Kansas St. hands ball to Huggins

By Wire services
Published March 24, 2006

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Bob Huggins, who turned the Cincinnati Bearcats into a national power during 16 sometimes-stormy years, signed a five-year contract with Kansas State. It's the most controversial hire in college basketball since Texas Tech took in Bob Knight five years ago.

Knight was one of several people Kansas State consulted before offering Huggins the job.

Although one of the winningest active coaches, Huggins, 52, was out of work for a year after Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher refused to extend his four-year contract rollover following his arrest and conviction for drunken driving in 2004.

But Huggins, wearing a necktie that was bright Kansas State purple, offered no apologies.

"I don't know many people who got to know me who want me to change a bunch," he said. "I'm not perfect. I don't think anybody is. I try to fix it. When you've got something you need to fix, you try to fix it."

Huggins replaces Jim Wooldridge, who was 15-13 this past season. He takes over a once-proud program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1996.

Huggins was 399-127 at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including the 1992 Final Four. He also coached at Walsh and Akron and has a record of 567-199 during a 24-year career.

MORE COACHING NEWS: Former Cincinnati assistant Mick Cronin took over the Bearcats' program, shortly after the team's 65-62 loss to South Carolina in the NIT quarterfinals. Also, the Bearcats interim coach Andy Kennedy was hired by Mississippi. ... Randy Rahe was named as basketball coach at Weber State, replacing Joe Cravens. Rahe was an assistant at Utah for the last two years. Weber State dismissed Cravens last month after two consecutive losing seasons. ... North Carolina's Roy Williams, Villanova's Jay Wright, George Washington's Karl Hobbs and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl were named finalists for the Naismith coach of the year award.

South Carolina advances

Tre' Kelley's 10-point outburst early in the second half and go-ahead basket in the final minute led visiting South Carolina to a 65-62 victory over a Cincinnati team that had two starters declared ineligible just hours before its NIT quarterfinal game.

Kelley finished with 21 points and Tarence Kinsey had 18 for South Carolina (21-15), which will play Louisville in Tuesday night's semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York. Old Dominion plays Michigan in the other semifinal.

The Gamecocks are trying to become the first team to win consecutive NIT championships since St. John's in 1943 and 1944.

Eric Hicks led the short-handed Bearcats (21-13) with 22 points.

A Cincinnati spokesman, citing an NCAA ruling, declined to say why seniors James White and Jihad Muhammad were declared ineligible.