Williams: The Complicated Story of Former Cincinnati Bearcats Coach Bob Huggins

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Editor's Note: Enquirer sports columnist Jason Williams is a fill-in host on WLW-AM (700),

Fire Bob Huggins. No. No. Suspend him No. No. reprimand him

Friends and colleagues blew up my phone Monday evening asking what I think West Virginia University should do about its rude basketball coach, who said Something really insensitive and stupid on Cincinnati's top radio station earlier in the day.

As someone who has known the former Cincinnati coach for a long time, I am torn.

Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins shouts with Kentucky Wesleyan Monn during a basketball game. November 12, 2001.

Culture says cancel Huggins. Chief says give him harsher punishment with long suspension. Dil says forgive him.

You would hate to see a Hall of Fame inductee's career end with the utterance of a three-letter word. Oh, but it's not a three letter word. It is the worst word of all, a word that no one should think or say in public or in private. And we're talking about an intelligent, 69-year-old man who has done thousands of interviews and press conferences in his 40-year coaching career.

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Huggins brought it on himself, and if he gets fired, so be it. Or maybe he should be suspended. Or maybe he is suspended and his salary is forgone for a year.

You see, nothing is ever easy when it comes to Bob Huggins. He's a complicated guy. He is also his own worst enemy.

There is a side of him that screams: “Take him out immediately!”

He is blunt, arrogant. He's a bully. He is a master manipulator. He's the kind of guy who always talks tough, sometimes says something silly and then always runs after all his sycophantic supporters to somehow make himself a martyr.

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Well, almost always. Huggins Actually Apologized for Using Same Homophobic Slur Seems to Have Been Permanently Canceled Thom Brenneman's Career Huggins said he was “embarrassed” and “embarrassed”. He better be serious.

Huggins may have made little progress since 2005, when he was kicked out at UC after being caught on a drunk driving charge. Huggins, who spent 16 stellar seasons in Cincinnati, is still bitter toward former UC President Nancy Zimpher and the administrators — some of whom are no longer with us — who pushed Huggins to leave.

Zimpher did the right thing. He had no choice. Huggins had repeatedly embarrassed the university—from routinely landing on police blotters on his players to bullying the athletic department to his dumb comments on the incriminating video footage of his DUI arrest.

Somehow, though, Huggins twists the story of Zimpher being fired to make him an enemy. There are UC fans who still curse his name, have “WV” stickers on their cars and don't go to UC games anymore. I guess I should call him a former Bearcats fan.

I had a front row seat to Huggins as the UC basketball beat reporter for the Cincinnati Post from 2001 to 2004.

University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins, center, talks with his players during the first half of their game against Marquette Friday night at the Shoemaker Center in Cincinnati.

University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins, center, talks with his players during the first half of their game against Marquette Friday night at the Shoemaker Center in Cincinnati.

I watched him verbally demolish his players in practice. I overheard him calling the players a pejorative word that rhymes with “hunt”. I knew him to use the same f-words he used on 700 WLW. Huggins referred to a fellow beat reporter's laptop carry case as a “(beep) bag”. Dont know why. He thought it was funny. No one else did.

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It was wrong then.

This is wrong now.

I listened to the WLW clip half a dozen times. Huggins thought he was being funny. Sadly, it oozes old-, locker-room talk.

Did Huggins mean to hurt anyone? To be honest, I don't think he's given much thought to gay people in his entire life. He probably didn't have any good thoughts about them. He probably didn't have any bad thoughts about her. He is indifferent. He is clueless.

That's what happens when you're so hell-bent on winning a basketball game for four decades. This has been Huggins' sole focus since Jimmy Carter became president. He entered the coaching bubble in 1977 as an assistant right out of college and never came out of it. Huggins has little perspective on life off the court.

This explains why Huggins has said stupid things without thinking about the consequences or who it affects. It also explains why he can never understand why people tease him for saying stupid things.

Huggins was fuming early one season when I covered him because fans weren't showing up to UC home games despite the Bearcats' great start. I asked him what he thought about attendance. He proceeded to rip off UC fans in an exclusive interview, saying in part: “F–k 'em.”

You cannot criticize your paying customers. In the midst of an intense fan reaction, Huggins got mad at me. And I yelled at him. Because unlike a lot of people he's come across in his coaching career, I was never afraid of him. I am also never afraid to criticize him.

Suffice it to say, Huggins has a really cool side.

He has given opportunity to hundreds of youth who grew up in broken homes and poverty. Many of those people have gone on to successful careers in the riches of the NBA and in the private sector. He has an unwavering loyalty to his players past and present. Loyalty is a quality we love in our leaders, and we're seeing less of it in me-first America. go read my friend Bill Koch's book, “Hugs.” It is filled with stories from Huggins' former players telling them how much he loves and cares for them.

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Huggins has been a role model to the people of West Virginia, where he was born, and the Appalachian region of eastern Ohio, where he grew up. There aren't many people who make it big from those poor areas. Huggins built his career on old fashioned hard . He worked his way from tiny Walsh College in Akron to UC. His career is a statement: You can make it with hard work and determination.

After his mother died of colon cancer in 2003, Huggins was determined to do something. He raised millions of dollars for cancer research in West Virginia, helping poor Appalachians receive proper diagnosis and quality treatment. You don't do it unless you care.

None of that is an excuse for what Huggins said on the radio. But maybe he deserves another chance like he has given many players. Or maybe he doesn't.

Contact columnist Jason Williams by email [email protected] and on twitter @jwilliamscincy,

This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Bob Huggins: The Complicated Story of the Former UC Basketball Coach