Heartbeat of the Heartland: Bob Huggins’ Stool is A Symbol of A Coach’s Workload


Forty years and 1,166 games as a basketball coach can extract a physical toll. As Indiana Jones said, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

Bob Huggins’ odometer reading led to having right hip replacement surgery in the summer of 2014. It was not the health scare of 2002 when he nearly died from a heart attack. He has a defibrillator to help regulate his heart beat. His new hip is the reason for his court-side seat.

For the last two seasons, Huggins has perched on a stool positioned next to the WVU bench. The tens of thousands of up-downs during over a thousand games took a toll on the 6-3 Huggins’ hips. He’ll need his “good” hip replaced this summer.

“Those (chair) seats are so low, and in a lot of places the seats are set off the floor, which makes them even lower,” the 64-year-old Huggins says. “It makes it really difficult to get up and down.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has had both hips replaced. North Carolina coach Roy Williams has had a knee replaced. Huggins suggests that coaches in their 60s grew up playing basketball on asphalt and concrete wearing Chuck Taylors and that – plus the repetitive standing and sitting during games – has contributed to joint deterioration.

The Huggins Stool, like defense, travels. When the Mountaineers make a road trip, the stool has its own carry bag and gets checked with the rest of the team’s baggage. Senior Payton Sturm has been a student manager for the Mountaineers and is the “stool guru.” The stool and Sturm are best friends; where Sturm goes, the stool goes.

“When we go on road trips, packing uniforms are 1 and the stool is 1A,” he says. “Everything else, if it’s forgotten or lost, we can work around. I guess the nightmare is somehow it gets damaged, a leg gets broken. There’s a sign of relief every time we unpack it and it’s OK.”

For home games, WVU has two stools. One remains court side while the other is stowed behind the bench. For timeouts and halftime, Sturm makes sure that there’s a stool for Huggins in the huddle and in the locker room.

Big 12 and NCAA rules limit the number of bench seats a team can have. Huggins’ stool counts as one of those seats so there’s one less chair on the Mountaineers’ sideline.

“The stool makes it easier to get up,” Huggins says. “The officials, I’m sure they prefer I never get up.”

Svi for three (and more)

Something to keep in mind regarding Kansas senior Svi Mykhailiuk – the 6-8 forward is 20 years old. He doesn’t turn 21 until June. Lately, he has been playing the best basketball of his career that for many non-Kansas fans is surely approaching Perry Ellis territory.

In Monday night’s 70-56 victory at Kansas State, Mykhailiuk had 22 points and seven rebounds. He scored 24 in each of the two previous games and over his last three contests he’s 22-of-52 from the field and 15-of-30 on 3-pointers. Mykhailiuk has scored 20 or more in six of 10 conference games. 

“(Mykhailiuk is) poised, he’s got size, his improvement from freshman year where he just shot it,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “Now he can put it on the floor, his athleticism, finishing. He knows where he can get shots. he’s playing at a high level.”

The “Ukraine Maker” – he’s from Cherkasy, Ukraine, hence the great nickname – was a major reason the Jayhawks were able to reach the halfway point of the Big 12 schedule with a 7-2 record. The Wildcats could have moved into a tie for first with a victory, but KU ran its road record to 4-1. No other Big 12 team has more than two road victories.

Fast breaks

  • In practice last Friday, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard was trying to show freshman Zaire Smith to set a flare screen and felt his knee pop. “It’s borderline embarrassing,” Beard said on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “During the game Saturday I forgot about, did something stupid on the sidelines and it kind of buckled. Get the message out – I really respect Iowa State fans. I don’t want the people up there to think I’m soft.” After an MRI a week ago, Beard was diagnosed with a torn ACL. He’ll likely have surgery after the season. He has been wearing a brace on his left knee. 
  • West Virginia’s struggles and failures to hold leads in recent losses can be traced to the Mountaineers’ inability to score in their half-court offense. A major factor has been inability to score from the perimeter, in particular with senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. In his last nine games, he’s a putrid 9-of-42 from 3-point range. “Someone else has to make shots for once,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “Here’s the honest-to-God truth: We have a guy (Daxter Miles) who was two for his last 22… But for some reason only known to him, he thinks he ought to still shoot threes.” Last season Miles made 33 percent of this threes. 
  • Alabama limited Oklahoma’s Trae Young as now team has been able to thus far this season. And this narrative will likely continue – can the Sooners’ other players provide Young with play-making and scoring support.“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I would have help,” Young told the Tulsa World. “These guys have been tremendous all year. Christian James has been phenomenal. Brady Manek, what he’s been doing obviously has been phenomenal. I have two of the best shot-blockers in the county on my team. “I don’t listen to that. I have tremendous teammates, and we’re gonna continue to make plays, and they’re gonna continue to do big things.”


  • Bill Self is now 13-2 against Bruce Weber. The Jayhawks won at Manhattan largely because their 2-3 zone stifled K-State’s offense. Asked about much his team prepared for KU’s zone, Weber answered: “None.”Give Weber credit for honesty, but that answer will cause lots of heartburn for Wildcat fans who have never liked him because he’s not Frank Martin.


  • From Gary Bedore, the great Kansas beat writer for the Kansas City Star, some of the signs carried by K-State fans in the Octagon of Doom Monday night:


  • Your Veteran Scribe takes ownership – even for opinions that don’t make it into postings for posterity. Earlier this season, I questioned if Texas freshman Mo Bamba had the lower-body girth and strength to gain post position. Bamba has posted career highs in his last two games – 24 against Iowa State on Monday and 25 against Ole Miss on Saturday.Against the Rebels, he was a career-best 12-of-13 on free throws and also had 15 rebounds. In Big 12 games, Bamba is averaging 14.5 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.6 blocked shots per game.


  • Mo’ on Mo: Bamba told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman that he enjoys the heckling that typically comes during Big 12 road games. “What do I do? I smile at ‘em,” he said. “One guy at Oklahoma State yelled that I cheated on the SAT. I looked around and said, ‘I took the ACT.’ “

And then he said

Iowa State got punked in Hilton Coliseum Saturday by Tennessee, 68-45, in the Big 12-SEC Challenge and Cyclones Donovan Jackson owned up to the team playing soft:

 “You have to look yourself in the mirror. At the end of the day, you’re a man. You’re playing college basketball. At the end of the day, you have to come out here and compete.”