By John Veasey
Times West Virginian
Bob Huggins made his annual visit to Fairmont Wednesday to tell the local natives about his newest West Virginia University basketball team — the one with seven freshmen and a huge Turkish center who has been helping the newcomers even more than expected.
Members of the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs gathered at Westchester Village to hear the Mountaineer coach discuss his 2011-12 team.
His team has started off with a 4-1 record, and Huggins said it might be 5-0 if it could shoot fouls better.
The Mountaineers travel to Mississippi State for a 9 p.m. game Saturday and will play Big 12 opponent Kansas State on Thursday night at Wichita, Kansas.
The team then returns home next Saturday to face Miami.
“I think we’ll be OK,” Huggins said. “The freshmen are getting better. They really are. They are a whole lot better than they were when we first started.”
He says his newest team is made up of ”great kids who want to please you. They want to win.”
He says he invited his team over for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Sometimes you have teams that eat and leave. Sometimes you have teams that eat and stay around and eat again. This group’s upperclassmen went home, but the freshmen stuck around and ate a second time.”
Huggins punctuated his remarks with humorous quips — some of which have made the rounds, but all of which are good for many laughs.
• “My first coaching job was at Walsh College. The brothers there took the vow of poverty and wanted me to live it.”
• “I went home after each loss in my first season and asked my wife if she thought I could sell insurance for a living.”
• “He (his supervisor) appreciated how hard we worked and all the hours we put in. He told us if we could keep the program right where we had it, we would have a job the rest of our lives. I said, ‘Brother, I can’t speak for Pete, but you just scared the hell out of me.”
• “I wish you wouldn’t read off all those places I coached,” he said to the master of ceremonies. “That makes me sound like someone who couldn’t keep a job. We were 14-16 in my first season as head coach.”
• “You won’t either,” he said in answer to a Fairmont resident who inquired about a certain yellow suit he had not seen in quite some time.
• “We (Deniz Kilicli and Huggins) got along OK before. I just didn’t like the way he played.”
• “We’re shooting 59 percent (at the foul line) as a team. I could kick that many in.”
• “Deniz is extremely intelligent. He came over here (from Turkey) speaking no English but said he learned the language by watching TV. I could go to Turkey and watch TV over there all my life and not learn to speak the language.”
• Huggins’ wife bought him a dog, and he admitted he knew nothing about dogs.
“I taught him to run after a Frisbee, retrieve a Frisbee and to sit down. My coaching philosophy came from that. If they don’t do what I want, they sit down. Then they get on the treadmill and run their rear off. It goes 17 miles an hour.”
• A member of the audience asked him how he’s going to get fans to go to Stillwater, Okla. (one of the new Big 12 sites).
“I can’t get them to come to Morgantown,” he said. “How do I get them to go to Stillwater?”
Bob Huggins — always the humorist!
Email John Veasey at firstname.lastname@example.org.