The road to Springfield, Massachusetts, is long. But for Bob Huggins, Saturday marked off one of the final boxes he wants to check in his storied career.
On Saturday night, Bob Huggins’ name was officially enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Huggins joined 12 other members in the Class of 2022 and the day which was long overdue has now arrived for the 68-year-old head coach.
41 years ago, Bob Huggins took his first head coaching job at Walsh College. At that game he could count the total number of people who were in attendance — 17.
41 years later, Huggins has taken two teams to the Final Four, won over 900 games, and now his name will be forever recognized with some of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.
“I went to Walsh College and they hadn’t won maybe ever. A year or two later we win 34 games and play for the national championship. To me that’s a lot more rewarding than maybe trying to coach guys who don’t want to get coached,” Huggins said of his time at Walsh.
Following his time at Walsh, Huggins went to Akron to become the head coach there. From 1984-1989 Huggins coached at Akron, before deciding to move on to another head coaching job in the state of Ohio — Cincinnati.
The state of Ohio is where Huggins’ roots are. Although he was born in Morgantown, Huggins moved to Ohio when he was nine years old, chasing his father Charlie Huggins’ coaching opportunities.
During his time in Ohio, Charlie Huggins would win three small-school state championships, along with a 398-74 record during his time as a head coach.
“We moved to Midvale, Ohio, when I was nine years old. It offered my job a full-time teaching opportunity and a coaching opportunity,” Huggins said.
Growing up in Midvale, Huggins learned one of the better lessons he has ever learned, not to look back.
“Midvale, Ohio, a town of 500 people. I got in the truck with this guy one day and I looked and he didn’t have a rearview mirror. I said, ‘you don’t have a rearview mirror’. He said, ‘we ain’t going backwards boy.’ When I listened to the radio and see if we were going to have school, they’d say Midvale mine number nine will work. It was never they won’t work,” Huggins said.
Huggins said that lifestyle that he took on while living in Ohio is exactly what he lives by today.
“That’s how I’ve lived my life. Not looking back and hard work,” Huggins said.
From his childhood on, Huggins was supposed to end up as an Ohio legend, not a West Virginia one. Huggins originally was set to play collegiate basketball at Ohio University. A coaching change then brought Huggins to where he was born — Morgantown, West Virginia.
“Due to a change in coaching after my freshman season, I transferred to West Virginia University,” Huggins said of his early days in his collegiate career.
Following his time at WVU, Huggins went to a tryout for the Philadelphia 76ers. At that tryout he knew there was likely going to be no future in the NBA for him.
“Getting cut by the 76ers, I had a real good idea I wasn’t going to make it with the team that they had,” Huggins said.
Following getting cut, Huggins returned to West Virginia University, to take up a graduate assistant position on Joedy Gardener’s staff. From there, Huggins realized coaching was for him, taking the first head coaching opportunity which came his way.
“The first school to ask me to be a head coach was Walsh College, so I went to Walsh,” Huggins said. “I just wanted to be a head coach.”
When Huggins eventually found himself as the head coach at Cincinnati, he quickly began to impress. When Huggins arrived in 1989, the Bearcats had not made the NCAA Tournament since 1977. By 1992, Huggins took Cincinnati to the Final Four. During his 16 seasons at Cincinnati, Huggins recorded 399 of his 916 career wins.
Huggins would leave Cincinnati and go to Kansas State, before he had the opportunity to truly return home.
“When the job opened at West Virginia, I wanted to come home and I’ve been there for the last 15 years. Some of the greatest times of my life have been here and this has been a dream for me to coach here at my alma mater,” Huggins said.
Since 2007, Huggins has been in the place he calls home. He has accumulated 316 victories, gone to the Final Four, gone to the Sweet Sixteen five times, and is the fourth-winningest coach in Division I men’s college basketball history.
It is safe to say Huggins has checked numerous boxes during his coaching career. Whether it be wins, tournament appearances, or players to the NBA, Huggins has done it all.
The only box that remains unchecked though is winning a national championship. Huggins has come close multiple times, but has never been the final man standing on the top of the mountain. That goal and that desire is what is pushing Huggins forward.
“My goal when I came back here was to win a national championship. Win a national championship for the state,” Huggins said.
Huggins said Jerrod Calhoun came up with the idea to win a national championship and go to every corner of the state of West Virginia on a bus and let the people see the national championship trophy.
“We haven’t done that yet. And I’d think it’d be the neatest thing in the world,” Huggins said.
As for the here and now, Huggins is officially recognized as one of basketball’s greats. He has a lot of people to thank, but to him the people who got him here were his family, his friends, and his players.
“The three most important people in my life are my wife June, and my daughters Jenna and Jackie. Since I started coaching basketball, I’ve been a hard worker and I’ve spent a lot of time away from home with coaching and recruiting. They’re the definition of a coach’s family and I appreciate their support,” Huggins said.
“To all the guys I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. To my assistant coaches, support staff throughout my career and to my teammates, I thank each and every one of you,” Huggins said.
As Huggins’ name now enters the walls of basketballs biggest history book, he is thankful to be here, knowing he has been blessed to get to this moment.
“I’m forever grateful to be enshrined with the basketball legends in this hall of fame. I am truly blessed and extremely humbled to be joining you,” Huggins said.