Column: Huggins hire tops them all

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This semester has been one that K-State fans will not soon forget.

In the past four months, Wildcat fans have probably experienced every emotion imaginable.

K-State fans were overcome with joy and hope when the men’s basketball team finally put an end to its 31-game losing streak against those pesky Kansas Jayhawks with a comeback 59-55 victory on Jan. 14 in Lawrence.

Despite a promising start, however, the men’s basketball squad proved to be a disappointment, losing nine of their last 12 games and failing to make the postseason for a seventh-straight season.

As a result, former coach Jim Wooldridge – who was still recovering from surgery on a bulging disk in his neck – lost his job.

But while the K-State men were reeling, the women’s basketball team was preparing to make a magical run in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

After a gutsy, one-point win against Western Kentucky, the Wildcats beat Marquette 77-65 on March 31 for the WNIT championship.

I wasn’t at Bramlage Coliseum to witness K-State’s WNIT championship, but I wish I had gone. On TV, the environment seemed electric. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought coach Deb Patterson’s squad was playing for the NCAA Championship.

The women’s basketball team’s WNIT victory was not K-State’s only championship performance this semester.

On the track, Christian Smith was nothing short of amazing.

Five weeks after setting the collegiate record in the 1,000-meter run, Smith won the mile run at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 11.

Not to be outdone, golfer Ben Kern set school and tournament records at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 8-9, shooting 14-under par en route to a three-stroke victory.

There is no doubt that Wildcat fans have experienced a number of memorable moments this semester.

But none of them measure up to the media splash created by new men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.

I still have no idea how Director of Athletics Tim Weiser lured coach Huggins to Manhattan – a nice place, but not quite the caviar of college towns.

Huggins had never even set foot in Manhattan before accepting the job.

Regardless, the man who owns a .740 career winning percentage and ranks among the nation’s elite Division I coaches now calls the Little Apple home.

From time to time, people ask me what I think about the Huggins hire. My thought is simply this: Huggins will help K-State win a lot of games. And soon.

Two seasons before Huggins arrived at Cincinnati, the Bearcats won only 11 games. By his third season, Cincinnati was playing in the Final Four.

The 52-year-old defensive mastermind would guide the Bearcats to

14-straight NCAA Tournaments (1993-2005). Pretty impressive.

No disrespect to K-State’s football program, but if Huggins can continue to sign players like 7-foot-3 center Jason Bennett and 6-foot-2 guard Blake Young, Manhattan will be re-transformed into a basketball town within the next three years.

Wildcat fans should be excited. After a long hiatus, Huggins has put the K-State men’s basketball program back on the map.

Mark Potter is a senior in public relations. You can e-mail him at sports@spub.ksu.edu.

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