So let me get this straight: Bob Huggins leaves Kansas State after one year, and he's a snake who slithered all the way to West Virginia, his alma mater. After all, Huggins told top recruit Michael Beasley he would be the coach at Kansas State, and now he won't be.
Yet, it's an aw-shucks, gee-whiz moment when Billy Gillispie, who told top-10 recruit DeAndre Jordan of Houston he would be there for him, leaves his home state, trading a job at Texas A&M; in for one at Kentucky.
It's all about image-conscience guys catching breaks and Huggins, as real a man as there is among sports celebrities, getting skewered. Huggins believes in himself too much to waste time and energy crafting an image.
Sure, it was a tough break for the Kansas State players that Huggins left them behind, just as it was for Bill Self's Illinois players and recruits when he left for Kansas University, and for the Kansas players and recruits when Roy Williams left Lawrence for Chapel Hill.
Yet, it's only Huggins who gets fitted for devil's horns.
It's an unpleasant risk college athletes take when they sign on with a coach. No preventative medicine exists to make sure they don't get burned. Big-time college basketball coaches are great salesmen, or they wouldn't become so successful. A high school player, his parents and/or sometimes even palms-up handlers are no match for great salesmen.
Based on the pity-drenched reaction of the Kansas State administrators, even they were no match for a great salesman when he told them he saw himself retiring in Manhattan.
Kansas State president Jon Wefald, under whom the school's academics and football program grew extraordinarily, signed off on the school's hiring of Dana Altman in 1990. So what? To take the job in Manhattan, Altman left Marshall after one year there. That's what. The timing was just fine then, though.
Oh well, at least K-State rebounded swiftly and wisely Friday, one day after the embarrassing news conference. Huggins assistant Frank Martin's promotion to head coach and the retention of assistant Dalonte Hill means the two top recruits - Beasley and Dominique Sutton - won't ask out of their letters of intent. Huggins lured Hill to Manhattan to land both recruits.
That's good news for Kansas because the stronger the conference, the more ready the Jayhawks will be for the NCAA Tournament.
No question the Big 12 took a big hit this week, losing two of its five marquee coaches (Self, Bob Knight, and Rick Barnes remain), but the retention of the talent Huggins recruited helps the conference maintain a high profile.
Now, it's imperative Texas A&M; hires a coach who can keep the great recruiting class Gillispie lined up before bolting for bluer grass and greener pockets.
A&M; assistant Alvin Brooks is a candidate. So are former Gillispie assistants Buzz Williams of New Orleans and Doc Sadler of Nebraska. Williams and Sadler have been at their schools for one season. If either man gets the offer and leaves for College Station, don't expect him to be demonized, a la Huggins. They smile better for the camera.