SE: Martin Reflects on Huggins

Dec. 8, 2011

By Mark Janssen
K-State Sports Extra

Bob Huggins sort of comes home tonight when he brings his West Virginia basketball team to the Sunflower State to play his old school in Kansas State.

The game will be played in Wichita’s INTRUST Bank Arena in the Wichita Wildcat Classic where the Wildcats (5-0) will be challenged by the Mountaineers (4-2) in an ESPN2 televised contest.

It will be Huggins’ first venture back to the state of Kansas since leaving the Wildcat program following his single season in 2006-07 when K-State posted a 23-12 record.

On paper, Huggins had just put together the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation with Michael Beasley and Bill Walker being the headliners, but also Jacob Pullen being a late add-on. Beasley and Walker are currently in the NBA and Pullen is now K-State’s all-time leading scorer.

When Huggins’ native state came calling at the end of the season, he pulled the plug on himself as coach of the Wildcats and went back to his alma mater.

Then his top assistant and now K-State’s head coach, Frank Martin reflected on that week of decision for his boss:
“Everything happened so fast and it is not like there was time to have a lot of conversations. He was told on a Monday that (John) Beilein was taking the job at Michigan, and on Thursday he was taking the job at West Virginia. There was not a lot of time to have deep conversations with everybody, but he kept me informed every step of the way.

“That Thursday morning he called me up and said, ‘I really need to see you,’ and we met up at Bob’s Diner at about 6:45 in the morning. That is where he told me that he could not say no. He said, ‘I have to do it.’ He looked awful. He was beat up, which I know he was because he was forced into making a tough decision, a decision he had no interest in making because he was so happy here.

“After he went in and met with the leaders of the school, he called me and he said to be ready because you have a really good chance at this.”

Huggins said that going home to West Virginia was the only job he would have taken, and Martin backed those words: “His wife loved it here. I have said this before, but I was with him when someone called and offered him $2 million and he hung up on them. About two hours later, someone offered him $2.5 million and he hung up on them. He was not leaving here for another job. Little did he know that days later he would be faced with such a challenge. There was only one school that he would have gone to.”

Jamar Samuels never played for Huggins, but he was recruited by him prior to his departure.

“Knowing that he left, I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to go with him, but I had already committed to K-State, so that is where I knew I would be playing basketball,” said Samuels.

Martin always added that Huggins personally called each K-State recruit to encourage them to stay true to their commitment to the school, and not him as a coach.

‘WILDCAT WAY’: In honor of tonight’s Wichita Wildcat Classic, and the efforts to ‘Paint Wichita Purple,’ the city has approved the temporary renaming of Waterman Street to Wildcat Way.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer will officially rename the street Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and it will remain in effect for the remainder of December. The public is invited to attend and encouraged to wear purple in support of Kansas State.