The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

June 2, 2011

Raising funds for cancer research at heart of tribute to Huggins

FAIRMONT — Stories filled the evening during “A Salute to Bob Huggins” Wednesday at Westchester Village.

Above all, though, was the purpose of the event. The thousands of dollars raised at the dinner honoring West Virginia University’s basketball coach goes to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund at WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

The coach’s mother died on May 24, 2003, after a long battle with colon cancer. Bob Huggins established the fund to be used for basic or clinical research toward finding a cure for cancer.

Several items were auctioned — a signed Jerry West print featuring a portrait of the WVU and NBA great along with his Mountaineer No. 44 uniform, a basketball signed by University of Cincinnati and NBA star Oscar Robertson, 2012 WVU-Pitt basketball tickets, dinner with Huggins, a “Roll Tide” football signed by Alabama coach and Monongah High graduate Nick Saban, a 2010 Final Four WVU photo and a basketball signed by all-time college and professional coaching greats from a 1999 Michael Jordan basketball camp.

“Every dime will stay in the state for cancer research,” Huggins told the crowd.

One of the scheduled guests, Fairmont native and Duquesne University basketball coach Ron Everhart, was not able to attend. He reportedly interviewed for the vacant coaching job at Penn State Tuesday.

Joe Mazzulla, who wrapped up his career as a WVU guard last season, spoke in Everhart’s place.

Stanley Rote, a Fairmont native and longtime basketball official, returned home and experienced an “emotional tsunami” of memories over the past several days.

He recalled unsuccessfully trying to get out of officiating the 1998 NCAA Tournament game between Gale Catlett’s WVU team and Huggins’ Cincinnati club in Boise, Idaho, won by the Mountaineers, 75-74, on Jarrod West’s late 3-pointer.

Rote recalled not calling a technical for the WVU celebration following West’s shot. Cincinnati was not able to score on its final possession.

Rote noted the Bearcats had lost a game to Tulane weeks before in New Orleans when they were hit with a technical in a similar situation.

Rote recalls Huggins’ reaction: “Sometimes you get that call, and sometimes you don’t. The officials did not determine the outcome of this game.”

Legendary retired Fairmont State basketball coach Joe Retton recalled getting a call from Huggins when Huggins was in his first head coaching job at Walsh College in North Canton, Ohio. Huggins wanted to play the Falcons, who ended up rolling to a 72-40 win in the 1980-81 season.

Retton, who has followed Huggins’ teams and attended practice at WVU, noted that Huggins follows the philosophy Retton stressed at Fairmont State — always seeking the “A play.”

“There’s one more thing — master of defense. That’s Bob Huggins,” Retton added.

Huggins said that early game with Fairmont State reflects a belief he follows more than three decades later.

“I want to go play the best,” Huggins said. “I want to go play the best teams. I want to go play the best coach. I want to find out how good we have to get.”

Email Cliff Nichols at cnichols@timeswv.com.

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