By CLIFF BRUNT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Bob Huggins had me annoyed on Saturday.
I was covering the Purdue-West Virginia game as a freelancer for The Associated Press and my deadline was approaching. West Virginia’s legendary coach was nowhere to be found after his team’s brutal 79-52 loss to the Boilermakers. (Here’s the link to game story)
I considered skipping the session altogether. I twice went into the hallway, searching to see if he was coming into the interview room. The first time, he was on the radio. The second time, he was on his way.
Eventually, he entered a room full of people who were on edge because he took so long.
Eleven minutes later, he had issued one of the most straight-between-the-eyes postgame interviews I’ve ever heard. I was no longer annoyed, but rather, mesmerized.
Huggins does things his way. He strolls in after the home coach, talks longer than the home coach, sprinkles a few profanities in and pours his heart out. Matt Painter is measured and often careful with criticism. Huggins lets it rip.
And we hung on every word.
I went from being ticked to imagining how awesome it must be to cover a quote machine like this every day.
You can’t help but respect Huggins, even when he’s insulting his players. It’s abundantly clear that what you see is what you get, and it’s clear that he cares an awful lot about his team and about winning.
I know this is Indy Sports Legends, and this site covers Purdue. But this was simply too good to leave as just another recording to be lost in the archives. Here are the best quotes from Huggins on Saturday.
On poor shooting:
“We turned it over 11 times in the first half,” he said. “We generally turn it over 11 times in a game. And they were bad turnovers. They were turnovers that lead to baskets. We ought to be used to missing shots. We’re very proficient at it. They ought to be used to that. I mean, we just turned the ball over and turned the ball over. We didn’t rebound. They got second chance opportunities and scored and we got some second chances and didn’t score.”
I asked him if Purdue was better than expected:
“I don’t know. We’re so damn bad, I don’t know. Most teams can score if you throw them the ball for layups. I tried to tell the guys coming in that Matt does a great job. He does a great job. They’re going to guard you. They’re going to do the right things. They’re going to play the game the way the game is supposed to be played.
“You know, we used to give guys quizzes after scouting reports to see what they actually learned. I’m not sure I don’t do it now for them or for me. When you’ve got a whole bunch of guys that don’t get any right … We don’t take anything away. This is not what I built a career on. We let them do what they want to do, go where they want to go, drive it where they want to drive it. We just do the most unexplainable things I’ve ever seen.”
On an unidentified player’s missed defensive assignments:
“I’ve done this a long time, and I haven’t seen the stupid stuff that we do,” he said. “And the worst part is it’s probably my fault because I’m playing him. He did it the last game.”
On coachable players:
“I don’t know. I continue to tell them, ‘Just give me seven or eight guys.’ I don’t care which seven or eight. But seven or eight guys that will digest the scouting report that will do what they’re asked to do, that will pass the ball.
“The motion stuff that we run when we had guys that would and could pass the ball was really a thing of beauty. We cut people up pretty good. But when you have guys who can’t and won’t pass, it makes it hard. It makes it hard. It’s hard enough when you can’t make a shot. But then when you won’t pass the ball?”
On his team’s basketball IQ:
“I sometimes, I feel like .. When I was in high school, we had these, my dad called ‘em bitty basketball teams. I couldn’t do that, with third and fourth grade very long. I’d have to have the fifth and sixth graders who somewhat could dribble and have a chance to make a pass. But I feel like sometimes, I’m looking out there and I’m having flashbacks to that.”
On continuing the series with Purdue:
“I think we’ve got three more years,” he said. “(Expletive), I might not be alive.”
On whether this team is hopeless:
“Sure looking that way, eh? I was on the air, and you guys know this, I tell you guys too much and then I look like an idiot. But I told our guys, honestly, I told them on the radio, I didn’t see it coming. I did not see it coming.
“You look at us, we look like we’re pretty good,” he said. “I mean, you just look at us. We’ve got some big, strong guys. I just don’t know, Dave, if we know how to play basketball.
“We started the small lineup, then Matt (Humphrey) makes the three and it’s six to six, and he makes two of the dumbest fouls that any human being could possibly make. He fouls underneath our basket. Twice. Why? Why do that?
“It just seems like every time I think I maybe got something figured out that could work, they say, ‘Eh, we can screw this up, too. He thinks he’s going to figure this out, we’ll screw it up good.’”