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WVU basketball: Huggins to get raise, extension

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There were times last season when Bob Huggins sounded like his fifth year as West Virginia's basketball coach might be one of his last.

The Mountaineers were young and compromised too often by the mistakes he had watched inexperienced teams make in his 30 seasons as a head coach.

More than once, he sat behind a microphone after a devastating defeat and said he had never seen a team or a player do something he'd just seen. He'd never coached a team or a player that had behaved the way one had just behaved.

If he wasn't washing his hands of the whole ordeal, he was at least throwing them up in the air in disbelief.

"It was all true," he said Thursday.

But Huggins isn't going anywhere.

Athletic Director Oliver Luck told the Daily Mail the school and Huggins are redoing the contract they signed after the 2008 season.

That was for 11 years and $27.5 million overall, including $2.3 million for the upcoming season.

Luck would not reveal the details, but said they're "looking at adding to both the length and the compensation." Luck said the contract should be finished before the end of the year.

"I think what ultimately any athletic director wants for his or her programs is to have stability, and that stability is important because of recruiting and because of fan interest," Luck said.

"I think by and large, people around the state think the world of him and they're excited about him being their coach in the Big 12."

Huggins said the new contract wasn't a necessity and that he doesn't plan on leaving WVU, but that it nevertheless helps address whatever issues about longevity might be used against him in recruiting.

"It's kind of how it was presented," he said. "The problem I had at Cincinnati was when we got the new president, people were using that against us and saying that I wasn't going to be there - which, obviously, they were right. That hurts you, but I think everyone understands that I'm going to be here as long as they want me to be here or as long as I want to keep coaching."

Huggins turned 59 late last month and last season became the 20th Division I coach ever to win 700 games. In five seasons at his alma mater, he's won 120 games and a Big East Tournament title, led the Mountaineers to the 2010 Final Four and made the NCAA Tournament every season.

The current contract runs through the 2019 season and the new contract will take him beyond that. Huggins said he has no idea when he'll retire, but he knows how it'll feel.

"I want to do this as long as I'm excited about doing it, as long as I feel like I can bring the kind of passion to it that I've always brought," he said. "When it comes to where I say, 'I just don't want to go in there and do this,' I need to quit."

Huggins keeps two thoughts in his mind when he thinks about the end of his career. Most powerful is having watched his father, Charlie, retire as a winning high school coach in Ohio with no regrets.

"He was at the top of his business, but he walked away and never really thought anything about it," Huggins said. "It didn't bother him because he knew it was time."

Huggins has also had time off and knows what to expect, while many coaches struggle to adjust to the newfound time. Huggins resigned at Cincinnati in 2005 and sat out the 2005-06 season before returning for one season at Kansas State. He said he enjoyed the break.

"Everyone thinks I'm (kidding) them, but the year I was out, I never missed the games," he said. "I missed practice. I missed the camaraderie I had with Andy Kennedy and Frank Martin. I missed the kids. I missed Eric Hicks and James White and those guys and the interactions we had, but as far as the games? I never missed the games."

Huggins has high hopes for games in the 2012-13 season, the first in the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers return forwards Deniz Kilicli and Keaton Miles and guards Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds from the group of starters last season. Sophomore Aaron Brown should be better. Forwards Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge are healthy.

Center Aaric Murray and guards Juwan Staten and Matt Humphrey are transfers who are eligible and will make a difference. Freshmen guards Terry Henderson and Eron Harris can make shots and 6-foot-10 freshman Volodymyr Gerun has some inside-outside versatility.

WVU nevertheless was picked sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll, which was released Thursday.

"Honestly, if we're the sixth-best team in the league, it's a hell of a league," Huggins said. "I'm telling you, this is a team that, if I had scheduled it that way, would win 25 games. It's going to be really hard to do that with who we play, but if we did what a lot of other teams do and play 18 home games and buy everyone in, we'd win 25 games with this group and most people would say we're a pretty good team.

"We're not going to win 25 probably because of who we play, but we've got a chance to be pretty good."

It is that which focuses Huggins again on the eve of another season. The Mountaineers begin practice today and have an intrasquad scrimmage that's open to the public Oct. 19. They scrimmage Glenville State on Nov. 6 and open the regular season six days later at Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs ended WVU's season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March. The Mountaineers have a month to prepare their revenge, which is the sort of stuff that keeps Huggins going.

"It's not the coaching that gets you, it's the other stuff," he said, meaning the string of appearances at clinics and fundraisers and recruiting visits and everything else that clutters a calendar. "I love people, but you know what? When you've got to put yourself in a car and drive two-and-a-half hours, that's hard. When I get there, I like it. I love being around people. But it's getting there that gets old."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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