BUFFALO - If only the Big 12 media would ask Bob Huggins more questions about fishing!
Northeastern college basketball writers in town here in Buffalo were fishing for some copy from West Virginia’s veteran coach, and he ended up giving them about 15 minutes’ worth of zingers during his Wednesday afternoon news conference leading up to Thursday’s game against Bucknell.
At last weekend’s Big 12 Championship, the questions throughout the week strictly applied to basketball.
Sadly, they missed a lot.
Today’s presser began with an innocent question about Buffalo and Huggins’ thoughts about returning to the place where his Mountaineers made their run to the Final Four in 2010.
“We always want to go somewhere that has good weather,” he joked. “So, you know we were excited to hear you’re going to get 20 inches of snow. But I really like Buffalo. I actually came up here and went fishing. How about that? I bet no other coach here has been fishing.”
Two responses later came the follow up.
“So, simple question, Bob, where do you go fishing and how did you do?” ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil asked.
“Lake Erie,” he began, “and it was terrific. Great smallmouth fishing. You only have to go out half a mile, maybe if that. It was great. Then the other guys in the boat caught a bunch of walleye, so it was fun.”
“Somebody caught a sheepshead?”
“Yeah, we had a guy with us and that’s all he caught,” Huggins said.
The mood was light and playful. A New York Times reporter asked Huggins a complicated question about advanced analytics and how most of them have his West Virginia University basketball team rated much higher than conventional rankings.
“I think the more educated people generally go that way,” he deadpanned. “They think much higher of the Mountaineers than the normal people do.”
Another reporter asked Huggins about his on-court persona not matching his off-court persona.
“Well, you probably don’t want people bothering you when you’re writing a story,” he said. “I mean, people see me in the workplace. It’s like I told some guy one time, he screamed at me the whole game, you know, over the rail and I told him, ‘How would you like me to go to your place of work and scream and yell at you when you’re frying those French fries at McDonald’s? Would you want me screaming at you?’”
Then, Huggins was asked about Villanova coach Jay Wright, long considered one of the best dressers in the game.
The two coaches knew each other well from West Virginia’s days playing against Villanova in the Big East Conference. Wright’s top-seeded Wildcats are in Buffalo for tomorrow’s evening session.
“Well, you know, I keep telling him if I’d lose a little bit of weight, he’d be the second-best looking coach out there,” Huggins said. “But I think he’s a heck of a coach. We just had great games when we were both in the Big East. If you go back and look at the scores, there were numerous overtime games.
“And I thought that play he drew up when they scored the layup to beat Pitt (in the NCAA Tournament), it was kind like an old football play - kind of like the kickoff when everybody is lateralling it.”
One question about Wright’s choice of game-day attire led to another one about Huggins’ choice of game-day clothing, which now consists of dark slacks and a West Virginia pullover.
Huggins has worn pullovers for most of his coaching career at WVU, but it actually started when he was still coaching at Cincinnati.
“I used to wear a tie and I did the whole deal - tie, vest - the whole deal,” he said. “Probably if you look at pictures of me and Jay early, I was probably better looking back then; probably dressed better back then. I had been doing it longer; had more money.
“Now do you want to hear the whole story?” Huggins asked.
Bob Huggins visits with reporters today at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. All-Pro Photography Dale Sparks photo
“The whole story is this. I had a suit and tie on when I was at Cincinnati and I go in (to the locker room at halftime) and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to put something different on because I had sweat all of the way through my suit and vest.’ They were heavy.
“So, they brought me in a pullover and I put it on and coached the second half in a pullover. I was walking in and my AD said, ‘I just want to tell you you look really good in that pullover. That’s really what coaches should wear.’ I started wearing one, which was good until I got the new president, and the AD denied saying I looked good in a pullover. So, be careful who you trust - is the moral to that story.”
Concluding today’s fashion/fishing discussion was a question about his team learning a valuable lesson after last year’s loss to Stephen F. Austin in the NCAA Tournament.
Huggins said he only brings that game up when his team is having a bad practice. He said his players will admit he’s actually a fun coach to play for.
The moderator mentioned that his players did say he was fun to play for.
“They did?” Huggins said. “I’m sure they did. I’ve got about 175 assistant coaches out there that never worked for me to thank for that because they’re all of the time telling people you can’t play for him. He’s too hard on you, this and that.
“I thank those guys all the time, because then I get guys that kind of want to get coached. So those guys that think they’re killing us are really helping me.”
All of this, thanks to one reporter wanting to do a little fishing.