Some people call it a backhanded compliment, I don't know if I want to go that far. Saying that would be going easy on Rick Reilly's latest article on Bob Huggins and Joe Mazzulla. When you go through every reason you don't like someone and then point out that someone does like him for reasons you can't fathom, that just implies that the WVU basketball team is stupid for feeling that way. It goes something like this...
I don't like Bob Huggins. Don't like his zero-point-zero graduation rates. Don't like his three-hour practices. Don't like the Vegas sweatsuit top. The artless, sledgehammer style of his teams that sucks all the air out of the gym. Not to mention the joy. Still, Huggins is brutally effective, kind of like a Russian gulag, only with slightly less charm. If his West Virginia Mountaineers win this Final Four, I'd hate to be a CBS tape editor. There may not be One Shining Moment.
Don't get him. Don't admire him. Don't understand his nickname -- Huggy Bear. The man is about as huggy as an ulcerous porcupine. It's like calling Dick Cheney "Smiley."
But I do get that a whole lot of people love him and one of them, Joe Mazzulla, has a story that makes me wonder if I'm wrong.
I'm not here to defend Huggins, actually. I don't feel like I need to. But I'll tell you why I like him. The honest truth is that I was quite pissed with the way WVU let Beilein go without so much as a fight. The man that took over a program that was lower than whale crap and turned it into a very respectable program in a short period of time. To say that I was happy that Huggins was coming to West Virginia would be completely wrong.
He's won me over, though. First, he wanted to come here. After the mess with Rich Rodriguez, you can't put a price on something like that. To be sure, the WVU roster was not full of Huggins type guys. But unlike a lot of coaches, he changed his style to fit the team he had and he was successful. Something Rodriguez hasn't figured out yet. Along the way, he got Joe Alexander drafted in the first round.
I use Joe Alexander as an example because he's someone most basketball fans should know. But I think you could go up and down the roster of the guys from the Beilein era and point out something he did for each. Alex Ruoff went from a three point shooter only to the best defender on the team.
You can see Huggins footprint when you walk into the Coliseum with all the updates. You can see it in the new practice facility that's being built. The point is, he gets things done. I'm sure if you told him every kid on his team that doesn't leave early needs to graduate, he'd make it happen. You and I don't know what was expected of him by the Cincinnati administration. They have as much to answer for as anyone for graduation rates.
There's a place where this article should have ended, but unfortunately Rick kept going.
West Virginians and Bob Huggins are the perfect fit. They're both gritty and loyal and not particularly interested in what people think of them. Do you realize that they pipe the play-by-play of West Virginia games down into the coal mines now?
Otherwise, according to the state's governor, too many workers try to get out of working their shifts. Come to think of it, Huggins would've made a good mine worker. He's hard-working, a little dirty, and happiest in places where the light doesn't shine too brightly.
I get why some people love Huggy Bear, but I'm just never going to be one of them.
And when they put him in the Hall of Fame, I think I'm going to hurl.
Well thank God you don't have a vote. Let's also be thankful you don't come from a state where you have to work for everything you get. A state that is raped for its coal that powers this country. Otherwise, you wouldn't have anyone to look down your nose at.