Huggins Honored, Roasted
CINCINNATI -- A teary-eyed Bob Huggins sat in an overstuffed chair as former players and colleagues honored and hugged the former Cincinnati basketball coach who was forced to resign by the university.
``I want to take the opportunity to say thanks,'' Huggins said Thursday night during an emotional 30-minute speech before 6,200 people at U.S. Bank Arena. ``Cincinnati and you people have been home, and you've been family.''
Huggins resigned Aug. 24, a day after the university said he would be fired if he didn't quit. He agreed to a $3 million buyout of his contract.
During Huggins' 16-year stay at Cincinnati, the Bearcats made the Final Four and were ranked No. 1 for the first time in 34 years. They also developed a history of player arrests and violations that resulted in an NCAA probation in 1998.
Coach Rick Pitino of Louisville said Huggins will be missed.
``This will rejuvenate Bob and get him to sort of see where he wants to have his last stint coaching, where he wants it to be; follow the teams, maybe do a little TV work, get back into it the way he wants,'' Pitino said.
Besides Pitino, roasters included coaches Tubby Smith of Kentucky, Bobby Lutz of Charlotte and John Calipari of Memphis. There were also video tributes from Michael Jordan and television analyst Dick Vitale.
Pitino joked that he learned what the referees' names were in Conference USA by watching Huggins refer to them by expletive-laden name after expletive-laden name.
``I got fired by the Pistons,'' Vitale said. ``I went into television, Robert. And you know what? I haven't lost a game in 26 years. Try it. You'll like it, baby!''
Former player Kenyon Martin was one of 33 former and active Bearcats players who attended. Martin, now with the Denver Nuggets, said he was upset with the university about Huggins leaving.
``The way I feel, I want my name no longer affiliated with the University of Cincinnati,'' Martin said. ``I would like them to take my jersey down and get rid of my locker and my trophies.''
Huggins said he will coach again.
``I don't have any idea where. I'm not one of those guys that's going to run around hoping someone gets fired,'' Huggins said. ``If the right opportunity comes, then we'll do it.''
Huggins did not rule out going into television work, but he said there are no specific plans to do that this season.