Bob Huggins’ journey to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame concludes Saturday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Five months after receiving the call from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Bob Huggins will officially take his place among the greats of the game on Saturday. The two-day enshrinement weekend features events at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and at the Hall of Fame site in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In a career with 916 wins in 40 seasons, Huggins says the company he has kept paved the path for his success.

“I have been blessed, man. I have been blessed to be places and be around people who had a great grasp on our business,” Huggins said.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and guard Jevon Carter (2) talk after winning the Advocare Invitational against the Missouri Tigers at HP Field House. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Huggins was a three-year letterman at WVU from 1974-1977. After being unable to catch on as a player with the Philadelphia 76ers, his coaching career began as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. Joedy Gardner gave Huggins his start.

“Getting cut with the Sixers, I had a real good idea I wasn’t going to make it anyways. The team that they had, I didn’t deserve to be there. I was very fortunate to be there. It was a great learning experience for me. When I came back, Coach Gardner was very good to me.”

In the middle of his highly-successful tenure at Cincinnati, NBA teams came calling on multiple occasions. But Huggins says his desire to develop players trumped the daily grind of the hectic NBA game schedule.

“I think relationships — I really thought I could make a much greater impact at the college level than I could in the NBA. I had great opportunities for way, way, way more money than what I was making or probably what I ever hoped to make. But it is not the same. I can walk out of practice and feel like we got something done today and they got better today. I am not so sure that happens a whole lot in the NBA. The schedule has a lot to do with that.”

Bob Huggins talks with former North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams prior to the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at WVU Coliseum. (Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

Huggins says a key ingredient to longevity in a coaching environment that is constantly changing is authenticity.

“Everybody has to coach their own personality. I think guys get in trouble when they try to be something they are not. I talked to these other guys that are Hall of Famers and I think the thing that pops in my head is they are real. They don’t try to be something they are not. What they are is obviously very, very good.”

Leading up to the weekend ceremonies, Huggins says his phone has been busy with messages of congratulations as he joins the ultimate basketball fraternity.

“Roy Williams calls. Roy and I are throwing barbs at each other. Bill Self called this morning. Obviously, Bill has been in the Hall of Fame for a while. I guess the word people use is that it is the coaching fraternity. I think it really is. When I was at Walsh College or probably when I was at the University of Akron, I didn’t feel I was in that clique. I was still one of those guys there, patted on the head saying, ‘Your day will come here soon boy’. I couldn’t wait to go beat those people that were patting me on the head.”

When someone is inducted any Hall of Fame, chances to pad their playing or coaching resume have usually closed. That is not the case for Huggins as he enters his 16th season leading the Mountaineers this winter. He does so with unfinished business.

“My goal when I came back here was to win a national championship and win a national championship for this state. [Former WVU assistant coach] Jerrod Calhoun came up with the idea, ‘Why don’t we do this Huggs? Why don’t we win a national championship. Let’s get a bus and let’s put the national championship trophy on a bus and let’s just go from town to town and let people touch it. Let the people come out and be proud of their team, their state, their university’. We haven’t done that yet.”

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