Saturday, July 17, 2004

Huggins must correct his mistakes


Bob Huggins has been offered a second chance. His indefinite suspension as head coach of the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team will have lasted 76 days when he returns to work Aug. 27.

Huggins was suspended with pay June 12 after he was charged with drunken driving. The videotaped arrest by Fairfax police showed Huggins struggling to maintain his balance. His case was quickly adjudicated and, yes, his suspension was swift and decisive. He lost the use of his school office and car.

But he can't fault the public for being skeptical about this hasty return. He has some damage to repair, and he needs to make good on promises to the school, his fans and his players that he has learned from mistakes. From here on out, Huggins needs to display behavior that is representative of UC. The school, which has joined the Big East Conference, is making bold moves academically and increasing its already formidable stature in the community.

His bosses seem confident about the decision to reinstate Huggins. UC athletic director Bob Goin said Huggins has "taken the appropriate steps while under suspension and will, with continued effort, be ready to resume his position ..." President Nancy Zimpher and UC Board Chairman Phillip R. Cox support the decision.

Goin said the decision was made to reinstate the 50-year-old Huggins after he had three or four face-to-face meetings with Huggins. For the sake of the basketball program, for the school, and most of all, for Huggins himself, we hope he is well. If he received professional counseling, it has been kept personal.

UC has been mum on conditions of Huggins' return. One sign of caution, however, is that UC did not roll over Huggins' three-year contract July 1, which means he has only three years left on his current contract.

Huggins is an asset on the court. In 10 seasons his teams have won nearly eight out of 10 games. But being healthy and having a positive influence off the court is more important than winning basketball games.

Thousands of people are watching how Huggins handles this second chance. Indeed, many are rooting for him. We hope he's up to the challenge.

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