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One Bitter Basketball Fan

Story ID:1926
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:2007
Person:Bob Huggins
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One Bitter Basketball Fan’s Rant

Last week-end, basketball fans watched the Final Four NCAA championship games. Four teams narrowed to two until Florida triumphed to win the national title on Monday night. The rest of the week appeared to be a kind of a letdown for basketball fans in most parts of the country. The season was over, and it would be a long wait until that first game next fall.

Here in Manhattan, Kansas home of Kansas State University, we sat back and sighed, satisfied with the best basketball season we’d seen in many a year. Bob Huggins’ first year as K-State coach had been a good one. He inspired not only his players but the fans, too. Six sellout crowds, a finish in the top 4 of the Big 12 conference and a trip to the NIT. To put the icing on the cake, his recruiting class moved to the top of the list for all in the USA. We had much to look forward to.

And then the bottom dropped out. Coach Huggins was lured away by his alma mater in Morgantown, West Virginia—also his hometown. He dumped the school who had given him a second chance in his career. It was a career that had left him without a team to coach due to his personal conduct, his player’s poor graduation rate, and his recruiting players who appeared to have few values in life. Fired after a DUI incident, he sat out a year, and then K-State called. They made him a deal. He could get back into coaching, could build a stellar program at K-State, and spend the rest of his career here collecting the accolades. In return, he was to take a so-so program and turn it into a winner. The deal was signed, sealed and delivered, but it didn’t last.

What the man did in one year was nothing short of amazing. He took an average group of players and made them believe in themselves, turned them into winners. He whipped the fans into a frenzy of joy on more than one occasion. They filled the arena, wore shirts with the coach’s name on them, followed the team to other cities, shelled out hard-earned dollars to do all this. And then, in one selfish act, he abandoned players and fans and recruits he’d signed for next year.

What kind of message did he send to these young and impressionable college students?
Look out for number one. Go ahead and use anyone you can to get what you want. He used K-State as his steppingstone. He gave them a year of joy and great hope for the future of basketball at this university, then turned that sweet milk into sour.

I’m well aware that coaches make moves all the time. We’ve seen plenty of them here over the years. But this deal was different. Perhaps our Athletic Director and University president were a bit naïve, but they honestly thought Coach Huggins would turn the program into a winner and would stay for the remainder of his career.

My rant here only hits the highlights. As all know, there are many facets to every situation, and I don’t pretend to know them all. My biggest disappointment is for those young men on our team, young men we’d gotten to know by name, by sight, by knowing the style they played and more. One coach broke a lot of hearts this week.

But all is not lost. We finished the week with some good news. The top assistant coach who recruited the star class coming in has been named head coach. Let’s hope Frank Martin can finish what Bob Huggins started. As for Bob Huggins, I hope he finds whatever he felt West Virginia can give him that Kansas couldn't.