Huggins, Everhart share West Virginia roots
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:
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