Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Bob Huggins loses ‘close friend’ with the passing of Chuck Machock

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — It is quite possible that without the influence of Chuck Machock that Bob Huggins’ only ties to West Virginia would be that he was born in the state.

Their story goes back as far as 1973, just after Huggins had completed his freshman season at Ohio University and was looking to transfer.

It has long been assumed that Huggins’ transfer to WVU was an afterthought, since he was born in Morgantown.

Huggins dispelled that notion following the Mountaineers’ 55-41 victory against Oklahoma State.

Instead, it was Machock — then a WVU assistant under head coach Joedy Gardner — who convinced Huggins to sign with the Mountaineers.

“He actually recruited me to West Virginia,” Huggins said.

Their paths would cross again several times, to the point where Huggins referred to Machock as a second father to him.

“Now I got a great father, don’t get me wrong, but from a basketball standpoint, from a professional standpoint, he’s been the guy,” Huggins said. “He’s been the guy I go to when I need some help figuring some things out.”

Machock died last Saturday at the age of 82. Funeral plans are scheduled for Saturday in Elyria, Ohio, the same day the 17th-ranked Mountaineers (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) host No. 22 Texas Tech (10-4, 1-1).

By the time Huggins arrived on WVU’s campus, Machock had moved on to Ball State and then became an assistant coach at Ohio State.

That’s where the two would meet again. Huggins was looking for a job after spending a season as a graduate assistant with the Mountaineers.

Gale Catlett had been hired to replace Gardner and Catlett did not retain Huggins.

“The first guy I called was Chuck,” Huggins said.

Machock gave Eldon Miller the reference and Huggins was an assistant coach the next two seasons with the Buckeyes.

Machock did another recruiting job on Huggins to get him to come to Central Florida for a season, which came after Huggins had three years of head coaching experience at little Walsh College.

Central Florida was making the transition from Division II to Division I at the time.

“I’m thinking I’m stepping back from being a head coach to being an assistant coach at a D-II school, but he talked me into doing it,” Huggins said. “I could see why he could recruit, because he called me seemingly every hour about going with him. We just really were close friends. Really close friends.”

Both men made their mark in Cincinnati, though.

This time, it was Huggins’ turn to recruit Machock, who had left coaching by the late 1980s and entered the financial world, Huggins said.

Machock was brought in as a volunteer assistant when Huggins became Cincinnati’s head coach — “He did a great job with the bigs,” Huggins said. — and Machock also settled in as a radio analyst for the Bearcats’ radio broadcasts.

The duo may have made history together during the 2003 NCAA tournament by becoming the first head coach and radio personality to ever be ejected from the same game.

Cincinnati lost in the first round to Gonzaga, 74-69, but Huggins was ejected by referee Mike Kitts just minutes into the second half when Huggins wouldn’t leave the floor afte arguing a traveling call.

“That wasn’t the worst part,” Kitts told The Dominion Post in 2017.

Machock didn’t believe Huggins deserved to be ejected and began to voice that opinion to Kitts from the scorer’s table.

“It’s a thing with referees when someone at press row or the scorer’s table gets personal with you,” Kitts said. “He got personal with my name and said some things he shouldn’t have said.”

As the story goes, Kitts went to an NCAA official to have Machock ejected, but the NCAA official wasn’t keen on tossing out a radio personality. Kitts said he wouldn’t officiate the game any longer unless Machock was ejected.

“Then he got security down there pretty quick,” Kitts said. “I remember CBS had circled him on TV and then after he left, the circle was empty.”

Kitts went on to officiate the Final Four in 2003 and had opportunities to relive the moment with Huggins in the years that followed.

“Huggs told me I made Chuck Machock famous,” Kitts said. “I told him, ‘You got me to the Final Four that year.’ ”

Machock joined Huggins in the locker room for what was surely an interesting conversation.

Just recently, Huggins said, the two shared one final meeting before Machock’s passing.

“I spent a day with him,” Huggins said. “I got to spend some time with him and have lunch with him. He’s always got the best place to eat. Even if he had never been there before, that was his thing. He was always going to be the guy that had the best place to eat.”

TWEET @bigjax3211