Huggins booted from UC's first-round loss to GonzagaPosted: Thursday March 20, 2003 4:45 PM
Updated: Thursday March 20, 2003 5:13 PM
By Steve Rivera, Special to SI.com
SALT LAKE CITY -- Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins was hopping mad -- and because of it, he didnít get a chance to see his team fight to the finish against Gonzaga.
Huggins was tossed with 16:17 left and his team down 47-40 in the second half at Huntsman Center after he argued a traveling call on Bearcats forward Jason Maxiell. He showed his displeasure by jumping up and down and was later tossed for arguing the call even more loudly after the first technical.
And this from what was to be a quieter, gentler Huggins after his near-fatal heart attack six months ago while on a recruiting trip to Pittsburgh. But when he returned to the court just two weeks after the attack, he vowed he wouldnít change his fiery courtside demeanor.
At least he kept his word.
But there was no word on his ejection.
"Iím not going to comment on what happened with the officials," Huggins said after his Bearcats fell 74-69 after rallying late in the loss.
Others did, however.
Karl Benson, the NCAA Basketball Committee Representative at the venue, said Huggins was assessed his first technical for leaving the coaching box. His second was because "he refused to leave the floor and was four steps on to the court. And he was continuing to question the call."
Said Cincinnati guard Tony Bobbitt: "I was real shocked about the technical. We just didnít get the call. Iím glad for coach. He stood up for what he believes in. But I donít think coach Huggins should have been kicked out of the game. But it happens. He didnít give up on us and we didnít give up on him."
Huggins wasnít the only UC representative to get tossed. Chuck Machock, the teamís radio analyst, was removed a minute after Huggins.
"If it is [the refs'] judgment that a person is exercising unsportsmanlike behavior, the official has the authority to have him removed," said Benson.
The usually talkative Huggins wouldnít even comment much on his teamís late rally.
"Itís hard for me to say because I didnít see it," Huggins said. "There was no TV in the locker room."
But he was getting updates on what was happening as the Bearcats rallied from 12 points down to close to within three with 31 seconds left at 72-69.
"We played hard," said Bobbitt. "We didnít give up. We kept our poise."
And they did it without Huggins, as associate head coach Dan Peters stepped in and took over.
"We understand [Huggins] is the backbone, but he apologized to us," Bobbitt said. "I donít think we let up."
The Bearcats had no choice.
"When you chop the head off of the monster, it takes its toll," said Cincy guard Taron Barker, who had a team-high 16 points. "Coach is everything. That [ejection] motivated us, but it also hurt us, too. He would have fired us up. We kept fighting and fighting, but they had answer for us."