The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 3, 2010

Holding Huggs to a promise

MORGANTOWN — I find it highly hilarious that some national media hacks are harping on West Virginia coach Bob Huggins about his bench attire.

One guy went so far as to call Huggs’ look “Tony Soprano-like.” A fashion statement Huggs apparently is not making in New York and Chicago.

By now you know Huggs always dons the black pullover on the sideline.

That’s not news in Beckley. Former Woodrow coach Dave Barksdale and now Ron Kidd are big proponents of the pullover.

That’s not why I find this hilarious.

It’s because Huggs is always harping on my wardrobe.

Gotcha, big guy!

Whether it’s a pullover, a regular suit and tie preferred by coaches (a fashion statement I’ve never understood) or the garish gold suit he once wore (and swears he won’t again, thankfully), it doesn’t matter.

Huggs is huge and for good reason.

He has West Virginia (31-6) back in the Final Four for the first time in 51 years.

The 31 wins are a school record. The team has won 10 straight, including the school’s first Big East Tournament championship.

Everywhere you go, Huggs is the talk of the state.

From pre-teens to the elderly, Huggs is the man.

“Back in the ’50s and ’60s, everyone around here had John L. Lewis’ picture up in their house,” Shady Spring resident Jo Bennett said of the former president of the United Mine Workers of America. “He was right up there with God. If Huggins wins the national championship, his picture will be right up there with Jesus and John L. Lewis.”

She’s not far from being correct.

Huggs is the man not only because he is a winner. He is one of us. He is a man’s man. He knows how much fans care and he cares right back. It means something to the West Virginia native. It’s evident.

Like Monday, when he made an appearance on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”

He was talking about what would happen if WVU won the national championship.

He said they’d put the trophy on a tour bus and take it around the state, to “Jane Lew, to Smithers.”

Smithers?

In West Virginia?

Home of my high school, Valley Fayette.

Home of Burger Carte, where the Carte Wheel remains one of the nation’s all-time best sandwiches.

Home of Cavalier’s Market.

A place where Big Al’s Club was a local staple for years.

Naturally I had to thank the coach.

So Tuesday, I did.

“Most people don’t even know where Smithers is,” Huggins said.

But those of us who do appreciate the plug, Huggs.

“I can see it now,” Huggs said. “Hoppy Kerchival is on MetroNews talking about something important, like he usually does, and Tony (Caridi, the Mountaineers’ play-by-play announcer) cuts in and says, ‘OK, the bus is 20 miles from Smithers, everyone get down to the town square.’ Does Smithers have a square?”

I told him that Smithers did not have a square, but it did have Valley High School.

“That’ll work,” the coach said.

From Weirton to Welch, Martinsburg to Matewan and all points in between, indeed.

And if things go as expected, I’m holding Huggs to the promise.

I know Huggs is an avid reader, so I’ll make you this promise, coach. When the bus pulls up in Smithers, I will be there in a tuxedo. And just for fun, I’ll even have gel in my hair.

— E-mail: demorrison@

register-herald.com

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