HUGGINS, MARTIN TO GO HEAD-TO-HEAD

Wichita, Kan. - Frank Martin owe his coaching career to Bob Huggins, but Thursday in an 8 p.m. tipoff in Wichita, it will be Martin who will attempt to defeat his mentor. The Wildcats are 5-0 while the Mountaineers, with a roster feature 8 first-year players, are 4-2. As Huggins says of the matchup, "At least one good-guy will win."

For Bob Huggins, it was all about going home.

He had just completed a 23-12 season in his first year at K-State in 2006-07 when the Wildcats advanced to postseason play for the first time in seven years by going to the NIT. But after the season, the West Virginia job opened, which was Huggins' alma mater, not to mention home state.

"I would not have left for another place in the world than here," said the 58-year-old Huggins, who is one of just six active coaches with at least 600 (604) career wins. "It's home. My parents, plus brothers and sisters can come to the game. It's just home."

Martin added, "It was a difficult time for him. Hugs loved it here. This was a community that brought a lot of healing to him. He is a very loyal man, and this community gave him a chance, and he has not forgotten that. Because of him, we're all here and there's been plenty to be excited about because of him. We all should be forever indebted to him."

Thursday night in Wichita at 8 p.m. in the INTRUST Bank Arena, Huggins will put his 4-2 West Virginia team against Frank Martin's 5-0 Kansas State club.

Since Huggins started coaching the Mountaineers he has recorded 105 wins; since Martin took over at K-State the Wildcats have won 100 contests.

"Hugs and I were talking and just decided we should play. I normally don't like playing against friends, but what better way to get the families together," said Martin. "I know our players respect the heck out of him, and his guys, I would guess, respect us."

On returning to Kansas, Huggins said, "We both had young teams that needed to learn how to play on the road, so this was a way to get us a couple neutral-site games. I used to not like playing friends, but now I sort of feel that at least one good guy is going to win. I don't want to lose, but if I do, at least I'll be happy for the other guy."

Mired in a 15-year NCAA postseason tailspin, Huggins was hired by K-State prior to the 2006-07 season with the philosophy of "Why settle for second when first is available," and bringing an assistant named Martin win him.

"He called me and said he really liked this K-State thing, but that he wasn't coming without me," said Martin, who had coached with Huggins from 2004-06 at Cincinnati. "I just told him, ‘Hugs, you're my guy, if you say it's the right place, I'm in'."

Like so many coaches before him at K-State, Huggins said, "It was the people," that convinced him that this was the right place. "I have a lot of respect for Tim Weiser (former AD) and Dr. Wefald (former President). They were just terrific people and I thought that K-State would provide a great environment for basketball with very supportive fans."

For the most part, Bramlage Coliseum was immediately sold out due to the Huggins name, plus the promised recruits like Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, which made for a recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Of the most important advice Martin received from Huggins, Martin said, "To never give in; never give in. That was my frame of mind anyway because that's how my high school coach taught. Never give in to your players, don't give in to pressure … and to believe in yourself. Be yourself and don't give in."

Asked if he was at all surprised at Martin's success as a first-time Division I head basketball coach, Huggins immediately answered, "Not at all; not at all."

The coach who has put 25 of his 28 teams into postseason play and attended 15 NCAA tournaments added, "I told Tim that when he (Martin) was at Miami Senior High he had great players. He coached hem well and coached them hard. He always had four or high high-major guys, and that's not an easy team to coach because they all feel like they should be the guy. Frank coached them hard and never gave in to their wishes."

NEXT YEAR:

Huggins said he was looking forward to the 2012-13 season when West Virginia would be joining the Big 12 Conference.

"We're a school like K-State, but in a state of 1.6 million people," said Huggins in reference to Kansas having a population of over a million people more. "It'll be tough, but I think it will be a good fit."

Of the distance between schools, Huggins said, "That's not a problem. You get on the plane, play the game, and get back on the plane and come home."


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