Kansas State president Jon Wefald and athletic director Tim Weiser must have spilled their milk when they met with Bob Huggins and unsuccessfully attempted to make him stay because by the time they held a news conference to announce the vacancy, the two men still were crying.
Wefald, who has done marvelous things for Kansas State, was not at his best in what amounted to a pity party of a presser. He said Huggins' decision was "not fair." Weiser, another good man, kept saying the timing wasn't right. No, it certainly wasn't right for K-State, but it was for Huggins, or he wouldn't have returned to West Virginia, his alma mater.
Wefald and Weiser looked exhausted, depressed, defeated. That wasn't what the faces of Kansas State needed to look like. It merely added to the embarrassment factor. The men needed to sound confident that they would find another coach with feet gigantic enough to fill Huggins' Nikes.
The post-Huggins era is not off to a good start, but that doesn't mean it won't finish well. Thanks largely to Huggins, the Kansas State job is a more appealing one than it was a year ago. Huggins proved that if you start to build a program, they will come to watch. Plus, he left one, possibly two, tremendous building blocks behind him in Bill Walker and Michael Beasley.
Walker, who became eligible for Kansas State in the second semester of Huggins' one and only season, is considered a member of the 2007 high school graduating class. Therefore, he isn't eligible to declare for the NBA Draft. Considering he is coming off major knee surgery, that wouldn't be a wise move anyway. Walker showed in six games that he's a big-time college player. Any potential K-State coach would feel better about the job knowing Walker would play for him.
Beasley signed a letter of intent with Kansas State thinking he would play for Huggins, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will ask for a release from his letter and follow Huggins to West Virginia. Beasley comes out of an AAU program called D.C. Assault (Am I the only one who finds that name a tad offensive?). Huggins hired assistant Dalonte Hill, former D.C. Assault coach, away from Charlotte to improve his chances of getting Beasley.
So if you're a big-name coach and K-State approaches you, here's what you do. Immediately call Hill, and ask him if he would stay at K-State if he is promoted to associate head coach. If the answer is yes, then ask him how confident he is that Beasley would stay, too. If it's a double yes, the idea of coaching Walker and Beasley becomes quite an appealing one.
Wefald and Weiser hit a home run with the Huggins hiring. Unfortunately, it was a walk-off homer.
Here's a name nobody's talking about that everybody should be talking about: Kevin O'Neill. He's bold, aggressive, a proven recruiter and a standout defensive coach. O'Neill, 50, elevated programs at Marquette and Tennessee and then coached at Northwestern before bolting for an NBA career. He's living in upstate New York, looking to get back into college coaching and he has a lot of the same traits as Huggins. For one, he's feisty. As transitions go, it would be a smooth one, especially if O'Neill could instantly convince Hill and then Beasley to stay committed to the Wildcats.