Huggins Leaving K-State For West Virginia

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 6:15 pm
By: News On 6

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Bob Huggins is going home to West Virginia.

After one season at Kansas State, Huggins resigned Thursday to become the men's basketball coach at West Virginia.

Although the Wildcats appreciate what Huggins accomplished in that single season, they clearly weren't happy with his decision to bolt so soon.

"I asked him, 'Bob, do you think leaving now is the right thing to do?' And he said, 'No,"' athletic director Tim Weiser said at a news conference. "Then I said, 'How many times in your life have you known what the right thing is to do and not done it?' And he said, 'Never."'

Though Huggins had turned down West Virginia once before in 2002, he couldn't refuse his alma mater again.

So Thursday, Huggins was on a plane from Manhattan to West Virginia. He replaces John Beilein, who left the Mountaineers to take the Michigan job Tuesday.

"You should know that we moved heaven and earth to keep Bob Huggins here," school president Jon Wefald said. "Tim in effect said, 'You tell us what your salary should be. Whatever West Virginia is offering, we will match it and then some. Same for the assistant coaches."'

Huggins' decision to leave stunned Kansas State officials.

"Maybe a heavyweight championship fight would be a good metaphor," Wefald said. "We feel like we are heavyweight contenders here at K-State. It is kind of like we are in the ring and we are doing very well. Then we get hit with a right cross and knocked out.

"That is the way I feel right now," he said. "We got knocked out -- not knocked down, but knocked out."

Huggins told Weiser and Wefald of his decision Wednesday night, after returning from Cincinnati.

Before arriving at Kansas State, Huggins coached for 16 seasons at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments and one Final Four. He stayed on despite a massive heart attack in 2003 -- missing only two weeks before returning to the team -- but couldn't overcome other issues.

His arrest and conviction for drunken driving in 2004 upset president Nancy Zimpher, and he was forced to resign over issues that included players' arrests, suspensions and low graduation rates.

Huggins was out of coaching for a year before he was hired at Kansas State. Had the school known he would be gone again so soon, Wefald said, he wouldn't have been the Wildcats' coach at all.

"If Bob had indicated to us about a year ago this time that he needed something in his contract about his alma mater, then we would have gone on," Wefald said. "We would have looked at somebody else."

Huggins' move wasn't the only big news in college basketball Thursday. Earlier, coach Billy Donovan said he was staying at Florida, but four of his star players -- Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah -- were leaving early for the NBA.

Huggins was born in Morgantown, W.Va., although he grew up in Ohio. He played his last two college seasons for the Mountaineers and holds bachelor's and master's degrees from West Virginia, where he was a graduate assistant for the 1977-78 season.

Huggins' contract requires him to pay Kansas State $100,000 for leaving early.

Given that Beilein's paying a lot of money to leave West Virginia, Weiser said he anticipated criticism for not including a similarly hefty penalty in Huggins' contract.

"I'm sitting here and looking at a $2.5 million buyout that John Beilein had," Weiser said. "Boy, that did a lot of good, didn't it?"

Weiser also said he would not consider granting releases to Huggins' recruiting class -- considered one of the nation's best with 6’9 Michael Beasley -- until a new coach has been hired.

Kansas State went 23-12 this season, two wins shy of the school single-season record for victories. The Wildcats were 10-6 in the Big 12, their best finish since the conference formed in 1996. Still, they did not make the NCAA tournament, settling instead for a NIT bid.