Lots of Kansas State athletic faithful went nutty when president Jon Wefald and Co. grabbed controversial Bob Huggins off the used-coach rack to handle their basketball. There were rallies, T-shirt orgies, women were throwing babies off balconies and a common belief was Kansas University better run and hide: The Wildcats are coming!
But while there was high-profile celebrating, more than a few KSU devotees with long histories of involvement were underwhelmed, at best. They were embarrassed K-State had taken the route it did and wished the choice had been more parochial, and untarnished - like ex-stars Tim Jankovich, an aide at Kansas this past season, or Steve Henson, on Lon Kruger's staff at UNLV.
One local KSU product who knows a lot about fields, streams and forests noted that when you pick up a copperhead and fiddle around with it, it's gonna bite you. He and other Catbackers around here thought the Huggins decision would haunt them. Did it ever!
Huggy bolted after one season, albeit a good one from the KSU standpoint. The timing was such that Jankovich had taken the Illinois State job and dared not renege, even if invited to go home. Whether Henson got a look is uncertain. Wefald and Co. were so panicked about losing recruits like Bill Walker and Michael Beasley that they grabbed the nearest dike-pluggers - a pair of assistant coaches who helped sign some glitzy prospects - to which KSU is now held hostage.
Can fiery Frank Martin, also with heavy baggage, do the job? Will the new guys show up or join Huggie at West Virginia? The touted young saviors say they are loyal to their avowed KSU intentions, but Julian Wright guaranteed Kansas three years. At least he's leaving under inestimably more honorable circumstances than Huggins.
Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated drew a flood of derision last fall when he did a column about the Huggins "purchase" and suggested K-State's contract include a waiver: "Before you open your used Bob Huggins, please read the directions CAREFULLY. We cannot be responsible for damage to your integrity, reputation or standing in the community. Guarantee: Your used Bob Huggins is guaranteed to win games, not graduate players. ... You sold your soul for wins. It's like marrying Anna Nicole Smith. She ain't moving in to cook. ... After a few seasons (ha!) you will want to get rid of your used Bob Huggins the way Quasimodo wanted to get rid of his hump."
A number of local K-Staters I know fully subscribed to such early warnings, wondering how long before the fecal matter hit the fan, creating something like the current mess. Unless some unforeseen miracles occur, K-State faces some terribly rough times in basketball. Ron Prince's football factory better produce or disarray will really reign.
But Huggins, Billy Gillispie, coaches like that went for the bucks and the presumed glory, and schools like Kansas State and Texas A&M; had to scramble to compensate after all sorts of acts of good faith and confidence.
Sure the coaches with vagabond shoes, including our own Mark Turgeon, loom less than noble in all this, but what about the schools that lure and nab them regardless of ethical issues? Schools merit every bit as much disgust as the men they snatch.
I keep thinking about K-Staters here who shook their heads in displeasure when the conniving Huggins was rescued from the unemployment line. Wefald and Co. should have contacted such people to begin with.