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Huggins turns down WVU

Paul Schofield
| Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Bob Huggins isn't coming home, after all.

After days of speculation, the University of Cincinnati basketball coach decided Monday against accepting an offer to become the next coach at West Virginia. Huggins, 48, turned down a lucrative offer at his alma mater to replace long-time coach Gale Catlett, who resigned Feb. 14.

"After careful deliberation, I have determined that we still have much to do here at the University of Cincinnati," said Huggins, who had a series of meetings with Cincinnati athletic director Bob Goin the latest having been yesterday afternoon. "Consideration of my family, my players, the visible support received from the community and my working conditions at the university have played a major role in my decision."

Huggins met with West Virginia president David C. Hardesty Jr. and athletic director Ed Pastilong on Sunday in Cincinnati to discuss a proposed contract worth a reported $1.3 million. Huggins also received a new proposal from Cincinnati and then spent yesterday mulling over the decision.

"Obviously, we were disappointed in coach Huggins' decision," Hardesty said. "We want to thank Cincinnati officials for allowing us to speak with him.

"The search for a new men's basketball coach will continue, and we are confident we can find a person with the qualities necessary to lead a successful program at West Virginia."

West Virginia will turn its attentions to other candidates who were all ready interviewed by Pastilong. One of the candidates, Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey who apparently was West Virginia's second choice, took himself out of the race when he took the South Alabama job late last week.

The other potential replacements for Catlett are Georgetown assistant Ronny Thompson and Notre Dame assistant Doug Wojcik.

Huggins told Hardesty that he did not want to harm West Virginia's search efforts by prolonging his decision. He also pledged to help West Virginia in any way possible as the search continues.

"There are many to be commended for their help in trying to bring Coach Huggins to West Virginia," Hardesty said. "We hope that commitment continues as we pursue other avenues."

Cincinnati, which finished 31-4 this year, was a second-round loser in the NCAA Tournament when the Bearcats were upset by UCLA 105-101 in double overtime at Mellon Arena on March 17.

Huggins turned Cincinnati into a perennial Top 25 program. The Bearcats won or shared the Conference USA regular-season title in each of the league's seven years. Huggins is 500-172 in 21 seasons as a head coach, including the last 13 at Cincinnati.

"I have a tremendous feeling toward West Virginia and what they did for me, the opportunities they gave me. It's a heck of a place," Huggins said.

West Virginia was trying to lure the 1977 graduate in an effort to revive a program that finished last in the Big East Conference this season. Huggins was born Sept. 21, 1953 in Morgantown, W.Va., where the West Virginia campus is located.

Huggins played for the Mountaineers from 1975-77, and he began his coaching career there as a graduate assistant.

He spent two years as an assistant at Ohio State, then became coach at Walsh (Ohio) in 1980 where in three seasons he compiled a 71-26 record. In 1983, he became an assistant at Central Florida, and in 1985, Huggins returned to Ohio to become the coach at Akron, where he posted a 97-46 mark in five seasons. Then it was off to Cincinnati.

West Virginia set school records for losses in two of the past four seasons and has had discipline problems under Catlett. The Mountaineers were 8-20 this season, including a 1-15 record and a last-place finish in the Big East.

Catlett resigned last month after 30 years as coach. He posted a 565-320 record at West Virginia.

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