Huggins says he plans to stay in rehab and wants to return to West Virginia as coach
Bob Huggins says he has checked into a rehabilitation facility following a drunken driving arrest and disputes that he resigned at West Virginia, accusing the university of releasing a “false statement” about him stepping down.
It’s the latest chapter in what is turning out to be an ugly divorce battle between the university and the Hall of Fame coach.
The Associated Press obtained a five-paragraph statement issued by Huggins on Monday through his attorney, David A. Campbell of Cleveland. Huggins said he wanted to “set the record straight on the past two weeks” since his June 16 arrest in Pittsburgh. Huggins said that he has been focused on his rehabilitation at an unspecified facility and has not responded until now to the university’s version of the events.
“I have taken responsibility for the mistake and have taken a course to verify that such a mistake will not occur in the future,” Huggins said.
He said he plans to remain in the rehab center “until I am cleared to return to my active coaching duties.”
WVU announced June 17 that Huggins had resigned. A week later, assistant coach Josh Eilert was promoted to interim head coach for the 2023-24 season. Several of Huggins’ players have already entered the transfer portal, and some have found new teams.
But Huggins said he never submitted a formal notice. Under the terms of his contract, Huggins would have had to submit a letter by registered or certified mail to voluntarily resign. Huggins said further that the university’s statement issued June 17 titled “A Message from Bob Huggins to the WVU Community” indicating he had resigned was not drafted or reviewed by him.
“This false statement was sent under my name, but no signature is included,” Huggins said. “In addition, the false, unsigned statement, was accompanied by a joint statement from the President and Athletics Director that clearly implied that they had received this purported resignation letter” from Huggins.
The university had told Campbell in a letter Saturday that “in no uncertain terms, the University will not accept Mr. Huggins’ renovation of his resignation, nor will it reinstate him as head coach of the men’s basketball program.” On Monday, the university issued another response, saying Huggins’ letter was without merit and any claim that he hadn’t resigned “is frivolous.”
Huggins said he let the university know that he was seeking rehabilitation but that WVU “was not willing to speak with me about the Pittsburgh event nor to provide me time to obtain counsel to review my Employment Agreement.”
Huggins said he met with his players the day his resignation was announced and “let them know the truth - that I did not know what would happen to me, but that if I was not their coach, I was hoping that I would be replaced by a coach that I recommended to WVU.”
The university has said Huggins met with his players and staff “to announce that he would no longer be coaching the team.”
Huggins said now that he has obtained a lawyer to review his contract and has seen the university’s comments about his current status, “it is clear that WVU did not handle the situation appropriately. More importantly, the basketball program is in need and I have a strong desire to conclude my career as the Head Basketball Coach for the program I love. I hope to meet with WVU in the near future to resolve this situation.”
Campbell wrote Sunday to Stephanie Taylor, WVU’s vice president and general counsel, requesting a meeting to discuss “an amicable resolution to this dispute.” Taylor replied Monday that the university stood by its position and won’t reinstate Huggins but she requested in writing a detail version of Campbell’s proposal before such a call is scheduled.
On Friday, Campbell wrote that the university’s resignation announcement was “based on a text message from Coach Huggins’ wife” to Steve Uryasz, West Virginia’s deputy athletic director. The university had provided The AP with a copy of a notice sent by Huggins’ wife, June, that same day. The notice was sent from an email address associated with June Huggins, with a signature indicating it was sent via iPhone. It was sent to Uryasz’s email address and did not appear to be a text message, as Campbell claimed.
West Virginia athletic director Wren Baker responded an hour later by writing, “We accept your resignation and wish you the best in retirement. We appreciate your many years of dedication to WVU.”
The resignation was announced a month after the university gave Huggins a three-game suspension for using an anti-gay slur while also denigrating Catholics during a radio interview.
The 69-year-old Huggins was the third-winningest coach all-time in Division I with 935 victories, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (1,202) and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse (1,015), both of whom are retired. Unlike the others, Huggins did not win a national title. He took Cincinnati to the Final Four in 1992 and West Virginia in 2010.