A proven success as a program builder, recruiter and game strategist who has won 639 games as a collegiate head coach, Bob Huggins has directed his alma mater to 49 victories and back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament during his first two seasons in Morgantown.
Huggins, a 1977 graduate of West Virginia University, was introduced as WVU’s 21st men’s basketball coach on Good Friday, April 6, 2007.
“I am so happy to have Bob Huggins back at West Virginia University,” said Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong at Huggins’ introductory press conference. “Bob’s record speaks for itself, and we are delighted to have him back at his alma mater.”
Huggins, 56, has compiled a 639-234 (.732) record in his 27 seasons as a head coach, which includes stints at Walsh College (1980-83), Akron (1984-1989), Cincinnati (1989-2005), Kansas State (2006-07) and West Virginia (2007-present). He ranks fourth in total victories and 12th in winning percentage among active Division I head coaches.
“I’m incredibly happy to be back at West Virginia,” said Huggins. “I just wanted to come home. I’ve known Ed Pastilong for a long time, and he does a wonderful job as athletic director. I’m so proud to represent this state and this wonderful University.”
Huggins’ teams have participated in postseason play in 24 of his 27 seasons, including 17 NCAA tournament appearances. His squads have won 20 or more games in all but four of his 27 campaigns, including 30 or more twice, and he has averaged 23.7 victories a season.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the announcement of Bob Huggins as WVU’s next basketball coach,” said former Mountaineer great Jerry West at the time of Huggins’ hiring. “He is a great coach and a great recruiter. We’re fortunate to have one of our own back to lead the program and WVU fans should be thrilled. There are good coaches and there are great coaches – Bob is one of the greats.”
In 2008-09, Huggins led the Mountaineers to 23 victories in his second season at WVU, advancing to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. Huggins became the second Mountaineer coach to win 20 games in his first two seasons in Morgantown. The Mountaineers reached the semifinals of the BIG EAST championship for the second year in a row. After the season, Huggins was named state coach of the year by the West Virginia State Sports Writers Association, his second-consecutive honor.
Individually, Da’Sean Butler was named to the all-BIG EAST second team, Devin Ebanks was tabbed to the all-BIG EAST rookie team and all-BIG EAST tournament team and Alex Ruoff was named honorable mention all-conference. Ruoff was named a first team Academic All-American by CoSIDA, the BIG EAST men’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and BIG EAST Sport Excellence award winner.
In his first season at West Virginia, Huggins took the Mountaineers to the NCAA Sweet 16, becoming the first Mountaineer coach to take a team that far in NCAA tournament play in his first season. With 26 victories, he won more games in his first year than any other coach in WVU history. West Virginia tied the school record for BIG EAST victories with 11. After finishing the season with a No. 17 ranking, Huggins was named state coach of the year by the West Virginia State Sportswriters Association.
Following Huggins’ first season at WVU, Pastilong announced that Huggins signed a 10-year contract extension that will keep the veteran coach at his alma mater until his 65th birthday.
Huggins also had his sixth first round NBA draft pick and fourth lottery pick when WVU’s Joe Alexander was selected as the eighth pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. Alexander’s first-round selection was WVU’s highest NBA pick since Ron Williams went in the first round of the 1968 NBA Draft.
Huggins has coached 15 NBA draft selections as well as nine All-Americans. He has also guided 51 all-conference selections in Division I, with Alexander earning first team all-BIG EAST honors in 2008 and Butler (second team) and Ruoff (honorable mention) in 2009.
Alexander was just one of four Huggins’ players to earn major awards in 2008. Ruoff was named a third-team Academic All-American by ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA, one of just 15 players named nationally and the only student-athlete from the a BIG EAST school. Darris Nichols earned the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award, while Ted Talkington was named the BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Ruoff also earned the BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award.
On Dec. 22, 2007, Huggins became the 29th Division I coach (minimum 10 years coaching in Division I) to reach 600 victories when the Mountaineers won at Canisius.
In 2006-07, Huggins led Kansas State to 23 victories, the Wildcats’ most wins in 19 years. Kansas State broke an eight-year postseason drought when Huggins led the Wildcats to the NIT second round. The Wildcats also collected 10 Big 12 wins for the first time since the league’s inception in 1997. Huggins earned USBWA District VI Coach of the Year honors as well as Big 12 Coach of the Year by the Kansas City Star.
Huggins elevated the Bearcat program to among the nation’s elite. He registered a 399-127 record (.759) during his tenure, making him the winningest coach in terms of victories and percentage in the school’s rich basketball history. The Bearcats advanced to postseason play in each of his 16 seasons, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament three times and in 1992, appearing in the Final Four. Huggins directed Cincinnati to 10 conference regular season titles and eight league tournament titles.
Huggins directed the Bearcats to successive finishes in the Final Four and Elite Eight. Over the ensuing seasons, he developed young and inexperienced squads with as many as three freshmen starters into squads that captured two more league titles and made another pair of NCAA appearances. Huggins surprised the basketball world in 1998 by directing a team that had only one returning starter to a 27-6 record, conference regular season and tournament titles, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and a Top 10 finish in the polls. Huggins’ 2002 team, unranked when the season began, posted a 31-4 record, setting a Cincinnati mark for victories.
Huggins has also directed star-studded teams, while developing the individual talents of players such as consensus All-Americans Danny Fortson, Kenyon Martin and Steve Logan, to a succession of conference championships and NCAA tournament runs.
Huggins has achieved similar success on the recruiting trails. He signed three No. 1-rated junior college players and five McDonald’s All-Americans to Cincinnati, while six of his last nine recruiting classes ranked among the nation’s Top 10. His 2007 recruiting class at Kansas State was ranked No. 1 in the country by several outlets, Rivals.com, Scout.com and Sports Illustrated. Huggins’ first West Virginia recruiting class earned a Top 10 ranking by several scouting services.
Huggins earned the Ray Meyer Award as the Conference USA Coach of the Year a record three times (1998, 1999 and 2000), and was a unanimous choice as the Conference USA Coach of the Decade. He was selected as national coach of the year by ESPN.com in 2002. He was named co-national coach of the year by The Sporting News in 2005 and was Basketball Times’ national coach of the year in 1998. He earned national coach of the year recognition from Hoop Scoop in 1992 and Playboy in 1993.
In 2002, Huggins suffered a major heart attack on the last Saturday of September but was present for the team’s first practice two weeks later and coached the Bearcats with the same intensity that has become his trademark. The 2003-04 season was business as usual for Huggins, who piloted the Bearcats to Conference USA regular season and tournament titles and an NCAA tourney berth while amassing a 25-7 record.
Huggins earned his first head coaching assignment at Walsh College (now University), an NAIA school in North Canton, Ohio, in 1980 at the age of 27. A program with just two winning seasons in the previous 17 years, Huggins transformed the Cavalier program into one of the best in the NAIA ranks in just three short seasons. He compiled a 71-26 record (.732) from 1980 to 1983, twice guiding the team to the postseason, including their first-ever NAIA national tournament appearance.
After coaching the team to 14 victories in his first season, Huggins helped produce a 23-9 record in his sophomore campaign and an NAIA district playoff appearance in 1981-82, which includes the school’s first Mid-Ohio championship. His final team finished the regular season with a 30-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking before winning four more games to qualify for the program’s first-ever NAIA national tournament. The Cavaliers lost in the national tournament to Salem College, 65-63, to end the nation’s longest winning streak of 34. Huggins was twice named NAIA District 22 Coach of the Year following the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
After a one-year stint as an assistant coach at Central Florida in 1983-84, Huggins accepted his first Division I head coaching position at Akron in 1984. He quickly resurrected another program that had fallen on difficult times, as he guided the Zips to a 97-46 (.678) overall record and to postseason play in three of his five seasons. The program posted 20 or more wins in a season on four occasions.
After a 12-14 mark in his first season, Huggins led Akron to its first NCAA tournament appearance and conference title at the Division I level in 1986 with a 22-8 record. Winners of the Ohio Valley conference regular season and tournament championship, the 15th-seeded Zips lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to fifth-seeded Michigan, 70-64. In guiding the team to its highest win total in 13 seasons, Huggins was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year. He continued his success with the first of three consecutive 21-win seasons in 1987 and an appearance in the first round of the NIT. Huggins capped his five-year tenure at Akron in 1989 by helping the Zips to their second trip to the NIT in 1989 with a 21-8 record.
While at Akron, Huggins coached Brian Roth, who earned All-America honors in 1985, while Eric McLaughlin earned Academic All-America honors in 1989. Three players earned first team all-conference honors during his tenure, including two-time selection and 1986 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Marcel Boyce. McLaughlin was also named tournament MVP during the Zips’ run to the Ohio Valley tournament championship in 1986.
After his playing career at West Virginia, Huggins began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at WVU for his college coach, Joedy Gardner, in 1977. He moved to Ohio State the following season to assist head coach Eldon Miller. During his two-year stint from 1978-80, Huggins helped the Buckeyes to a 40-20 (.667) record and a pair of postseason appearances, including the second round of the 1980 NCAA tournament.
Huggins was a three-year all-Ohio selection and the 1972 Ohio Player of the Year while playing for his father, Charles, at Indian Valley South High in Gnadenhutten, Ohio. He first attended Ohio University but transferred to West Virginia after his freshman season.
Huggins was a three-year letterman for the Mountaineers under Gardner from 1975-77. As a senior and tri-captain, he helped the squad to an 18-11 overall record and a tie for the Eastern Collegiate Basketball League (ECBL) Western division title. In addition to helping the team earn their highest win total in nine seasons, he was named most valuable player after pacing the squad with 3.8 assists per game average.
A two-time Academic All-American, Huggins graduated from West Virginia magna cum laude in 1977 and received his master’s in health administration from WVU in 1978.
Huggins was born in Morgantown on Sept. 21, 1953. He and his wife, June, have two daughters, Jenna Leigh and Jacqueline.