It’s fitting, of course, that Bob Huggins’ 900th win came in such a season. A year after an NCAA tournament that wasn’t. A year where he lost the McDonald’s All-American who was supposed to be the five star who fit in. A year of starts and stops, trials and tribulations, and where even a week before the season it may have been reckless to dive headfirst into college basketball.
Really, there was no other season for Huggins to reach this milestone. Through personal demons, battles with the outside perception of his programs, and dealing with the constantly changing landscape of college sports in America, Bob Huggins has always been defined by adaptability and that adaptability has never been needed more than in year 36 of a career that—finally—looks to be on track for a long overdue Hall of Fame enshrinement. In the strangest season of college basketball that we’ve ever experienced, Bob Huggins reinvented himself once again and today he reached a summit reached only by names like Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Calhoun, Knight, and Williams.
And that club, in and of itself, screams another way that Huggins has set himself apart. Never a blueblood, always his way. In places like Cincinnati and West Virginia, where he never saw the benefits of Tobacco Road or Assembly Hall. No Carmelo Anthony walking through the door to win a championship and only a handful of true NBA talents to help him out along the way. Never the most talented, always coaching to the final whistle, perpetually frowning on the sideline, often unpretty, seen from the outside as a relic of coaching from the stone age, but always for those who know, powered by love for his players and a singular desire to build a culture of victory, accountability, and making its fans proud to call his teams their own. Embracing what was left behind from John Beilein and turning Da’Sean Butler into a superstar; finding Jevon Carter on the court at 6 AM; taking a chance on the (wait for it) injured quarterback of Archbishop Moeller High School, they all exemplify what Bob Huggins has done to get this far and reach this status.
So here we are at the start of the strangest March Madness we’ll ever see with Bob Huggins at 900. From Akron to Cincinnati;to Nick Van Exel and Kenyon Martin; to Manhattan, Kansas and the rebirth of a career; to Morgantown and coming home; to the Big East Championship and Butler on the floor in Indianapolis; to Jevon Carter and Press Virginia; and finally to embracing wide open offense and perhaps his greatest coaching job ever—Bob Huggins endures. But for all of those memories, the best may yet be ahead.
After all, we’ve ripped off the rear view mirror.