SAN JOSE, Calif. — Bob Huggins and Mark Few, coaching icons from different sides of the continent and different ends of the extrovert scale, became friends more than a decade ago through clinics.
They took turns praising and prodding one another Wednesday in advance of West Virginia’s Sweet 16 game against Gonzaga.
“Fewy? He’s actually fun to be with,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t look like that, but he’s actually a lot of fun to be with.”
Few complimented Huggins for being “real” both in public and private situations. The lone exception might be Huggins’ alleged affinity for fishing.
“He knows I like to fish,” Few said. “He theoretically, supposedly likes to fish. I’ve never seen it or seen any pictures or anything. But he talks about it. I think he goes up to the lake and kind of does other things, sitting in the boat.
“He talks a lot about it (but) I have witnesses. My wife can show you my calendar. Pictures. I don’t get any of that from him. I think he sits in the boat a lot. I’m just not sure — I think we all know what’s going on.”
That crucial beard sidebar
At the interview podium, WVU guard Tarik Phillip ducked his head to cover a giggle when Nathan Adrian was asked how his beard compared to Przemek Karnowski’s.
“His is better than mine and I’ll never be able to grow one like that,” Adrian said.
Then the reporter asked a follow-up question regarding which Mountaineers would fare best in a beard competition.
“I have no idea,” Adrian said. “But I don’t think we think about that too much.”
Huggins recalls 2003 NCAA ejection
Ever the storyteller, Huggins recalled Cincinnati’s brief stay at the 2003 NCAA tourney, which culminated in a first-round loss to Gonzaga and Huggins’ ejection with 16:17 left in the game.
“Go and sit in one of those locker rooms for a half and see how you like it,” he said. “They don’t put a TV in there. Nothing. I mean, our orthopedic surgeon was coming in and telling me what the score was. And then the NCAA people came in and said you can’t do that because I was sending messages back out.
“But the biggest thing — and cell reception in there was awful, just horrible — I wanted to call my mother and apologize for getting thrown out and embarrassing her. She said I can’t believe you lasted as long as you did, the way they were calling things.”
Sweet 16 trappings
More than the loser-go-home pressure, West Virginia assistant Erik Martin said players will cherish their NCAA tournament experience.
“They’re not in school, They’re not in class, they’re just traveling with their teammates and bonding in a hotel,” he said. “They’re getting food, they’re getting per diem. You’re living the life.”
Because San Jose is designated by the NCAA as a high-cost exception, players receive $305 per diem instead of the typical $205.
Though Elijah Macon said the per diem is nice — “Who doesn’t like free money?” — the team’s resident Zen meditator found a deeper benefit.
“It’s a business trip, but I’ve never been to San Jose before, so it’s another chance to see some place that God created.”
Senior center Brandon Watkins sported a fresh haircut for the California trip and explained: “I’m trying to get myself a model wife.”
Polish trash talk?
West Virginia freshman Maciej Bender grew up in Warsaw, Poland, about three hours from Przemek Karnowski’s hometown of Bydgoszcz.
While the 7-foot-1 Karnowski is a senior crucial to the Zags’ rotation, Bender plays scarce minutes as a freshman. He has shared some Polish trash-talking terms with teammates, however.
“You know, Maciej has taught us some words but I can’t remember them,” said WVU forward Lamont West. “I’ve got to ask him again.”