Huggins Was Never A Savior In The Black Community

By Gregory Moore
Updated: August 25, 2005

HugginsSAN ANTONIO – Utter horse crap is what I want to say to the likes of a Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and others who think that Bob Huggins was the best thing for the University of Cincinnati.

There are former players from Huggins’ days who say that he was a father figure to them and I question that stance as well because Huggins’ demeanor off the court is as shaky as the lime green bowl of Jell-O that Bill Cosby is handing to me right now.

Then I heard the ultimate statement in passing and it just set my stupid meter to “dumbass” mode: Huggins was good for the inner city kids he recruited.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Huggins was good for the inner city kids he recruited? Which kids would that be? Dontonio Wingate? Donald Little? Ruben Patterson and Art Long? Maybe Danny Fortsen?

I want the readers to understand something about the University of Cincinnati’s basketball program and this going to be coming from someone who went school there before Huggins got there and one who to this day still follows the school because it was my “school of choice” when I graduated from Roger Bacon High School in 1984.

When I was going to classes during 1985-86 semesters, several Black students started calling the school the University of Gangsta Hoopahs for a reason. Before Huggins got there in 1989, the school’s basketball program sucked and once Huggins got there, he solidified that namesake by bringing in players of questionable backgrounds.

I’ll go right ahead and say: most of these players were down right street thugs who had no business going to school in the Clifton area.

Huggins didn’t recruit Black ball players from Cincinnati neighborhoods like Avondale, North College Hills, Mt. Healthy and other ‘poorer’ parts of the Queen City. He sure as hell didn’t look at any basketball players from the high schools like Princeton, Mt. Healthy, Forest Park, Green Hills or Colerain Township.

Did he ever stop in Hamilton Township and chat with anyone at the local Gold Star chili spot? Probably not. While Huggins was going to the nearest pony keg on Northland Boulevard, did he talk to a single middle class Black kid that was probably a standout at Forest Park, Green Hills or any of the Greater Cincinnati League schools.

Oh wait, he did talk to one kid; O.J. Mayo but haven’t they been talking since Mayo’s seventh grade? So I am going to ask a serious question and I would like an honest answer from somebody who knew what Huggins did during his sixteen years as the Bearcats’ men’s basketball coach: what did he do for kids in the inner city?

It’s a far fetch to say that Huggins was the Ken Carter of Cincinnati’s inner city. Heck Huggins couldn’t hold a shoelace to the work that Coach Carter did in Richmond, California because Carter had something that Huggins and his supporters failed to comprehend; integrity in running a basketball program that was more about success off the court than it was between the baselines.

If Dr. Zimpher wanted to get rid of Huggins because he didn’t fit the new direction the school wanted the athletics department to adhere to, then I applaud her decision. How many times have we seen college presidents turn a blind eye to the crap that goes on in the school’s most influential wings.

Yet in Cincinnati it seems that there are actually boosters who want to blame Zimpher for taking a stance against moral turpitude issues and a program that has been a renegade for sixteen seasons rather than back her and say, “While we may not support your decision to fire Coach Huggins at this time, we understand what your vision is”.

If these high-powered boosters were serious about helping the school, they would back the school president in her decision. Now maybe the folks over at UCATS have a point when many say that the firing was bad timing. I agree. Huggins’ ass should have been fired when he got the DUI charge after coming back from a restaurant during a recruiting trip.

What Zimpher is doing now is trying to reign in an out of control program that didn’t reprimand players who got in trouble and it definitely didn’t do its best job at recruiting top flight athletes who were of moral fiber either.

As I stated earlier, the nickname sticks quite well when you start reading the litany of former and current UC basketball players who have been arrested on various charges from 1991 to just two months ago.

It’s easy for any analyst to sit and take a side on this issue but it’s irresponsible analysis for anyone on a local or national level to even try and equate Huggins’ success at recruiting JuCo transfers into “helping inner city kids find themselves” is just plain idiotic for anyone to say and believe.

Huggins can be called a pied piper but a pied piper who was a savior he was not. He’s no Coach K, no John Thompson or Bobby Knight because those coaches have national titles. More importantly he isn’t a savior in the inner city like Ken Carter because Carter was all about helping kids succeed off the field in a positive manner; Huggins just wanted to make sure they got him a few more wins.