ShareThis Page

Huggins, Everhart share West Virginia roots

| Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

Just the mention of days past, when he was growing up in Fairmont, W.Va., brought a faint smile to Duquesne coach Ron Everhart's face as he nudged forward in a chair in his office and began to ponder sweet memories of watching his favorite team.

Oh, how those thoughts of a childhood spent rooting for West Virginia live on. As Everhart put it, WVU was "kind of like a pro team" to fans in the state.

His mind retreated to a day at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va., where he first met Bob Huggins, then a junior guard for the Mountaineers.

"Hugs," recalled Everhart, fondly, of West Virginia's current coach. "He's a really good friend. He's influenced me as a kid and as a coach in a very positive way."

Tonight, Everhart again sets foot on the same WVU Coliseum surface where he had found himself shooting around as a kid, as his Dukes visit Huggins' sixth-ranked WVU Mountaineers in the 85th meeting between the schools.

"I grew up watching West Virginia," Everhart said. "Hugs is a part of that. He was born in Morgantown. He was a part of the (defunct) Eastern 8, when West Virginia would play Pitt and Duquesne. A lot of my relatives and friends went to school there. He was the face of West Virginia basketball at the time."

It was on a certain day in 1976 that Everhart, then a high school freshman, and some buddies from home had attended a West Virginia game. Afterward, they found themselves stranded without a ride, so they continued their postgame shootaround in the empty and cavernous Coliseum.

In walked two WVU players, Everhart said, referring to Huggins and "Wonderful" Warren Baker.

"We stuck around and watched those guys shoot," Everhart said. "I remember rebounding for them. They had no idea who we were."

Finally, Everhart reminisced, Huggins asked him what he was going to do.

"He said, 'You can come and stay at my dorm if you need to,'" Everhart said. "That's the kind of guy he was. That's the kind of guy he still is."

A friendship was born. A bond was made.

Huggins' name perhaps reflects a side of the otherwise volatile coach with which many people may not know. Instead, the majority of fans are likely to link Huggins to highly publicized stories in his life.

There was his controversial dismissal at Cincinnati in 2005, stemming from a DUI charge. There was the heart attack he suffered in 2002 at Pittsburgh International Airport.

"A lot of people lose sight of the fact he's overcome a lot of adversity," Everhart said. "He'd spent quite a while with his mom, by her side, while she was going through a battle with cancer. That heart attack he had• He actually died and came back.

"Yet what you respect about him the most is it hasn't slowed him down one bit. There are a lot of men out there that ... wouldn't have come back with the tenacity that he's shown."

Everhart called Huggins "a great human being, a big-hearted guy (and) a lock for the College Basketball Hall of Fame."

Only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun have garnered more wins among active NCAA Division I coaches.

Duquesne guard Jason Duty, who attended Vincentian Academy, understands Everhart's allegiance towards Huggins.

"You have to admire coach Huggins' approach. He really recruits tough, athletic players, and he gets the most out of them," Duty said. "Coach Everhart often refers to him.

"One time, when I was in his office, coach Huggins called. That was enough for me. I knew I wasn't going to be able to stay. They kept talking. I just left."

Huggins, whose family moved to Gnadenhutten, Ohio, played basketball for his father, Charles, at Indian Valley South High School. As a senior, Huggins led the team to a 26-0 record.

Huggins, 56, attended Ohio before transferring to West Virginia. His respect for Everhart is mutual.

"Ronnie has done an unbelievable job (at Duquesne)," Huggins said. "When you look at the fact that they won three games the year before he got there ... what he's done has been remarkable, particularly with the situations he's had to encounter."

Additional Information:

Game info

Duquesne (6-2) at No. 6 West Virginia (5-0)

7 p.m. today · WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W.Va.

TV/radio: FSN/KQV-AM (1410), WVAQ-FM (101.9), Mountaineer Sports Network

Favorite: West Virginia by 16

Series record: West Virginia leads, 48-36

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.