Bob Huggins laments that college basketball players feel compelled to leave a situation that’s good for them, and he feels strongly that they should try to surround themselves with people who give sound advice.
The West Virginia University Mountaineers’ head coach didn’t hold back about the subject when Jon Rothstein asked him on the College Hoops Today podcast whether the benefits of receiving a scholarship to play college basketball and working toward earning a degree have ever been less valued.
“I don’t think that has anything to do whether a guy stays or goes. I think it’s the people in their ears,” Huggins said. “And the people that really don’t care about them but care about themselves and care about trying to make some money off of them, trying to enhance their own lifestyle as opposed to doing what’s best for them. I mean, c’mon Jon, there’s how many kids have we had and everybody else has had who left that are now bouncing around Europe trying to make a living because they were misled? They were misled by runners. They were misled by agents. They were misled by — at times — people in their own family that totally misled them. And, you know, now here they are out there without a degree and how long can you play?
“You know, if you have a 10-year career, I guess that’s a lot, so now you left at 20 years old, now you’re 30 years old. Hopefully you’ve saved some money from bouncing around Europe and now you come back without a degree. And you can’t imagine the number of them who call guys like me, like (Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari), like — you know — all the guys that have great relationships with their guys and they want to be an assistant coach. Yo, man, you don’t have a degree! You left without a degree. I can’t hire guys without degrees. So now, you know, some guys have — some guys have gone back and toughed it out.
“And now, you want to talk about we do give them scholarships but they don’t get everything that everybody else gets so now, all of a sudden, you’ve got guys for two years or three years, going to school and they’re 30, 32 years old, trying to get a degree. So they can go pursue what they want to do and be an assistant coach. That’s if they can get a job. The last time I checked, guys aren’t bailing out pretty quick. I mean, being an assistant coach at the major college level is really a pretty good job.
“Here’s the thing that bothers me: We continue to extend how long guys can wait to make a decision. And so now you have maybe two guys or maybe three guys that go until the middle of June. Who’s left out there to recruit to fill their spots? And what about the other 10 guys that are here going to school, doing the things that we say we want people to do. And here they are left out because those guys passed their time limit. And now all of a sudden we’re to go out and find replacements for guys that thought they were pros or people told they were pros. What about those other 10? Does anybody care about them? We’ve become so infatuated with individual rights that we forgot about the people that are doing things right.”
Rothstein asked Huggins what he thinks the deadline should be.
“It’s sure as hell not the middle of June — I can tell you that,” Huggins replied. “I mean at the end of the Final Four, we basically have another whatever two or three weeks to go find people that haven’t signed yet. And then, the portal. How do you know who’s leaving and who’s not leaving? Who’s staying, who’s not staying? How do you fill your roster? And how do you take care of the people who really do care? That have stayed because they wanted to get a degree — they have a lot of pride in their university? They want to do the right things? How do you take care of them, Jon? Explain that to me because I’m really at a loss as to what we’re doing. And we say we’re doing it for the kids? C’mon, man. We’re doing it for a few and we’re screwing the majority.”
Earlier in the same podcast, Huggins talked about how much things have changed since he was the head coach at UC.
“Our world’s changed, Jon,” Huggins said. “Any coward can get on Twitter, Facebook, whatever and not identify themselves, give some made-up name and act like a tough guy or criticize people who are trying to make something of themselves when they, in fact, want to sit on their behind and take shots at other people. It’s a different, different world, man. You know, back when I was at Cincinnati, nobody would say anything to those guys for fear that they may take offense to it. So it’s a different world.”
Huggins recently remembered Bearcats legend Chuck Machock, who died in January, as the person “who I called when I needed an answer,” per The Enquirer’s Fletcher Page.
In 16 seasons at UC, Huggins’ record was 399–127. The Bearcats reached the Elite Eight three times under Huggins and the Final Four once (1991-92).
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