The State Newspaper (TheState.com)
Posted on Thu, Mar. 23, 2006
Huggins to become Kansas State coach
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Bob Huggins is returning to college basketball as Kansas State's coach after 16 years at Cincinnati, where he turned the Bearcats into a national power but was ousted following a drunken-driving conviction and a clash with the school's president.
Kansas State said Thursday that Huggins will be introduced at an afternoon news conference.
Huggins, who left Cincinnati in 2005 and did not coach this season, will replace Jim Wooldridge, who was 15-13 this year.
The Wildcats have not been to the NCAA tournament since 1996, but the 52-year-old Huggins will be stepping into a promising situation with most of the team's top scorers returning next season.
He agreed to leave Cincinnati last August when university president Nancy Zimpher refused to extend his four-year contract rollover following his arrest and conviction for drunken driving in 2004. Huggins received a $3 million buyout, and Zimpher's decision proved unpopular with many fans.
Cincinnati cited the arrest as the culmination of many problems. He also had been criticized for a low graduation rate and for several off-court incidents involving players.
"We expect our coaches to be role models, and we expect our students to be role models," Zimpher said after his firing. "We make no apologies for setting high standards."
Huggins was 399-127 at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including the 1992 Final Four. He won 10 regular-season Conference USA titles and was honored as the league's coach of the decade. He also coached at Walsh and Akron and has a record of 567-199 during a 24-year career.
Huggins had a heart attack in September 2002 but showed up for the team's first practice two weeks later and coached the entire season.
Huggins' best coaching job may have come in 2001-02 when the Bearcats went into the season unranked but wound up 31-4, setting a school record for victories. They also won the conference tournament and were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
At Kansas State, he will inherit a program that has enjoyed a clean reputation while struggling to pull itself out of mediocrity since Bramlage Coliseum opened in 1988-89.
Huggins could be joined at Kansas State by two top recruits. O.J. Mayo, a two-time Associated Press Mr. Basketball in Ohio, said this week he and Bill Walker, his teammate at Cincinnati North College Hill, may sign with whichever school hires Huggins.
Wooldridge was 83-90 at Kansas State, with the team 6-10 in the Big 12 each of his last three seasons. In his sixth season, the Wildcats proved competitive behind swingman Cartier Martin.
The Wildcats set a school record this season with nine losses of five points or fewer. Most frustrating were back-to-back 1-point defeats to nationally ranked Texas and Oklahoma. They beat Kansas 59-55 in their first encounter to end a 31-game losing streak to their archrivals.