Huggins Family Patriarch Passes Away
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Charlie Huggins, the father of West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, has died.
Charlie Huggins is a legendary name in Ohio prep basketball circles, the elder Huggins having coached three teams to Class A state championships in 1967, 1972 and 1976.
His Indian Valley South teams, led by sons Bob, Harry and Larry, were annual state title contenders in the 1970s. Eight times he was named District Coach of the Year and during his 20 years coaching at Stone Creek, Strasburg, Conotton Valley, Indian Valley South and Berlin Hiland, his teams compiled an impressive 398-74 career record, including a 26-0 mark during Bob’s senior season in 1972.
Charlie was born in Morgantown on Sept. 1, 1933, grew up on Dug Hill and starred at Morgantown High before signing to play with West Virginia after his senior season at Morgantown in 1951. He appeared in a handful of games on an outstanding WVU team in 1952 that featured All-American center Mark Workman, forwards Harry “Moo” Moore, Eddie Becker and Mack Isner, and guard Ralph “Red” Holmes.
The Mountaineers won back-to-back games against 19th-rated Duke and sixth-ranked NYU, and finished the year with a 23-4 record and a No. 9 national rating.
A controversial loss to Duke in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina, ended West Virginia’s season that year.
By Charlie’s own admission, “forgetting to study” briefly put his college basketball career on hold so he worked at Sterling Faucett in Sabraton and played independent league basketball. It was during those independent games when he was noticed by Alderson-Broaddus coach Rex Pyles, who asked him to join the team.
Huggins helped A-B reach the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City in 1956, and he led the Battlers in scoring with an average of 25 points per game during his senior season in 1957 that ended with a West Virginia Conference tournament finals loss to West Liberty.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Alderson-Broaddus in 1958 and a master’s degree from WVU in 1962, his coaching career soon blossomed in the tiny Northeastern Ohio town Gnadenhutten, surrounded by Newcomerstown, where Ohio State coach Woody Hayes went to high school, and Peoli, where Cy Young is buried.
Charlie Huggins and sons Bob, Larry and Harry made up the third point in that famous small-town Ohio sports triangle, according Syracuse.com sportswriter Chris Wagner.
Wagner once played against Huggins’ powerhouse Indian Valley South teams in the early 1970s.
“What separated Indian Valley South from the rest of the state’s teams was unbelievable discipline in the post-Hippie era,” Wagner wrote in 2010 before Bob’s West Virginia team faced Kentucky in the NCAA East Regional Finals in the Carrier Dome. “From grade school on, Charlie Huggins created a system that turned 5-foot-10 sons of farmers and miners into perfect extensions of his puppet-master hands.”
Charlie’s rule for his three boys during the Vietnam War era was hair two finger-lengths above the top of the scalp, which is probably why all three grew their hair out when they went to college.
Those who played for Charlie say Bob became his coaching clone, except for the language (Charlie taught Adult Sunday School for nearly 20 years)! Fundamentals, defense, three-hour practices and riding the refs was their formula for success.
“Fundamentals are fundamentals for success at everything,” Charlie once said. “We told our players what we wanted from them and what they should work on. I couldn’t be with them and watch over them all the time, so they had to do it on their own.
“Those that did got better, and those that didn’t, well, it showed,” Charlie added.
Sounds exactly like something his son Bob would say today.
Bob recalled an Indian Valley game once when one of the team’s worst players missed several shots in a row while his dad watched from the bench. After about the seventh or eighth-straight miss, Charlie, arms folded, called timeout and motioned for his players to come over to where he was standing.
Charlie calmly asked the offending player why he was shooting so much. The player said because he was wide-open.
“That’s because they want you to be wide-open!” he answered. “Why don’t you pass the ball and let some of the other players take a few shots?”
During one stretch in the 1970s, Huggins’ Indian Valley South teams made five straight state Class A championship appearances, winning two titles and finishing runner-up twice. In addition to his three sons Bob (West Virginia), Harry (Rice) and Larry (Ohio State), some of the other players Charlie sent to the Division I ranks include John Studor (Louisville), Eddie Yackey (Akron), Todd Feller (Western Carolina) and Joe Cochran (Louisiana Tech).
To make a few extra bucks to help feed a growing family, Charlie coached one season of high school football, leading his team to an 8-2 record, and he also coached track during the spring time. The Huggins boys were all required to play the sports their father coached, including the one fall when he decided to take up cross country.
“I couldn’t stand it,” Larry once said, laughing. “(Bob) played football up until the time he got injured and dad told him no more football. He was the starting quarterback his sophomore year.”
“His father was very demanding of Bob – very demanding,” longtime Huggins friend and college coach Billy Hahn once recalled. “He learned from his father that you’ve got to bring it every day, all the time.”
When Bob was young, Charlie used to take him on trips over to Farrell, Pennsylvania, to visit with Pennsylvania high school basketball coaching legend Ed McCluskey. What Bob learned from listening to those two talk about the game was immeasurable.
Charlie also conducted the Eastern Ohio Basketball Camp in Sherrodsville from 1969 until 2010, serving countless Ohio basketball players. He once explained that it was a camp based on fundamentals – the fundamentals of basketball and the fundamentals of life.
“I always wanted to have a Christian-based camp,” Charlie said in 2015. “The best kind of camp I could provide to do that was a basketball camp.”
“Charlie’s camp was legendary because all the great high school teams went to it,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla recalled in 2017. Fraschilla got to know the Huggins family well during his years as an assistant coach at Ohio University. “In the summer, you went to Charlie’s camp to recruit and it was a huge, happy basketball family.”
Charlie was inducted into the Alderson-Broaddus Hall of Fame in 1994, the Morgantown High Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Up until a few years ago when his health began to decline, Charlie frequently took in his son’s West Virginia University men’s basketball games at the WVU Coliseum.
Preceded in death by his wife, Norma, he is survived by seven adult children: Bob, Linda, Harry, Deborah, Larry, Judy and Karen, as well as numerous grandchildren.