After writing a few days ago about the Bob Huggins led 1991 Final Four Bearcats team, I began to think about how much I missed Huggie Bear. The firestorm of a coach that tormented offenses with his relentless, full court pressure schemes. Don’t get me wrong, UC is definitely on the upswing with current coach Mick Cronin and I’m looking forward to many years of successful seasons but I feel at times there is just something missing… and that something is Bob Huggins.
This year marks the 20 year anniversary of that unbelievable run that ended at the hands of the tainted 1991 Michigan Fab Four team. Led by Nick Van Exel, Erik Martin, Terrance Gibson, Terry “The Flop” Nelson, Corey Blount, Curtis Bostic – who looked more like a body builder than a basketball player, and John Jacobs, the Bearcats made an improbable run as the #4 seed. During the run, the Bearcats beat the “Penny” Hardaway led Memphis Tigers for the fourth time that season.
Another great memory is the Great Alaska Shootout game against #1 ranked Duke. I listened to the play by play of this game on the radio with my father until 1 or 2 in the morning on 700 WLW. A back and forth game from start to finish which after William Avery tied the game at 75 all came down to one play. Ryan Fletcher hit Kenyon Martin with a long baseball pass, and Melvin Levett took Martin’s pass in stride as he raced toward the basket for the game-winning dunk. My dad and I went crazy. Those are the moments I will never forgot for the rest of my life.
Huggins went 399-127 in 16 seasons at Cincinnati, rebuilding it into a nationally prominent program after years in disarray. His teams made 14 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2005, some off court issues and a fire squad led by former University of Cincinnati President Nancy Zimpher, forced Bob Huggins to resign as Head Coach of the Bearcats. After 16 years, Zimpher enforced her power like a tyrant, leaving the program in shambles.
The fire that Bob Huggins had on the sideline, whether it was ripping his players for not playing up to their potential or a referee for a bad call, his emotion showed the passion and love that he had for the University of Cincinnati and the game of basketball. I have missed Huggie Bear and although I am very happy for his current success at West Virginia, I wish he was still the Head Basketball Coach for our UC Bearcats.