Other news broke
by Jim Buzzerd
Two weeks ago, I decided to take some time away from this column primarily because of my disillusion of college athletics with the advent of NIL and the transfer portal. Those two rule changes have essentially turned college athletics into professional sports. Schools can actively go find good or great players and pay them to play for them. I indicated that if anything worth talking about broke I would drop in here to mention it. Well, the resignation of former West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins following a DUI arrest in Pittsburgh last Friday night will qualify as breaking news.
According to a criminal complaint, Huggins’ black SUV was seen around 8:30 p.m. Friday on Merchant Street off of Ridge Avenue in the middle of the road blocking traffic. Police said the driver’s side door was open and the vehicle had a flat and shredded tire.
Officer accounts stated Huggins was unable to provide an accurate location of where he was and said that he’d been watching basketball at a camp earlier that day with his brother in Sherrodsville, Ohio — 80 miles from Pittsburgh. Huggins displayed “every marker for impairment” and was nearly unable to perform a walk and turn test, while empty beer cans were visible in a white garbage bag in the front of his vehicle and empty metal beer bottles were seen in another white garbage bag in the trunk.
Huggins blew a .210 on a breathalyzer after being taken into custody — more than two times the legal limit of Pennsylvania’s .08 blood alcohol content level.
Six weeks earlier Huggins’ job was on the line following a homophobic slur he said on a Cincinnati radio show. He survived that, but one had to assume he was now on a much shorter leash. As the DUI news spread on Saturday morning the conclusion seemed obvious; that Huggins had coached his last game for the Mountaineers. What remained was to determine if he would be fired or allowed to retire. It did seem odd that the formal announcement came after 9 p.m. on Saturday. Many wondered why it took that long.
He resigned with a written statement, which seems appropriate for the Hall of Fame coach despite his reckless behavior. No one can deny all the good Huggins has done for the WVU community raising money for cancer research, the basketball practice facility and other endeavors.
It is really a sad time for WVU fans, but it’s time to move on. The biggest question now is who is the next hire? Putting on my hypocrisy hat, it would seem important to retain one of the highest rated portal classes of the season. Huggins and staff knocked the NIL and portal players out of the park. The class was rated the best in the country by many. Yeah, I’m not a fan of it, but it’s how the game is played now, so if my school is doing it, they may as well do it the best.
As of Monday evening, several names have surfaced to replace Huggins. A number of players may leave if the hire isn’t to their liking. Based on what has been leaked from a Zoom meeting Monday afternoon between current players and former Mountaineers Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla and Cavs GM Mike Gansey where Mazzulla and Gansey were urging the team to stay together, one name surfaced that may accomplish that.
The players seem to want Josh Eilert and Jay Kuntz to remain on staff. There didn’t appear to be any demands for Eilert to be an interim coach, but he is wanted to by the players to stay. Of the names being discussed as the new head coach, UAB’s Andy Kennedy seemed to have the player’s support. Kennedy is a longtime friend of Huggins, and the current staff and players are familiar with him.
New athletic director Wren Baker, who has now had to replace a women’s coach and now a men’s coach in seven months on the job, has met with the team and the team let him know they would like to know soon. Baker plans to comply with that. Baker’s personal preference may not be Kennedy, but he may go that way to keep this roster intact. There’s a good chance a decision has been made by the time this is in print.