Returning Home

Friday was a special day for Mountaineer fans everywhere. For lifelong Mountaineer Bob Huggins, it was a chance to return to the place he calls home.

Officially, Friday's press conference was an introduction of Huggins as the 21st head coach in Mountaineer men's basketball history. More than anything, though, it was a homecoming for the Morgantown native and former WVU player.

"It's great to be home," Huggins uttered as he took to the podium wearing his dark suit and a 'Flying WV' lapel pin.

Huggins signed a five-year contract with his alma mater on Thursday night, just two days after former head coach John Beilein resigned to take the same job at the University of Michigan. When Beilein departed, WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong knew exactly where he wanted to start his search.

"A few days ago, I made a phone call to Bobby Huggins," Pastilong recalled. "I said ‘Bobby, are you ready to come home?' His reply was ‘Absolutely."

So on Friday, hundreds of fans turned out to welcome home the native son. Governor Joe Manchin was on hand, as was First Lady Gayle Manchin. Of course, numerous WVU dignitaries were on hand as well. In a single file line, they walked down the familiar gold and blue carpet to begin the celebration.

"Everyday of my life as the Governor, I work very hard to try to keep every person in West Virginia," Manchin told the crowd. "I work just as hard to try to bring people back home to West Virginia. I can't tell you how excited I am of this homecoming of our hometown boy coming back to West Virginia. I'm just as excited as every one of you.

"Welcome home, Coach. Welcome home."

For Huggins, the return home is something he's been planning for his entire life. "It's what I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to coach here," he said.

"From the time I can remember, I sat on my grandfather's lap listening to West Virginia games," recalled the 53-year old, who comes to West Virginia after a one-year stint at Kansas State. "When the game was over, my grandfather always had a hoop for me and I'd watch him pull the car out of the garage. I'd go over and shoot balls in that little hoop. It was actually right by the coal shoot.

"I'd walk back across the street to my house," he continued. "My mother would be all upset because I was black from the coal dust. (She would) tell my grandfather not to do that anymore. After every game, I'd go out and shoot balls."

Now, that little kid is now a grown man. Many years later, he still has the same enthusiasm for Mountaineer basketball that he displayed as a youngster.

"It's so exciting to be here, I can't tell you," he said. "I've done this a long time, and there's nothing like being here. There's nothing like walking in this building today.

"Thanks for letting me come home."

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