Putting them on the map: Bob Huggins' Hall of Fame coaching career took off at Walsh

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins (left) talks with former North Carolina head coach Roy Williams prior to the Mountaineers' game against Iowa State in February. Huggins will join Williams in the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins (left) talks with former North Carolina head coach Roy Williams prior to the Mountaineers' game against Iowa State in February. Huggins will join Williams in the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
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Head coach Jeff Young has told every Walsh University men's basketball recruit the story.

From now on, they will know that a Hall of Fame coaching career started on the North Canton campus.

Former Cavaliers head coach Bob Huggins will be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. this fall. Most of Huggins' 916 career wins have come at the NCAA Division I level with Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia.

Huggins' head coaching roots, though, were planted at Walsh in the early 1980s. He turned a struggling program into an NAIA national power.

"Before Bob came to Walsh, nobody knew about Walsh basketball," Young said. "As far as winning was concerned, it just wasn't happening."

Huggins went 71-26 in three seasons at Walsh. The Cavs had four winning seasons in 18 years prior to his arrival in 1980. His second Walsh team won a conference championship for the first time. His third team went 30-0 during the regular season and made the NAIA Tournament.

Walsh has maintained a consistent level of success since the Huggins era. The Cavs won the NAIA Division II national championship in 2005 and have played in the NCAA Division II Tournament multiple times.

"Bob kind of put Walsh on the map as far as basketball is concerned," Young said. "There have been some really good coaches after him, but he got the thing going."

Young came to Walsh as a player shortly after Huggins left. He played for Dan Peters, who was on Huggins' staff. Peters later became one of Huggins' assistants at Cincinnati.

The Walsh-Cincinnati connection was strong after Young became the Cavs' head coach in 2004. It helped Cincinnati student assistant Jerrod Calhoun land a full-time job on Young's staff. Calhoun is now the head coach at Youngstown State.

"Both Bob and Dan reached out to me and said 'Hey, you have to hire Jerrod Calhoun,'" Young said. "Jerrod was young, but Bob said 'You gotta take this guy.' I had to maneuver a little bit to hire him because I was young, too."

The Cincinnati connection also helped the Cavs land the centerpiece to their 2005 national championship team.

Robert Whaley played for Huggins at Cincinnati during the 2003-04 season but left the team after appearing in 20 games, citing personal reasons. He transferred to Walsh with one year of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-10, 265-pound Whaley was named the 2004-05 NAIA Division II Player of the Year. He averaged 22.8 points in five national tournament games and was voted tournament MVP.

Huggins would face his old team. In 2010, he invited the Cavs to West Virginia for an exhibition game against the Mountaineers. West Virginia won 86-63.

"He has always made contact and tried to do what he could to help the program moving forward," Young said. "We had him up for a reunion for him and he has stayed connected. He has been a big part of our success."

Reach Mike at mike.popovich@cantonrep.com

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This article originally appeared on The Repository: Bob Huggins' Hall of Fame coaching career took off at Walsh