MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Before Bob Huggins came home to West Virginia, he attained status as a top coach at Cincinnati. In doing so, he drew the ire of the Xavier Musketeers.
Huggins faces Xavier on Saturday for the nineteenth time in his career as a head coach. Most of those meetings came as an active participant in the Crosstown Shootout, the storied, heated rivalry between the Musketeers and Bearcats.
“I don’t have any good thoughts of Xavier whatsoever,” Huggins said.
He says that with good reason. Huggins holds a losing record against the Musketeers, albeit a narrow one, as his tenure saw the rivalry boil over outside of the game.
The Shootout was mostly played in the early to middle part of the season since Huggins led the Bearcats, with all of their meetings during his tenure coming on either a December or a January night. Those games still held plenty of weight in their postseason prospects, though.
“Very rarely did we play that we both weren’t ranked,” Huggins said. “Very, very rarely.”
On more than one occasion, Huggins trotted a top-five team onto the hardwood in the rivalry. The only time they were ranked No. 1, however, they fell by just a basket.
In all the memorable moments in the rivalry, few stand out above the clash in 1994, when the Musketeers battled the Bearcats and earned a two-point win in overtime. After the game, Huggins didn’t shake hands with XU coach Pete Gillen, instead engaging in a verbal match.
That turned out to be Gillen’s final season at Xavier, as he went on to coach at Providence the next season.
“Early on, Pete and I didn’t get along very well, then it all changed,” Huggins recalled. “Pete and I got along very well after that….No one talks faster than Pete Gillen, no one — he can really get words out in a hurry. We got to be good friends.”
Huggins didn’t offer any personal stories from the rivalry, however.
The sixteen games of the contentious Crosstown Shootout under Huggins’s watch ended in an even tie, eight games apiece. He has since played the Musketeers twice, once at Kansas State and another time at West Virginia, losing both of those clashes.
The lone instance he met Xavier was in the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Phoenix. Huggins didn’t get the coveted Sweet Sixteen win, instead falling to the Musketeers 79-75.
Saturday’s game will be his first return to Cincinnati to face Xavier since returning to West Virginia, he expects the fans to remember the old days.
“They will call names out,” Huggins said.