bob Huggins is a worker, a hard worker! He puts in more hours in a week than most coal miners and that’s saying a lot. Not only is he a hard worker, but he demands the same from his players. He works hard to make them better and they work hard to become better.

They follow his example, he is a winner and always has been. Coaches like him only come a round once in a lifetime.

His first head coaching job was at Walsh College, an NAIA school who only had two winning seasons in 17 years. Huggins quickly turned them into winners. In his fourth year they were 30-0 and ranked second in the nation. They then won four tournament games to make the national championship where their 34 game winning streak was broken by Salem College 65-63

I’ve met Coach Huggins on occasion most recently at the best tailgate at WVU – the Henderson tailgate.

Back in the mid-sixties Bud Henderson of the (Henderson Tailgate fame) lived one house below the High School in Paden City on Stephen street. My brother-in-law now owns that house. My grandparents lived directly across the street and Bud and I where pretty good friends. We played a lot of basketball together on the only court in town at the time. The one by the field house.

Bud’s family moved to the Clarksburg area when he was around 13 or so and he continued to play basketball and later starred for the Clarksburg team. He also played for the Mountaineers in 1970 along with Sistersville’s Mike Carson.

I’ve talked to Coach Huggins down on the football field during home games. He is a very humble individual, always willing to let one get their picture taken with him. Always has a story to tell.

Coach Huggins is not only a great coach he is a great person. Years ago he was a great basketball player. I remember following him when he played high school ball at Indian Valley South an Ohio school in Gnadenhutten where he was coached by his father Charles. There he became a three year all-Ohio selection and the 1972 Ohio Player of the year. He was a great high school basketball player and a big time scorer.

Back in those days there were many big scorers. Just a few years before Huggs there was Bellaire St. John’s Allen Hornyak, who averaged 43 points per game for two straight years. Wheeling Central had Rick Nau a 30 plus per game scorer, Sistersville had Mike Carson who hit over 30 per game. These guys came along just a few years after Weirton’s Ron (Fritz) Williams, Warwood’s Bill Kennedy, Moundsville’s Bob Hummell and the list goes on. I’m talking about guys who could hit the big 50 on any given night without the three point shot.

I saw the other day where it’s been 39 years since Sistersville Richard Summers knocked in 74 against Wirt. Man could he shoot. He still loves the game and has become very successful as Tyler Consolidated’s volleyball coach.

I played back in those days, I remember having a big night. It was a Friday night overtime win against Woodsfield. Turned out it wasn’t big enough as that same night Hornyak hit 75 and Carson pumped in 60.

Back then there were lots of independent basketball tournaments. One of the best was the Sistersville Lions Club’s annual tournament. It was a huge event in Sistersville, where for a dollar you could watch some great college players.

West Virginia’s own Jerry West even played there. He was a member of the Sine Realty team. Dick Reisbeck who was a member of Ohio State’s 1960 national championship team and a roommate of Bobby Knight also played at Sistersville.

Wheeling had the annual Elk’s tournament. That was my first encounter with Coach Huggins’ although he probably doesn’t remember. Huggins was in that tournament, I met him and remember him as a 6’2″ guard who could do it all. He was tough as nails.

I watched the Texas game Monday night and saw that same toughness. If any of you have ever had heart trouble you’d know what I’m talking about. I have been there and just two years since a five way by-pass I can tell you without a doubt, my day’s work would have been over and like most others I would have been in the emergency room.

But then again I’m not Bob Huggins. I’m not the best coach in college basketball. I’m not tough as nails and I’m just not that dedicated. West Virginia has a gem that’s worth it’s weight in gold. That gem is named Coach Bob Huggins. When I looked at the salaries of some of the big time college coaches and compared them to Huggins, who is fifth or sixth on the list. I see what Governor Jim Justice meant when he used the campaign slogan “tired of being 50th.” That’s pretty close to where he stands in terms of his worth.

Never blessed with great recruits, he takes what he gets and molds them into a team. He makes individual stars out of players others passed over. He is a fierce competitor who always has a trump card in his hand. West Virginia basketball puts fear in many a team because they don’t like to face this man. He’s the mountain state gladiator. Watch out NCAA foes here we come. We may not win it all, but we won’t back down from anyone not as long as Bob Huggins is at the helm.

While I’m talking about coaches, I want to thank coach Bob Jones of Tyler Consolidated for his professionalism during a difficult season. Coach Jones is a true gentleman who always takes the time to talk with you and is willing to listen to advice from others. He truly knows the game of basketball. This being his first year as a head coach at the High School level, I hope he comes back for another. The Knights had ups and downs this year, but not once did I see them quit. Their loss in the sectionals to Ritchie County on Friday was a disappointing finish to their year, but the boys can hang their heads high knowing they gave it all they had. Good luck to the Silver Knights as spring sports start soon. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com.