Tournament Ties

It seems as if WVU head coach Bob Huggins has a relationship with just about every coach he has faced in the postseason. It's no different with Xavier coach Sean Miller, who first crossed paths with the West Virginia mentor when Miller was a youngster.

"My relationship with Coach Huggins started through my dad," Miller said during a break in preparations for his team's Sweet 16 matchup with West Virginia in Phoenix, Ariz. "My dad (John Miller, who coached at Blackhawk High School) was a long time high school coach in the Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania area. I was just a young kid who traveled around with his dad, especially in the summertime. Coach Huggins grew up the same way. I think Coach Huggins was just finding his way as a coach then. I think Coach Huggins had a respect for my dad and my dad has respect for him."

Huggins, of course, is also the son of a coach, and people that grow up as part of a basketball family have a special bond, according to Miller. Basketball is part of their daily lives, whether it's hanging out with their fathers as they coach, or traveling to summer events, or listening to lectures on the sport. It's basketball all the time, and many offspring fall under the spell. That's true in both the Miller and Huggins clans, where other family members have also been long involved with the game.

Each coach was a standout for his collegiate team, Miller at Pittsburgh and Huggins at WVU. They took different paths on their roads however – Huggins transferring in to West Virginia while Miller, who earned notoriety and a spot on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for his dribbling skills, was more highly recruited. However, each had their eyes on a longer-term goal – coaching on the collegiate level.

"He was a coach first," Miller said of Huggins. "He coached at Akron, and when I was a freshman at Pitt we played his team. I got to know him as he recruited Danny Fortson, who is from my area. He has always been great to me. He always shows me a lot of respect, even before I was a coach. He is a straight shooter. He tells you what he thinks and what he is going to do, and then he does it."

Miller is probably the only person to have faced Huggins teams at Akron (as a player), Cincinnati, Kansas State and now West Virginia. With that experience, he might have some insights into how to counter Huggins squads, but if so, he isn't sharing it, as he slightly dodged a question in that regard.

"I think the sign of a good coach is that you are able to put your identity on different teams, Millers. "Whether you coach at Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State or West Virginia, there are certain characteristics that are the same. In Coach Huggins' case, it's toughness, team defense, and rebounding on both ends. At West Virginia, he has players [with more] fundamentals and skill level. At Kansas State, he relied on unbelievable pressure defense and rebounding. You can tell that defensive toughness and rebounding toughness in all of his teams. And it's a great tribute to him in how he has adjusted for that."

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