CLEVELAND — Bob Huggins frowned.
"Do I have to?" asked the West Virginia basketball coach.
This was Wednesday at the news conferences previewing Thursday's Midwest Regional semifinal games at Quicken Loans Arena.
No. 5 seed West Virginia will play No. 1 seed Kentucky, coached by John Calipari, a longtime Huggins friend who had a relative who cared for Huggins when he had a heart attack in 2002.
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Naturally, a media member wanted Huggins to retell the heart attack story. Naturally, Huggins balked.
"I would love if you could," said the media member.
We've been over this. We went over it in 2010 in Syracuse before West Virginia upset Kentucky in the Elite Eight. We went over it in 2011 in Tampa when Kentucky beat West Virginia in the Round of 32. And here we go again as they are meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in six years.
Summary: Huggins collapsed on a sidewalk outside the Pittsburgh airport. After being "scooped up" (Huggins' description) and thrown into an ambulance, the attendant told Huggins they were 22 minutes from the hospital. Huggins said he couldn't make it that long. The attendant assured the coach he would make it and gave a specific reason.
"I'm John Calipari's cousin," said the attendant, "and you can't die until he beats you at least once."
"Abbreviated version," Huggins said upon completion, "but that's the story."
Left out of the retelling Wednesday was that upon hearing the news, Calipari flew from Memphis to Pittsburgh and talked his way into the hospital room. When Huggins woke up, there was Calipari standing over him.
For the record, Calipari has beaten Huggins twice in 10 tries. One loss is much more famous than the other eight combined, however. It was that 2010 Syracuse shocker when the team with five first-round NBA Draft picks lost to a West Virginia team led by unlikely hero Joe Mazzulla.
"If Cal promises to miss his first 20 threes like they did in 2010, that would help," Huggins said Wednesday about any lessons that can be drawn from 2010.
"So even to be in the game 0-for-20, I must have had a hell of a team," countered Calipari, "which I did."
The two coach different teams now. Well, Calipari's is not much different. He has another collection of future millionaires. West Virginia is much different.
After missing the last two NCAA Tournaments, and seeing his two starting guards from last season transfer over the summer, Huggins switched to an aggressive, full-court defense that traps out of makes or misses and has turned the program around.
"I did it because I like to win," he said Wednesday. "I got tired of losing."
Neither coach has lost all that much. Huggins has been to two Final Fours. Calipari has been to five. Huggins turned a losing Cincinnati program into a prolific winner. Calipari did likewise at UMass.
And they have more in common than being from the same part of the country — Huggins from Morgantown, W.Va.; Calipari from Pittsburgh.
Huggins is controversial and speaks his mind. Calipari is controversial and speaks his mind. Huggins had a messy breakup with Cincinnati, where he was loved by the fans and loathed by the administration. Calipari has had a couple of Final Four appearances vacated.
"His teams, they compete they play to win, they don't have any fear," Calipari said of Huggins. "I've always respected that."
"Cal is a very diverse guy, and I think he's kept things, I think, in a very good perspective. He's a great family guy, and he's been a good friend."
Then when Huggins left the podium and started walking toward the West Virginia locker room, he ran into Calipari in the hallway.
"Don't step in the vomit from all the good things I said about you," Huggs told Cal. "I'm tired of saying good things about you."