"From the minute I got here, they embraced me," Huggins said. "The people here are very much like West Virginia's people. I felt very much at home here."
That compliment was something of a conflict, too, because fate soon intervened like an official waving off a buzzer-beater in March Madness.
"I think I've said this a thousand times now," Huggins said, "but I would have never left Kansas State for any place other than coming back home to West Virginia."
He's headed for a second straight season with fewer than 20 wins, something that happened only three times in his first 26 seasons as a Division I coach, and might miss a postseason bid for the first time since 1988.
WVU has been in the postseason every season since 2004, but has five more games left against teams in the RPI top 55 that have already beaten WVU once this season. Monday night's performance didn't foster much faith.
There was a brief push at the end of the first half, which ended with WVU on a 10-5 run and down 33-20, but Kansas State opened the second half with a 13-2 run with help from a technical foul against Huggins as he finally protested too much about officiating that was sometimes interrupted by basketball. There were 49 fouls called.
"I thought the really frustrating thing was we couldn't make a damn shot," Huggins said.
The Mountaineers kept pushing and would get as close as 14 points a few times, but the game finally got away in one sequence. Harris fouled out with a personal foul and a technical foul for knocking over Will Spradling outside the 3-point line. Spradling made four free throws at the 9:24 mark on his way to a game-high 19 points. A three-point play from Rodriguez after a WVU turnover would put the Wildcats up 61-42.
KSU has arguably its best team since Lon Kruger coached Mitch Richmond to the Midwest Regional final in 1988. That was the school's third trip to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight since 1981, when Rolando Blackman led the Wildcats to the first of back-to-back trips.
Weber's first season has dusted off the aged memories of Final Four appearances in 1948, 1951, 1959 and 1964 and the sideline leadership of Hall of Famers like Jack Gardner and Tex Winter and eventual NBA general like Cotton Fitzsimmons.
"The great thing is when you build a program that's built to last," Huggins said. "I think that's what was done, but that's done not because of me or Frank Martin or anybody else. It's done because you have a university that's committed to winning and committed to doing things the right way."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.