MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

The Friday night DUI arrest in Pittsburgh that pretty much sealed the resignation and eventual retirement of Bob Huggins as West Virginia University men’s basketball coach is the sad end of a sorry episode.

One of the game’s greatest coaches engaged in a variety of acts which stained his university, his players as well as his own legacy, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts.

In the event that you have been away from the planet, Huggins was stopped by Pittsburgh police Friday night because of a shredded and flat tire on the university-owned vehicle he was driving. When he was unable to safely move the vehicle out of harm’s way, he was tested by police and eventually charged with driving under the influence, as he was unsure of the city or the state he was in according to the incident report. He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.21, over twice the legal limit of 0.08.

It was not the first DUI for Huggins, who was the winningest active coach in the country until Saturday, as the one he received at Cincinnati led to the conclusion of his stay there.

This one came just a little over a month since he had gone on a Cincinnati radio talk show and used homophobic and anti-Catholic slurs which led to his being suspended for three games and his contract rewritten, with his taking a million-dollar pay hit.

West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Wren Baker and a faction of the Board of Governors had enough of Huggins last month, but Gee and Baker relented and tried to give the Morgantown native and WVU graduate one more chance. Sadly, he just wouldn’t take it.

As part of the contract amendment following the fiasco in May, WVU made Huggins’ contract year-to-year, and Huggins, who turns 70 in September, proceeded to hit it out of the park in recruiting the transfer portal, with WVU having been regarded to have made one of the top hauls in the country. It seemed as though it was going to be the last great run of a Hall of Fame career. But, after Friday, here we are.

There are no high school recruits in the incoming class of newcomers, only transfers, so it would seemingly be the priority to keep those players happy and in Morgantown, even though they likely came to WVU to play for Huggins (and the money; don’t forget the NIL money) and now have 30 days to transfer to yet another school if that is what they so desire.

West Virginia says it will conduct a national search for its next men’s basketball coach, including internally, and that it wishes for its next hire to be the permanent head coach, though that will not be easy at this stage of the calendar year.

The sense of adventure and the band of brothers in all of us teases us for WVU to hire an interim head coach from within, someone who helped recruit the current group of talented players, so they can try to make what was intended to be this great run come together.

Keeping this transfer class would be great, but it should have no bearing on hiring the next head coach. West Virginia should do its best to hire the best coach possible and start building again, long-term — though Jesse Edwards, the center who transferred in from Syracuse, is a keeper

As for Huggins, just as the rest of us are, he is flawed and, like the rest of us, he has made mistakes along the way. It is understood by all of us, though, that he is one great basketball coach who held his players accountable. He always put his players and his assistant coaches first and he did a lot of great things for a lot of people.

The only word for how this has ended is sad, because it is likely to overshadow all he has done for people. He gave a lot of people second chances — our friend, the late Billy Hahn coming immediately to mind. Hahn was a victim of horrible circumstances, yet Huggins is the only head coach who would, or who was allowed to, hire him to his staff. He did, and the Mountaineers went to the Final Four.

Huggins has done a lot of stupid things in the past six weeks, but he’s also taken care of a lot of people over a long period of time. With that in mind, the hope has long been that one day he would also learn to take care of himself. Let’s hope that day has finally come.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT