The annual Mountaineer Coaches Caravan is generally a time for West Virginia University coaches and athletic members to mingle with boosters and fans at venues outside of Morgantown in an often jovial environment. While there were plenty of smiles on faces and jokes out of mouths among those who took part in the event at the Bridgeport Conference Center this evening, there was also a surreal feeling surrounding the gathering.
This evening’s event was the first official WVU event following Monday’s unexpected passing of former WVU football coach Bill Stewart. Stewart passed away due what appears to have been a massive heart attack at the Stonewall Resort during a golf outing. Those on hand, including WVU women’s coach Mike Carey and men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, were quick to talk about their memories of Stewart.
“He was an assistant football coach at Salem College when I was a student there,” said Carey, a former Bridgeport resident, talking
about Stewart’s time on the Harrison County school’s sidelines in 1977-78. “I can remember he tried to get me play football and wanted me on the team. I wouldn’t do it and, until he passed, he’d always kidded me about that and we’d talk about that.
“He was a great person and a great man. He’s going to be missed,” Carey continued. “I think everyone here is still in shock over this.”
Huggins was one of those individuals who was still feeling the effect of Stewart’s death a little more than 24 hours after it happened. He spoke with great passion to reporters when asked by several media outlets about Stewart.
“He had unbridled enthusiasm. He was as good a guy away from the cameras as he was in front of the cameras. As long as I’ve been in my chosen profession the more and more I realize that you have to be able to depend on people. When you don’t have good years and you don’t do the things you want to do there’s got to be somebody in that mix that you can depend on,” Huggins said. “I think the greatest thing you can say about Stew is that you could depend on Stew. If Stew was your friend, he was your friend. You never worried where he was coming from because you could depend on him. He was one of us.”
Those on hand did try to make it a fun evening, even if it was at the expense of one of their colleagues. Huggins was more than willing to share a few experiences about Carey, including one that left the former Salem basketball playing and coaching standout end up with a broken rib.
“Mike figured he could run our treadmill as fast as the girls could and it just threw him off. He (thought) he broke a rib,” said Huggins with a chuckle. “He keeps things livened up.”
Huggins also said there is footage of the incident. He’s watched it, but doesn’t have it in his possession. Huggins added that he knows where the tape is located and he would have no problem releasing it to the public.
Any chance that Huggins was making the story up was quickly dismissed by Carey. The women’s coach said the incident certainly happened and it left him battered and bruised.
“It was pretty bad. I thought I could run it. As it turned out, I couldn’t. I cracked a rib and had a knot the size of my fist on the back of my head. I ended up in the fetal position when it all was over.”
When asked if Huggins and the others laughed at him, Carey said, “I don’t remember, but I’m sure they were. I was hurt.”
Another incident likely only left Carey’s pride hurt. This time it involved a basketball and Carey’s leg.
“Another thing I can tell you is that he never punted in football,” said Huggins. “ … I think we should have him come out and try to do it for one of our games or something. Mike got mad at a practice one day, grabbed the ball, tried to punt it and missed the whole thing. I think he threw his hip out.”
Carey wasn’t sure if that happened. He did, however, admit to one thing.
“I’ve been known to kick a few balls when I get upset,” Carey said. “So, yea, it probably happened.”
Editor's Note: Cover photo shows Bob Huggins talking to local media. Inside photo, Mike Carey chats with Rebecca D'Annunzio during the Caravan.