Only two days after jeopardizing his favorite job by using an anti-gay slur during an appearance on a Cincinnati radio station, Bob Huggins learned of his sentence.
West Virginia is expected to suspend Huggins at the start of the upcoming season, reduce his salary by $1 million and make him undergo sensitivity training, According to Pete Thamel of ESPN,
The decision would allow the only active coach in college basketball with more than 900 wins to remain on the sidelines.
The exchange happened Monday afternoon on 700 WLW after longtime Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham and former Huggins assistant coach Steve Moller got Huggins on the phone. Huggins answered a question about Xavier University, his hated rival when he was head coach at Cincinnati from 1989-2005.
Huggins described Xavier fans throwing “rubber penises on the floor” during a crosstown shootout game against Cincinnati. Cunningham then reiterated the dangerous direction the conversation was headed and asked what had happened on “transgender night”.
Huggins replied, “What was it all that f**s – those Catholic f**s, I think that's what it was.” “They were jealous that they didn't have one.”
The radio hosts did not seem to understand that Huggins was jeopardizing his career with those unprovoked comments, nor did he appear to care about anyone he had offended.
“Steve, your comment about Bob Huggins?” Cunningham said. “Is that the best?”
“He's the best,” Möller replied.
Later on Monday in an effort at damage control, Huggins issued an apology nearly four hours after his remarks aired. He admitted using a “completely insensitive and disgusting phrase” and described himself as “ashamed and ashamed and heartbroken”.
Huggins said, “There are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept whatever comes my way.”
West Virginia's athletic department then released its own statement calling Huggins' comments “insensitive” and “offensive” and saying the matter was “under review”. This gave West Virginia president Gordon Gee and athletic director Wren Baker some time to decide how to proceed.
Did they want to protect a beloved basketball coach with decades of clout and treachery? Or did he want to stand up for Huggins who was marginalized by his hurtful words?
Huggins' animosity towards Xavier dates back to some hard-fought losses to the Musketeers at the height of his Cincinnati tenure. Twice Xavier overcame No. 1-ranked Cincinnati teams. Another narrow Bearcats loss ended with the ever-animated Huggins chasing the referee off the floor. And then there was the infamous 1994 crosstown shootout still known around Cincinnati as the Handshake Game.
When Xavier pulled off an 82–76 overtime win, coach Pete Gillen walked over to the Cincinnati bench for a post-game impromptu handshake, but found Huggins in no mood to respond. Huggins instead made a blistering denunciation, later explaining that he was angry about comments allegedly made by Xavier staff members late in the game.
Huggins told reporters after the game, “I'm not a fake.” I'm not going to shake hands and pretend everything is fine.”
In 2005, Cincinnati president Nancy L. Zimpher forced Huggins to resign as Bearcats coach. While Huggins' teams had reached 14 straight NCAA tournaments and won at least 10 conference titles, Zimpher's reputation for arrests and academic issues cast his program in a negative light.
And yet even after Huggins became head coach at his alma mater West Virginia in 2007, his distaste for Xavier hasn't diminished. When asked about his old rival before the 2022 Big East-Big 12 Battle Game at Xavier, Huggins told reporters, “I don't have a good idea about Xavier. None. Not at all.”
While Huggins was widely regarded as a villain during his Cincinnati tenure, he repaired his reputation at West Virginia by displaying his tender side more often in 16 more years of outstanding work as coach.
Huggins' signature moment at West Virginia came near the end of their 2010 Final Four loss to Duke. When star forward Da'Sean Butler tore his ACL, Huggins demonstrated a bond with his players by hugging him in tears and consoling him as he lay on the floor.
That 2010 team rode a 1-3-1 defense and dominance on the offensive glass to 31 wins, but that formula stopped working when the Mountaineers moved to the Big 12. Emphasizing West Virginia's depth and athleticism and hiding its limited outside shooting.
“The biggest thing is we want to make you really uncomfortable,” Huggins told Yahoo Sports in 2016. We want to push you into an area that puts you in a bad position.”
West Virginia made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances as a No. 5 seed or better and advanced to a trio of Sweet 16s. Then as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. Huggins again adapted to the personnel he had and returned to a more traditional style of play.
As recently as a few days ago, Huggins appeared to be in excellent position to end his legendary coaching career on his own terms.
He was adapting to the shifting landscape of college basketball better than other Hall of Fame coaches, who were chased from the game by athletes taking advantage of their names, image and likeness, and by relaxed transfer rules.
After losing three starters from last season's NCAA tournament team, Huggins went shopping in the transfer portal this spring and reinstated West Virginia's roster on the fly. The 69-year-old added an array of intriguing talents, including a point guard who started the past two seasons at Arizona, a center who averaged a double-double at Syracuse and an All-Big Sky wing who Hanged 27 points on Kansas State. In the NCAA Tournament.
The team that Huggins has assembled is of top-25 caliber. Now the Mountaineers will reportedly have to start their upcoming season without their head coach.
For Huggins, his 916 career wins put him fourth on the all-time list, behind only Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boehm and Jim Calhoun, who are at 920.