MORGANTOWN — Bob Huggins thinks he has the bus he wants. It belongs to Brad Paisley, the country singer who today, more proudly than ever, calls West Virginia his home.
“I think,” Huggins announced on Wednesday afternoon to 5,000 faithful fans fueling the Final Four fire, “that Brad Paisley will be at the Final Four.”
And, if he comes to Indianapolis and the Mountaineers can get past Duke on Saturday and either Butler University or Michigan State on Monday and bring home WVU’s first national title, Huggins says he’s hoping to get his tour bus to make a dream come true.
Jarrod Calhoun, the director of basketball operations, came up with this idea, see, and Huggins loved it.
Like they do with the Stanley Cup, which every player gets to keep for a while, the Mountaineers want to load the national championship trophy on a bus and take it on a tour of West Virginia, from city to hollow.
It will be in Martinsburg and, yes, Cabin Creek, thank you.
“We’ll take the tour bus and go everywhere with it,” Huggins said. “We want you people to know how much we appreciate you.”
And the people let Huggins and his players know how much they appreciated them and what they have done in gaining the Final Four for the first time in 51 years.
They came bearing signs, wearing gold, whooping and hollering.
That’s just going to have to wait until this Final Four thing is over.
Right now it’s Da’Sean and Devin and Joe and Wellington and Kevin and Truck. It’s West Virginia basketball in Morgantown, Fairmont and anywhere and everywhere West Virginians reside.
“Faith is taking the first step before you see the whole staircase,” senior Wellington Smith told the crowd. “I’m coming to the end of the staircase right now with the Final Four.”
And, he knows, the last step is a big one, but he has faith.
Da’Sean Butler then stood before the crowd. He thought back to when he was a senior in Newark, N.J., and how he wanted to come to West Virginia, not for the basketball.
“The No. 1 reason I came here was for the people,” he said.
And now, more than 2,000 points and 109 wins later, he’s here to win a national championship.
A deafening roar filled the Coliseum when Huggins was introduced after Butler.
“Three years ago Good Friday I was introduced as the head basketball coach here and it was one of the most exciting days in my life,” Huggins told the crowd.
“I want to thank the guys back here,” he said, turning toward the team seated behind him. “They did it without asking why or saying, ‘We never did that before.’ They just did it and now I’m so happy to represent the greatest people in the world.”
As he has done so often in the past month, Huggins took a moment to reminisce.
“When I was a player here, an assistant football coach came to me one day and put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘I want you to remember this. West Virginia’s greatest natural asset isn’t its coal, it’s its people.”
The people of West Virginia roared their approval.
Huggins waited a moment, then said, “Two more and we get that tour bus.”
With that, the team waved to the crowd and exited out the tunnel to the bus that was heading off into the unknown.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.