Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Huggins Out

Dick Vitale said on Sportcenter that Bob Huggins has graduated 11 of his last 17 players. Really? Is this true? If so, that isn't unimpressive. In fact, I'm...I'm impressed!

I didn't know Huggy had it in him. Eleven of 17?

That sounds too good to be true, and I'm not about to pretend to comprehend exactly how graduation rates works. And I'm certainly not about to instantly dismiss the idea that perhaps Vitale is stone cold crazy and just made it up.

But 11 of 17? Damn! Cincinnati graduated anyone?!?!

I was always under the assumption that Huggin's graduation rates were always destined to be low anyway because of JUCO players not counting.

But 11 of 17 isn't bad, right?

We all know that Huggins doesn't usually land the picture perfect student/athlete. We all know the kids he recruits probably have more impressive rap sheets than grades. We all know his kids are often basketball or bust. Cincy isn't the Ivy League.

So what?

So Huggins gets persecuted by his bosses and in the media for giving kids a chance?

Huggins has a current player named Jihad Muhammad. Yes, that's right, Jihad Muhammad. That's his name. In this day and age. If that isn't giving someone a chance, I don't know what is. That's 100% American way, baby!

If Huggins gives some kids of questionable repute a chance to play basketball and get a free education and a couple of those kids screw it up and do some truly awful and stupid things, that's not Huggin's fault. When he recruited them, he wasn't hoping that, if lucky, maybe, just maybe, one or two of them might get caught assaulting a girlfriend or punching a horse. (And I'm sure the horse was fine. He's a horse!)

You think Huggins wanted that?

No, he didn't.

Sure, you would hope that Huggin's has learned some hard lessons on who to trust and, more importantly, who not to trust.

Sure, that drunken driving arrest was not a masterstroke by Huggins.

Sure, Cincinnati's graduation rate is always being dragged through the mud.

But you have to question the logic of someone like Nancy Zimpher who immediately goes after the basketball coach instead of the source of the problem. Of course, the source of the problem is somewhere long, long before any of Huggin's recruits arrive at Cincy. But firing the basketball coach is quicker and easier for Zimpher, I guess.

Zimpher would like to pretend that Cincinnati is Duke or Stanford or Northwestern. Hell, she probably wishes all academia was brick walls and thick, important books and professors with bifocals and dilligent students studying on perfectly manicured lawns.

So why even think of a few kids from rough backgrounds who, if given a chance, and if smart, can play basketball and earn an education?

Who cares about those kids?

Huggins usually did. Yeah, he's probably just as interested in their ability to hit a pullup jumper or block out, but let's not forget...he's a basketball coach. That's what he does and who he is. Those kids have every opportunity to take advantage of a free education without Huggins babysitting them.

And, hey, 11-17 isn't bad, right?

As for Huggins' coaching abilities, Cincinnati's record since bursting upon the scene out of nowhere like gangbusters in 1992, when the Bearcats fell in the Final Four to the Fab Five, is about as impressive as a record can be sans national title.

Huggins took the Bearcats took the Elite Eight two more times and the 2000 team was ranked No. 1 and everbody's darling before Kenyon Martin broke his leg a week before the NCAA tournament. Ah, what might have been? Critics mention the recent rash of second round losses, but it's not like the Bearcats embarrassed themselves in the tourney. They lost to Illinois (granted, in an absolute ass-kicking courtesy of the Illini) and Knetucky (in an absolute dogfight) the last two years. I also recall a buzzer-beating loss to West Virginia one year and an instant classic loss in overtime to UCLA another.

Not to mention the myriad of titles won in Conference USA and the Great Midwest. (Remember that conference?)

Now Huggins is a bad guy.

Because a few kids he gave a chance embarrassed themselves, and in turn him.

Because JUCO kids, apparently not being real students, don't count for graduation rates.

Because he gives chances to kids who most won't.

How many years of oblivion for Cincinnati basketball passed between the era of Oscar Robertson and national titles and the time Nick Van Exel and Corie Blount strolled onto campus and made the Bearcats matter again with a swagger that was untouchable and, from that moment on, the hallmark of any good Huggins team?

How many years passed?

Many, many years.

Well, Zimpher may have just sent the Bearcats back to oblivion. Brilliant move on her part to have her brave moment of academic bravado coincide with Cincy's entrance into the Big East. Real smart.

But, hey, just as long as Zimpher's vision of a college life in which no students carry baggage remains intact! Forget about a handful of kids who Huggins may have given a chance, whose lives he may have made meaningful. Don't worry about those kids.

Here's hoping Huggins waits for the UNLV job to open and wins big right there in Las Fuckin' Vegas a la Jerry Tarkanian and tells the NCAA and Nancy Zimpher to kiss his ass.

He's perfect for the role.

And 11 of 17 isn't bad, right?


Fark photoshop fun with Huggins.


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