SAN JOSE, Calif. - For the second week in a row, the topic of fishing has come up in an NCAA men’s basketball news conference.
Last Wednesday afternoon in Buffalo, New York, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins talked about once making a fishing trip to Lake Erie to reel in some smallmouth bass.
Then yesterday in San Jose, California, Gonzaga’s most famous angler, Mark Few, began talking about his love of getting outdoors to some remote fishing hole whenever he’s away from the basketball court.
“It’s a way, no offense, to get away from all of this (media) and just be alone,” he said. “Some of the places I’m blessed to go fishing are the most beautiful places in the entire world. When you’re there you just take it in. It drops you down a couple of notches.”
“They’re the types of places, I mean, if you came to them with any doubt there was a God, you leave there knowing there is a God. This is impossible to have without somebody creating it.”
Few said getting outdoors helps him think more clearly about what he’s doing and what he needs to do in a stress-free environment.
“I can think about recruiting. I can think about my team,” he said. “I can just do a lot of soul searching out there, and yet it’s a challenge. It’s competitive and all that. Then my wife will tell you - I think my team will tell you - if I do it on days off I come back a better coach. You’re in a better place - not as surly or salty. You’re not as negative. You’re just in a better place. It works for me. Other guys take naps and eat or drink. I fish.”
It is Few’s love of fishing that likely forged a close friendship with Huggins, another avid outdoorsman.
“I think we’re both real, kind of what you see is what you get,” Few said of his West Virginia coaching pal. “That’s what I love about Huggs. The Huggs you see is the same Huggs I see when it’s just me or him, maybe him and a couple of other coaching buddies. He’s just a great guy.
“He’s a great coach - his teams play hard. They’re always tough, but he loves his players and you can tell his players love and respect him,” Few said. “And he’s a real guy. There’s nothing - he’s not this persona over here and then he’s a totally different person behind all that. I totally respect him for that.”
Besides his love of the outdoors, Huggins is also a terrific storyteller who can keep people engaged for hours on end talking about anything that pops into his head - sports, history, politics, food, wine, you name it … And he never backs away from a friendly debate.
“Yeah, we’ve had some good times together. I think we enjoy hanging out and talking,” Few said. “And he knows I like to fish. He theoretically, supposedly, likes to fish. I’ve never seen it or seen any pictures or anything but he talks about it. I think he goes up to the lake and does other things, sitting in the boat.”
Few said he can produce proof of his fishing exploits. Huggins, on the other hand? He said he has yet to see any of those whoppers Huggs claims he is always pulling into his boat.
“I have witnesses,” Few chuckled. “My wife can show you my calendar - pictures. I don’t get any of that from him. I think he sits in the boat a lot so I’m just not sure … I think we all know what’s going on.”
For the record, Huggs probably does exaggerate his fishing exploits a little bit, but he does have at least one big catch to his credit.
Here it is.
Perhaps one day Huggins can convince his Washington State buddy to make the cross-country trip to West Virginia to enjoy some of the Mountain State’s great fishing holes.