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Bob Huggins remembers life of longtime mentor Chuck Machock

It’s difficult to picture Bob Huggins doing anything other than coaching basketball. And at this stage in his career, it’s impossible to envision him doing it anywhere but West Virginia.

Over the weekend, the basketball world lost the figure who played an oversized role in making both of those things happen.

Chuck Machock, who as a WVU assistant recruited Huggins to play for the Mountaineers in the 1970s, died on Saturday at the age of 82. And for more than half of that long lifetime, Machock was an influential part of Huggins’ life.

“The guy has been almost a father to me,” Huggins said. “I’ve got a great father. But from a basketball standpoint, from a professional standpoint, he’s been my guy. He’s been the guy I ask for advice. He’s been the guy I go to when I need some help figuring some things out. We’ve been very, very close.”

It was Machock who recruited Huggins to come to West Virginia as a player after Huggins spent his freshman year at Ohio University. Though Machock promptly left for a job at Ball State, the seeds of the lifelong relationship were planted — both with Machock and WVU.

Huggins believes it was Machock who got him a graduate assistant job at Ohio State in 1978. At the time, he was unemployed after the entire West Virginia staff was let go following his first season as a grad assistant — a potential dead-end for his career before it even started.

“I think I was hired at Ohio State in a large degree because of Chuck’s reference,” Huggins said.

After Huggins coached three years at NAIA Walsh University, Machock offered him a gig as his assistant at Central Florida, which was transitioning from Division II to Division I.

“Chuck’s the only person in the world who could have talked me into going to Central Florida at that time,” Huggins said. “I’m thinking I’m stepping back from being a head coach to being an assistant at a D-II school. I did it for a year and it turned out great. I got the Akron job.”

When Huggins was hired by Cincinnati in 1989 after his successful run at Akron, he returned the favor and added Machock, a former Bearcats player, to his staff. It paid off.

“He really helped us get to the Final Four,” Huggins said. “He really helped with the bigs. The guys loved Chuck.”

Huggins’ next sentence provided a window into his own coaching style and the unquestioned influence Machock had on it.

“Chuck’s got a great way of being really hard on ya, but you love him,” Huggins said. “Everybody who’s been around the guy loves the guy.”

The kinship continued when Machock retired from coaching to become the Bearcats’ radio analyst. In what may have been a first — and only — in NCAA tournament history, Machock was ejected from a game shortly after Huggins in 2003. Perhaps no greater illumination exists for both the loyalty Huggins instills and that which Machock showed.

Huggins’ favorite memories of Machock aren’t basketball-related, though. Huggins was able to fit a final visit in with Machock while on the recruiting trail, and as was so often the case it was over a meal.

“Chuck’s always got the best place,” Huggins said. “Even if he hadn’t been there before. That was his thing. He was always going to be the guy that had the best place to eat in whatever town. Even though sometimes he didn’t have a clue.”

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