Head coach Jeff Young has told the story to all of the Walsh University men’s basketball recruits.
From now on, they will know that a Hall of Fame coaching career began on the North Canton campus.
Former Cavaliers head coach Bob Huggins will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, this fall. The majority of Huggins’ 916 career wins have come at the NCAA Division I level with Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia.
However, Huggins’ roots as a head coach were planted in Walsh in the early 1980s. He turned a struggling program into a national NAIA powerhouse.
“Before Bob came to Walsh, no one knew about Walsh’s basketball,” Young said. “As far as winning, it just wasn’t happening.”
Huggins went 71-26 in three seasons at Walsh. The Cavs had four winning seasons in 18 years before 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 put Walsh on the map when it comes to basketball,” Young said. “There were some really good coaches after him, but he got things rolling.”
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 in Cincinnati.
The Walsh-Cincinnati connection was solid after Young became the Cavs’ head coach in 2004. He 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 came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to hire Jerrod Calhoun,'” Young said. “Jerrod was young, but Bob said, ‘You’ve got to take this guy.’ I had to maneuver a bit to hire him because I was young too.”
Cincinnati’s connection also helped the Cavs land the centerpiece of their 2005 national champion team.
Robert Whaley played for Huggins in 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 been in touch and has tried to do whatever he can to help move the show forward,” Young said. “We invited him to a meeting for him and he’s stayed connected. He’s been a big part of our success.”
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