Two things that go together like peanut butter and jelly is Kenyon Martin and Bob Huggins. Currently head men’s basketball coach at West Virginia, Huggins guided Cincinnati to a 399–127 record during his 16 years as coach of the Bearcats. Huggins directed Cincinnati to ten conference regular-season titles and eight league tournament titles.
He’d coach future NBA players like Lance Stephenson, Ruben Patterson, Danny Fortson, DerMarr Johnson and Nick Van Exel.
One of his gems was NBA vet Kenyon Martin, the greatest power forward in Cincinnati history. K-Mart holds school records for field-goal percentage (.586) and blocks (292).
Drafted by the then-New Jersey Nets in 2000, Martin lived his best life catching alley-oops from future Hall of fame point guard and current Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd. The two would make two trips to the NBA Finals.
Martin relished in how influential Bob Huggins was to his career.
“It was great for me,” Kenyon Martin told me on Scoop B Radio.
“A lot of people’s experience with Hugs is not the same; because I play basketball the way Hugs wants you to play basketball.”
Martin says the thing he learned early was just to go out there and stay on your grind under Huggins. “Go out there play hard get better and don’t complain,” he said.
“Go straight forward. That is the way that I came to Cincinnati and that is the way I left. All he had to do was coach me, he didn’t have to get on me about playing hard.”
Martin was both a Wooden and Naismith Award winner in his senior year despite breaking his leg in a collision with a St. Louis player that kept him out of the NCAA tournament. He was the big man on campus and it magnified on the basketball court under Huggins. That didn’t mean that there weren’t some enjoyable and funny moments too! “Oh s*** that is a laundry list,” Martin said.
Martin recounted a time that Huggins literally barged in on Ryan Fletcher while he was in a bathroom stall. For those keeping score at home, in 1998, Fletcher threw a length of the court pass to Kenyon Martin, who passed to Mel Levett for the game winning dunk in the final second of the game to beat #1 rated Duke University.
“Fletch played hard but Huggs used to be on him all the time like riding him riding him riding him,” said Martin.
“So one day Hugs was on Fletch, like he knocked the bathroom stall door off the hinges. I heard it so I went and looked I came back around the corner and told Hugs: ‘you might not want to f*** with Fletch today.’ So he started laughing. Huggs is one of those guys if you let him get to you, he is going to be on you daily. He wants you to play harder and if he gets to you, he wants you to be annoyed, he doesn’t want anybody that he can break. I have seen a few guys quit and I have seen a few guys cry from the tongue lashing. They can’t take it, it’s like transfer. Its real. If you have thin skin man, it’s not for you.”
Bob Huggins is the winningest coach in terms of victories and percentage in the school’s basketball history.
The Bearcats appeared in postseason play in each of Huggins’ 16 seasons. They appeared in the Final Four in 1992 and advanced to the Elite Eight twice.