A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There

Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Bill Koch: “Well, There’s My Second Source.”

Bill Koch: “Well, There’s My Second Source.”

Bill Koch knows Cincinnati sports as well as any journalist after covering his hometown for more than 40 years. He goes deep into his story vault about Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins, the subject of Bill’s new book. Hear about the time they played each other in basketball, what Huggins was like to cover as a daily beat reporter, and why players have such strong allegiance to their former coach. Oh, and Bill tells the classic DMFHF story. He recalls chronicling University of Cincinnati moments such as the 1992 Final Four, Kenyon Martin’s broken leg, and the No Handshake Game against Xavier. Bill also recounts being outside the courthouse in Los Angeles when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down, talking hair (or lack of) with Andre Agassi, and interviewing the reclusive Sandy Koufax one-on-one. Hear about a good screaming match between writers on the night that Pete Rose set baseball’s record for career hits. Scribe battles are the best. And there’s the time Marty Brennaman had a question for Bill the young reporter.

Koch is the author of five books, the latest out now: “Huggs: Former Players Talk About What it was Like to Play for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Huggins.” Bill covered five Final Fours, two World Series, five baseball All-Star Games, a Super Bowl and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He worked at the Cincinnati Post from 1978 to 2001 and served as sports columnist for nearly his last five years there. Bill worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer from 2002 until Dec. 26, 2014, and then wrote for the University of Cincinnati’s sports website for five years until retiring in 2019. His journalism career began in 1976 with stops at the Chillicothe Gazette and at Cincinnati’s Community Press before spending three-plus decades – including 23 years as UC beat reporter on football and basketball – at the Queen City’s two main newspapers.

You can follow Bill on Twitter: @bkoch

Bill Koch edited transcript

[00:00:01.630] - Todd Jones

Bill, it's good to belly up to the bar with you once again.

[00:00:04.560] - Bill Koch

It's been a while, Todd. We don't do it as often as we used to with you in Columbus.

[00:00:08.990] - Todd Jones

That's right. It's like we're in Hydes Lanes back.

[00:00:11.200] - Bill Koch

There where your dad used to take.

[00:00:12.450] - Todd Jones

You after games at Crosley Field right on the west outside of Cincinnati. I think about it, Bill. We met 35 years ago. It was the summer of 1987. I was a college intern at the Cincinnati Post. Scared shitless. I had grown up reading the Post and I walked into the newsroom and, oh, my God, there's Bill Cook. I'm dead serious.

[00:00:36.890] - Bill Koch

That's hard to believe.

[00:00:37.770] - Todd Jones

I just could not believe it. Yes, that's true. That's a true memory of my own. Well, I grew up in the Cincinnati area, but you grew up in the west side of Cincinnati and you ended up riding sports there for like 40 years. Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati Inquire. When you think about covering sports in your hometown, what was it like when you look back on it?

[00:01:10.310] - Bill Koch

Well, it was hard and it was easy in a way. I was a huge sports fan as a kid, obviously, and I grew up following the Reds and UC basketball, and I ended up covering UC basketball as a beat guy. So I had to learn to put my fandom up on the shelf for the whole time of my career. And it wasn't really hard for me. But remember Bob Huggins used to tell me I'd gone too far the other way because I was too negative. But I was always very cognizant of that and really careful to not be a homer and to be as critical and never take the easy way out. And if there was a story to pursue, I knew I had to pursue it. That was my job, and so that's what I did. So it was a little weird that way. There was some fandom in there, but I had to just put it aside. And now that I'm retired, I can be more of a fan again, which is actually kind of fun.

[00:02:04.070] - Todd Jones

Right. Did also give you an understanding of the readers that you are writing for, the fact that you grew up there and you knew what they were into?

[00:02:12.070] - Bill Koch

Yeah, to an extent. I mean, the whole Pete Rose thing was difficult for Cincinnati to accept because Pete was such a beloved figure, especially on the West Side. So we didn't want to believe it, but obviously it was all true and he's not the model human being that we thought he was, but I understood that. I remember when Pete's son came up for the majors, I don't know, a game or two and he was playing third base, and he took his toe and he drew a circle, and he put his dad's number in their number 14. Remember that? And either that or he wrote 41 92. I can't remember what it was, but it was very emotional for fans. And I remember some of the guys in the press box were, like, making fun of it while the fans were getting so big ovation and everything. But for me, I understood it, and I actually wrote my column about that, about what that meant to Cincinnati people, to see Pete Jr. Do that, right?

[00:03:08.220] - Todd Jones

Yeah. I think I was there that day, too, and it was emotional because if you knew Cincinnati, you knew what Pete meant to that city, warts and all. Well, Bill, you covered so many things. World Series, final fours, all Star Games, sydney Olympics. You also have written five books. I have not even written a coloring book, so you're setting a wicked pace on me with that. Your latest book is Hugs. Former players talk about what it was like to play for hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins. Nobody knows Hugs better than you. You covered the University of Cincinnati sports for so many years. We're going to talk a lot about hugs, but I want to ask you a quick one. Didn't he once play you one on one basketball?

[00:03:50.840] - Bill Koch

He did. I'm still shocked that he did that. I don't know another Division One coach in the country who would have agreed to do that. I was a columnist at the time. I was not the beat guy. And our sports editor, Mike Bass, suggested that I asked Cogs to play one on one against me, and then I'd write a column about it. So I went up at the end of practice one day, and I just sat down and I said, look, I know you're probably not going to want to do this, but they want me to ask you to play me a game of one on one so I can write a column about it. And all he said was, we'll play make it take it to ten and you won't score.

When the day came, I remember going up into the basketball office and I said, I got my little work at basketball clothes on, and told the secretary, I'm here for a one on one game. And she called back to his office, and a couple of seconds later, he comes bounding down the hall. He's got his little gym shorts on and his tube socks from the he goes, Come on, let's get this ass kicking over with. And out we go to the gym. We were the only two people in the gym except for a post photographer. Mel Grier.

[00:05:12.050] - Todd Jones

Yeah. The great Mel Greer.

[00:05:13.340] - Bill Koch

So he just backed me down. He was bigger and stronger than I was, and he scored like the first four baskets. And I thought, he really is going to shut me out. But then he wasn't in the best of shape. This was before his heart attack. I didn't know he had a bad heart attack. I went outside and I couldn't score inside. So I'm not a very good shooter. You've seen me play. And I made a three pointer, and he just kind of ignored it. And then I made another one, and all of a sudden it's like four to two. And now I'm thinking, now we got a game. And then he started getting serious, right. And he started taking me inside, and I could tell the intensity level was going up. And one point there was a ball. Somebody knocked away the ball going for a rebound. It was going out of bounds. We both were running after it full speed, and I got it. And I heard him go shit. That made me feel good.

[00:06:02.430] - Todd Jones

You were getting to him.

[00:06:03.730] - Bill Koch

Yeah. So finally he beats me, ten six. And we walk over to the sideline. There's a table there, and he's leaning over the table, and he's doing really hard. And he says, man, he goes, I'm too old for this shit. I can't do this anymore. Then he goes, ten five. Right? And I said, no, it was ten six. He says, Your ass. It was ten five. I said, well, you can tell everybody it was ten five, but it's going to be ten six in the paper. And that's what it was.

[00:06:29.020] - Todd Jones

That's right. He was trying to cut you out of a basket. Well, I've seen you play and you're a good player. I can attest and days of playing coveted with other scribes and friends, and also can attest that you know Cincinnati and know how to write a report and did it so well for so many years. Let's go back to the early days of your career. In July of 1982, for the first time, you get sent to cover the Cincinnati Reds, the team you followed when you were growing up. And I think the Beatrider, the great Earl Lawson, think he took a week off or a few days off, and so they send you to St. Louis. And this is 1982, and this is not the Big Red Machine. No, this is a team that lost 101 games, and Johnny Bench was playing third base, of all things. What do you remember about being sent there for the very first time as a young scribe to cover the Reds on the road.

[00:07:23.970] - Bill Koch

Well, talk about being scared to death. I was a high school reporter, and I didn't know how to cover a major league baseball team. And I just came into the office one day, and our sports editor, Doug Henry, said, hey, we need you to go to St. Louis and pick up the Reds after the All Star break. The reason Earl didn't want to go, because it gets hot in St. Louis in July. He just didn't want to go. He'd been there enough times. He didn't get through that. So I went and got on a plane the next day, and I really was scared. I remember going into the clubhouse. I didn't know anybody. There was Hall McCoy and there was Tim Sullivan from the Enquirer. Forget who else was there, and all hell was breaking loose. John McNamara, the manager, was cussing everybody out. Johnny Bench stormed away. He wouldn't talk to anybody. And I'm going, what's going on here? Is this how this always is? Because I grew up reading Earl, where everybody, players were always happily chiming in with great quotes and everything, like one big happy family I wasn't expecting. So I basically did what any smart young reporter would do, is I followed Hal McCoy around, fought him around the clubhouse, and got quotes from Ron Oster.

[00:08:36.290] - Bill Koch

What happened was Dick Wagner, the general manager and president, had ordered McNamara to bench Johnny Bench and bench another guy, Wayne Cren Chicken, who he was playing third at the time. Bench had started the season trying to play third, and he couldn't do it, so he was mad about that. He was near the end of his career. Next year, he retired. They called up a kid from AAA named Tommy Lawless. They put him at second, and they moved Ron Rosen from second to third.

[00:09:02.850] - Todd Jones

General manager made this happen right now.

[00:09:06.320] - Bill Koch

No one was saying that. I took a leap of faith and just assumed that my lead was something like, president Dick Wagner might be pulling a Charlie Finley. Charlie Finley was the owner of the A's, Oakland A's at the time, who was famous for telling his manager what to do. And I wrote it. And I said, I don't know. I don't know if I did a good job on this or not. I don't know what I'm doing. The next day, I walk in a clubhouse, and Marty Brennan, Red Hall of Fame radio announcer, calls me aside and says, son, come here a second. And I said, yeah. He goes, did you really call Dick wagner or Charlie Finley? And I thought, oh, man, I shouldn't have done that. And he goes, I got to tell your son. That's strong. That took some guts. So I was all proud of myself. And then Sunday morning, it was a weekend series. Sunday morning in the hotel room, the phone rings, and it's KMO X Radio, 50,000 watt Clear Channel station. They want to interview me about the Reds? And I said, well, yeah, I mean.

[00:10:06.800] - Todd Jones

You'Re such a veteran.

[00:10:07.660] - Bill Koch

Yeah, I know. Such a national figure. I said, Well, I don't really cover the reds. I'm not the guy to talk to him. He goes, we don't care. They don't care. They just want somebody on the air. And he said, we usually call Earl Austin when he's here, but since he's not, we're going to ask you to do it. So I go on there, and I hold forth about the state of the Reds for about five minutes. I go back into the clubhouse, and here comes Marty again. So let me ask you something. How long you been covering this club? I said, I don't know, two days? And he goes, and you think that gives you the right to go on a 50,000 watt Clear Channel station and talk about the state of this club? And I went from way up here to way down there real fast. Marty makes sure that.

[00:10:49.390] - Todd Jones

Marty could put you in your place, right?

[00:10:51.170] - Bill Koch

Oh, man.

[00:12:43.910] - Todd Jones

You covered the game in 1985 on September 11 when Pete Rose broke Tie Cobb's all time hit record for 41 92. What was it like to be there as a reporter in the stadium for that historic moment?

[00:13:04.370] - Bill Koch

Well, in a way, it was kind of anticlimactic because you knew he was going to get it eventually. What was cool was leading up to it, a couple of weeks leading up to it, when Pete would he would do a press conference before every game, and after every game, he would bring his bat in with him, and he would answer reporters questions for, like, a half hour every day, and he would give great stuff. That's why the writers loved him so much. He was amazing. I don't know how he could do that and still focus. But the Series, right before he broke the record, the reserve in Chicago at Wrigley Field, and he wasn't going to play. Remember, he was a player manager there.

So Pete wasn't going to play that day because of the picture. When the Cubs unexpectedly changed pictures, he put himself into the lineup, and so he was going to play. So he needed just one hit to break the record, and he came up to bat. They didn't have lights at Wrigley then. It was like the dusk was settling on the stadium, and everybody saying, oh, man, if he gets this hit, we're going to be working all night. This is it. And there's a lot of nervousness there. He didn't I think he grounded the ball up the middle, but he got somebody to feel it through him out. So that was more nerve wracking than when he actually got to hit. I do remember in the press box after he got the hit that two of our writers got in a big argument about, which I thought was funny. There were two guys with real brutal yeah, they got in a big argument, and I started laughing.

[00:14:47.550] - Todd Jones

Do we care to reveal some names here, Bill?

[00:14:50.210] - Bill Koch

I'll be happy to. One was a beat writer, Bruce Schoenfeld, and the other was a columnist, Jay Mariatti. You know those guys.

[00:14:57.630] - Todd Jones

Okay, so they went at it.

[00:14:58.970] - Bill Koch

They went at it because Jay said something to Bruce like, you know, we need to talk to Eric Shao. He didn't know that. So that Bruce goes, jay, I know who I need to talk to. And then they started yelling back and forth at each other and then I started laughing and then they turned on me.

[00:15:15.450] - Todd Jones

Scribe battles were always the best. Yeah, well, that was certainly a historic moment. Not because described fight, but because of the hit by Pete Rose.

[00:15:24.420] - Bill Koch

I remember before that, I remember when Pete got his 4000 hit and he was in Cincinnati, he was trying to get his 4000. This was a very touching moment, I thought. Bacon Daily News is have a writer named Si bureauc who had been there for 50 years, hall of famer. So everybody's down there thinking he's going to get his 4000 ft he didn't get it. And then he was with the Expo and they had to leave to go to Montreal. So he comes into the post game press conference and he walks past Si bureauc and he pauses and he says, sorry Si, I really wanted to get it while you were here. I just thought that was really cool that he was aware of that and he wanted to do that for side Buick. And then he got in Montreal like the next day.

[00:16:06.080] - Todd Jones

I think that's pretty cool.

[00:16:08.090] - Bill Koch

Yeah.

[00:16:08.500] - Todd Jones

So that was an historic moment when Pete breaks the record. And it's funny, the Reds actually took you to another historic moment in a much different way in 1995. In October, you were with the Reds, you were in Los Angeles to cover the Reds and the Dodgers NL division series game. You're staying in a hotel downtown Los Angeles and lo and behold, the OJ Simpson verdict is going to come down. Can you tell us what happened?

[00:16:34.830] - Bill Koch

Well, I woke up in the morning, I put the TV news on and they said the verdict is going to be announced. The verdict at 11:00 or whatever it was. And I thought that's pretty cool that I'm here because you know what a big thing that was. And I thought it would be pretty cool to be there when that happens. I wasn't the columnist, so I was just like a sidebar guy. So I called Joe Posnanski, who was a columnist, and I asked him, I said, are you planning on going to that? And he said no. So I called the paper and I asked them if they wanted me to go and they said yeah, that'd be great. So I walked there, it was like a 2025 minutes walk. I remember it was really hot. There was this big circus of people outside the criminal courts building and a lot of media, but also just a lot of people selling refreshments and almost look like a circus. And people I would interview somebody and then somebody would come up to me and interview me thinking that I was an OJ fan. Or I had a stake in the trial.

[00:17:29.530] - Bill Koch

And I'd say, no, you don't want to talk to me. And remember, my wife told me later how worried she was that I was going to get caught in a riot if I was there. But the verdict came down and of course he was not guilty. And everybody not everybody, but there's some cheered and some were upset. People were all gathered around radios and little portable TVs, and it was just kind of a spectacle. Really cool thing to witness, the way people I interviewed, some people who were talking of it, some they were sure that he was guilty and they had dreams about OJ and that's how they know he was guilty, stuff like that. So it's something I'm really glad I did, though, because it made for a good column, and it's just like I can always tell people I was there when The Verge was read.

[00:18:11.430] - Todd Jones

Yeah, sometimes it's like you're in a place and you don't expect something to happen, and lo and behold, look what happens. And you're at the foot of history and something dramatic, and it has nothing to do with, really, sports, but you just happen to be there because your sports job took you there. I'm sure that was a great moment.

[00:18:27.820] - Bill Koch

I wondered often what would have happened if he had been guilty, if there really would have been a riot, and I really would have regretted being there. It didn't work out that way.

[00:18:38.430] - Todd Jones

That's funny. Sometimes sports takes you to crazy moments. Sometimes it takes you to the crazy type of ideas or stories. One time you recovering tennis, the ATP Tennis Tournament in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati, and you decided to ask Andre Agassi something that had nothing to do with tennis. What did you ask him?

[00:19:01.720] - Bill Koch

I asked him about going bald, about how much it bothered him when he went bald, because, as you can see, I have the same problem. But when you cover a major tennis tournament like that, you just can't pull somebody aside and ask them, hey, I got a few minutes, because it doesn't work that way. You have to set up interviews outside the press conference. I didn't want to ask him during a press conference because I didn't want to take away from other writers who were really hitting matches to cover. But our beat writer, she had set up an interview with Andre Agassi in the players lounge, I guess it was. So I asked her if she minded if I piggybacked on that, and she said, I don't care. So I went in there with her, and she gets done with Agassi. And I said, hey, Andrea, if you got a second, I just got one more quick thing I want to ask you. He says, okay. And I said, Look, I'm not trying to be a smartass here. I'm really not trying to be a jerk.

[00:19:56.440] - Bill Koch

I really wonder about this. I said, how did you deal with going bald? And he started talking about it like, I started going bald when I was 18. I always knew I was going to go bald. Everybody in my family's bald. And I tried various ways to hide it and different ways to express myself, ways to cover it up. And finally I just said, to hell with it, and shaved everything off. And he said, it was one of the most liberating things I've ever done. I maybe talk to him for like, three or four minutes tops. But it made a great column.

[00:20:27.030] - Todd Jones

I mean, this is the Image is everything guy.

[00:20:29.200] - Bill Koch

Yeah, exactly.

[00:20:30.100] - Todd Jones

And he's not afraid to talk about being bold.

[00:20:32.650] - Bill Koch

Everything with the long flowing locks, remember?

[00:20:35.260] - Todd Jones

Yeah, exactly. Right. Maybe they were implants.

[00:20:38.320] - Bill Koch

He was great about it. I was really surprised. I thought he would just tell me to get the hell out and stalk off, but he didn't. He sat there and answered the questions.

[00:20:47.970] - Todd Jones

Sometimes the athletes and coaches would surprise you. You'd ask him something totally unrelated to what they normally do, and it was almost like a relief to them to talk about something else.

[00:20:55.920] - Bill Koch

Sometimes they like it.

[00:20:58.230] - Todd Jones

Andre was a guy who liked the spotlight. He was out there in commercials and everything else. But there are also athletes and coaches that didn't really like it and very reclusive. And one of those was the great legendary pitcher Sandy Kofax. And you happen to get one of those rare one on one interviews with Cofax. Can you tell us how that came about?

[00:21:18.930] - Bill Koch

Well, Cofax had just been the subject, like a couple of weeks earlier of a Sports Illustrated article. And basically the thrust of the article was that he was kind of a reclusive guy who kept to himself and didn't want to talk to anybody and almost made him out to be like a hermit. And I had heard that he was coming to UC to attend a fundraiser for the baseball team. Ed Jeffrey, who was his baseball coach and basketball coach well, I should back up. Kofax came to UC on a basketball scholarship

[00:21:54.180] - Bill Koch

While he was there, he heard that the baseball team was going to take a trip to New Orleans in the spring, so he decided, I'd like to make that trip. So he went to Jucker, who was his basketball coach. Chucker was also the baseball coach back then and said he wanted to try out for the baseball team. So Jucker took him into this old building. You may remember it. Sits up overlooks Nipper Stadium called Smith Lap. Hall was a gym in there, and he went in there and threw for a Jacker. And Jacker couldn't believe what he was seeing. Cofest couldn't get the ball over, but he was throwing it so hard. Chucker had never seen anybody, so he made the team. And then obviously he knew what he did after that. He came back for the fundraiser. He knew that Jacker was sick. He was seriously ill, and he had this great reverence for Jucker, for what he did for him when he was in DC. So I knew he was there. It was a basketball game.

[00:22:50.110] - Bill Koch

That. He was just sitting up in the president's box. And so I went up there. I think it was at halftime. I knocked on the door, and I said, Is Kofax in there? And whoever answered, I don't remember. They said, yeah. And I said, well, can I come in and talk to him? They knew who I was. He said. Well, I'll go ask him. Just a second. He comes back, and he said, yeah. He says, come on in. Okay. So I got my little tape recorder in my notebook, and I sit down. I'm a little nervous and start to ask questions and put on my tape recorder, but my tape recorder wouldn't work. For some reason. I keep banging on, like, Why won't this thing work? So finally I shut it off, and I started taking notes. And Kofax says, Got to do it the old fashioned way. And I said yes, I guess I do. But he was a perfect gentleman man. He couldn't have been nicer. He even referenced the Sports Illustrated story. He said, yeah, they made me out to be some kind of a Kook.

[00:23:46.170] - Bill Koch

Do you think I'm a kook? I said no. I don't think so. But he talked about the love and reverence he had for Jacker and how important it was for him to be there for that, how he wouldn't have missed it. And then he left maybe ten minutes before the game ended, and he got up and gave Jacker a big hug and was obviously he kind of knew it was the last time he was ever going to see him. I think Jacker died the following year, so that's pretty cool.

[00:24:09.690] - Todd Jones

Yes. Kofax being a basketball player in college, people don't know that, but he loves basketball so much that he goes to the Final Four every year.

[00:24:17.940] - Bill Koch

Oh, I didn't know that.

[00:24:18.780] - Todd Jones

I covered probably a dozen Final Fours, and several times I saw him there, and he would be sitting in the front row behind one of the baskets and one of the Final Fours in New Orleans. I was on the media bus riding over to the Saturday games in the afternoon, and I looked down, and there's this guy walking down the street all by himself with the fans. And then I'm. Like, oh, my God, that's Sandy Kofax. And he was just walking by himself. And I think he almost had, like, an aura about him that people were almost like maybe they were intimidated or didn't recognize him. He's not that big of a guy, but everybody knew that he didn't really talk to the media, so he just kind of went about his own way. And it was interesting to see him in that environment because he was the hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers, and yet here he is at the Final Four, just enjoying the basketball. I thought that was really interesting.

Well, it's odd to think about Sandy Kofax, the basketball player, and it's also kind of odd to see the University of Cincinnati football team being in the College Football Playoff, which they were in January, and they've become a national program. And I just feel like if you grew up in Cincinnati when I did and when you did Bill the Bear Cats from 1951 to 1997, never even played in a bowl game, and they were so bad in the 80s, let's think about this. You started covering UC football, and you're in the it's 1991. You're at Penn State versus Cincinnati. Cincinnati loses 81 to nothing. I mean, talk about putting the L and Debacle 81 nothing. What the hell was it like to cover a game where a team loses 81 to nothing?

[00:26:33.270] - Bill Koch

Joe Paterno really tried not to make not to let that happen. He had his third oh, come on.

[00:26:38.260] - Todd Jones

Come on. It was 81.

[00:26:39.920] - Bill Koch

He tried. He had his walk ons everybody. But UC was so bad. It was in the early days of Tim Murphy's era at UC. And when Tim got there in 1989, they only had like, I don't know, 60 scholarship players or something like that. They were on probation, and he literally had to build it from nothing. People forget about him and the work he did, and he got it up to the point where he finally went eight and three, and then he left and went to Harvard. I believe he's still at Harvard, but it was just so bad. I remember in the post game, I believe Fatona even apologized for it afterwards. And I remember Murphy saying, he doesn't need to apologize. There's nothing he could have done about it. That's how bad we are. I remember their play to Miami, Florida once, and they lost 56 to nothing. And my friend Tom Greshin, who was covering for the inquiry, he said something like, what's it like when the Miami guys put in their second string and they're still beating your team? That bad. And Murphy goes, they're second string, they're still all high school Americans.

[00:27:41.610] - Bill Koch

We don't have any of those guys. But he did an amazing job of turning that thing around, and then each coach kind of made it better. You go from 81 to nothing at Penn State in 1991, and 17 years later you're covering the Orange Bowl, and then a year later, the Sugar Bowl and the Bear Cats are running out onto the field to play Florida. Did it feel like you were in a different universe when you saw that?

[00:29:26.370] - Bill Koch

Absolutely. Starting with Brian Kelly. Brian Kelly came in right away. He said, this press conference, introductory press conference, we're going to throw the ball around, we're going to have some fun. And you could tell right away that this guy was different. He really believed this stuff, and he did it. He was a joy to the cover. By the way, I love Brian Kelly. He didn't leave in the building.

[00:29:46.860] - Todd Jones

What was it about Kelly? Why did he electrify the program?

[00:29:53.810] - Bill Koch

He had a magnetism about him and a confidence that he could talk players into doing things they didn't think they could do. Like Connor Marwan came as a tight end. And before I think it was his senior year, brian Kelly called him in and told him he wanted to switch to defense. We wanted to be a defensive man. Connor didn't want to do that, but Kelly told him if he did it, he'd end up in the NFL one day, which he did. He ended up, I believe he was a second round draft pick, play for like ten years, and he just convinced him that he had all the tools to do it. Connor told me, he just taught me into it. And I walked out of his office thinking, oh yeah, I can do this. One time he had a guy, I think his name was Demetrius Jones, he was a quarterback at Notre Dame, and he had some problems at Notre Dame and he transferred to Cincinnati. So that was a big deal, Notre Dame quarterback coming to Cincinnati. But it was obvious early on that there was something wrong with his shoulder. He couldn't throw the way he had when he was in high school.

[00:30:47.680] - Bill Koch

So Kelly puts him a linebacker. Now, he doesn't like that. I remember at spring practice one time, kelly tells us he's switching Demetrius Jones a linebacker. I go to Demetrius and I said, how do you feel about playing linebacker? He says, well, I don't mind. I'll try. He goes, Coach told me if I want to go back to quarterback, I just let him know and I can go back to quarterback. So I went back to Brian Kelly and I said, Brian, he says he can play quarterback whenever he wants. And Brian says he's a linebacker. Go back and tell him he either plays linebacker or he plays another sport.

[00:31:21.770] - Todd Jones

No question. Who was calling a shot there. Well, Brian Kelly certainly proved his worth as a coach. He went on to great success at Notre Dame, and now he's down at LSU with his family, as he likes to say now. But his big personality really did uplift a program that had come so far. And when you think about big personalities and since night sports, they don't come any bigger than Bob Huggins. And really, he kind of came in in similar circumstances in the late 80s when he arrived. What was since I had basketball like in 1980s when you were covering it compared to what it was in the early 60s when they were winning national championships.

[00:32:04.350] - Bill Koch

Well, Huggins came in the same year as Tim Murphy and both programs were on probation. The whole athletic department was a mess. The basketball program in the early sixty s, of course, was one of the best in the country. It was two straight national championships and just missed a third when they lost to Loyola Chicago in overtime. They would have been the first school, even before UCLA, to win three in a row.

[00:32:29.210] - Todd Jones

And this is after they had Oscar Roberts. It was a great go, right?

[00:32:33.310] - Bill Koch

So it went steadily downhill from there, maybe not steadily. I mean, it wasn't terrible right away, but by the eighties, that was really struggling, and Tony Yates became the head coach. Tony was a point guard in the National Championship team, so that was a big deal when he hired him. He had been an assistant in Illinois, but Tony really wasn't much of a head coach. He just didn't his practices were very disorganized, and sometimes he was late for them. He liked to battle with the media. He hated me.

[00:33:01.850] - Todd Jones

All right, well, give us something about how he hated you.

[00:33:06.370] - Bill Koch

Well, I remember going up there to do just an innocent little season preview, like the middle of October. The season getting ready to start, and I set my tape recorder on his desk. I'm doing that so I don't misquote him, and he turns around and opens his desk drawer and pulls out another tape recorder and sets it on his desk, and he says, if you're going to tape me, I'm going to tape you.

[00:33:29.670] - Todd Jones

He's going Richard Nixon on that.

[00:33:31.440] - Bill Koch

Yeah. Okay, that's fine. I was young and aggressive, and I didn't really care what I wrote. I wrote some pretty scathing things. I look back now, some of the stuff I wrote, I probably would have hated me, too, if I were him, but I don't regret any of them. They were all true. I don't think I was unfair, but I didn't hold anything back.

[00:33:59.110] - Todd Jones

When I think of a Tony Yates era, I think of six words look out, Louis got a board. Well, what does that mean? Tell the audience what that means.

[00:34:14.170] - Bill Koch

Shoemaker center, which is now Fifth Arena, was under construction next door. Lou Banks was a very good player on that team, and he got into an argument one day with Cedric Glover, big six, 8250 pound center, and they got in their fight and rolling around in the locker room. So anyway, they go out for practice. They're on the floor, and Lou goes out to the construction site and grabs a board with nails in it. And he comes back in and he goes after Cedric. Clever. I didn't see this happen. I heard about it from a student manager, and he said one of the assistant coaches yelled out, here he comes. Look out. Lou's got aboard, and so they stopped him before he could do any damage. And I heard this story from a manager, and I kind of sat on it for a while, and then finally my editor said, you need to confirm that and write it. So I did. I talked to several players and they said, yeah, it happened. Well, it turns out I wrote it the day of what turned out to be Tony's last regular season game at UC, probably his last game period.

[00:35:13.630] - Bill Koch

He had just won. They had won three out of four games. They had a winning record. They had beaten Louisville. They upset Louisville. So he thought he was coming back. And I had to get yes.

[00:35:21.860] - Todd Jones

And then the Grim Reaper shows up.

[00:35:23.270] - Bill Koch

That's you. I showed up in practice at Cincinnati Gardens, where they played before the new arena was ready. And I waited for Tom Gresh and my competitor to leave. And I said, Tony, I got to ask you about something, because I had to ask him about it. And so I told him I was going to write this story. And he got so mad, he started pacing up and down. So Tony was getting really mad, really agitated. I was a little afraid he was going to come after me. So I just left and I wrote the story. And the next day, the athletic director, real hard ass guy named Rick Taylor, he sees me at the game and he says, I really wish you hadn't written that story. And I said, Why is that? He goes, Because it's going to make it look like when I do what I'm going to do next week, if that's the reason why I did it. And then the next week, he fired Tony. A few days later, actually, he fired Tony.

[00:36:44.260] - Todd Jones

Wow. Right. It was a sad end to a guy. Again, he was a point guard on the national championship teams, and it just didn't work out. He wasn't a coach that could do it, but a guy who could do it was his successor, Bob Huggins, who comes in in 1989. The thing about Huggins at that time is he was still young. He wasn't well known. He was only like, 36 years old when he took over. How soon did you know that this was the guy who was going to get this turned around?

[00:37:11.970] - Bill Koch

Like the first five minutes of his first practice.

[00:37:14.770] - Todd Jones

Really?

[00:37:15.700] - Bill Koch

I've told the story many times. Tom, Gretchen and I were at his first practice. They were going up and down the floor. One of his players got knocked down. His name was Orlando Williams. And he's laying on the floor, and Tony Pug yelled at him. He said, orlando, get your ass up. He goes, they're not going to stop the game for you if you get knocked down. And we're not going to stop practice either. So then they'll scramble to his feet and there every all the players want, whoa. And you could just tell. I can't remember. I looked at Tom and he looked at me. One of us said, wow, this guy can coach. We knew right away it was different. His whole presence was different. His demands were different. He told his players from the start they were on probation still then, and he only had eight scholarship players. But he told his seniors, he said, this isn't going to be a five year rebuilding phase. You and I, we're going to win right now, because it wouldn't be fair for me to tell you guys, your senior year is going to be wasted.

[00:38:17.030] - Bill Koch

We're going to win right now. And they did. They went to the NIT's first two years, and then third year they're in the Final Four. It was an amazing turnaround.

[00:38:26.600] - Todd Jones

That team, that 92 team is so beloved in Cincinnati, and rightfully so. When I think about that team, I think about it as a team that took on the identity of its coach. It had talent, but it had fire in its belly. How do you recall that 92 team?

[00:38:56.930] - Bill Koch

Well, they were all junior college guys, mostly junior college guys. A lot of national writers were writing that there was a renegade program, and you can't build a team as fast and you can't do with all junior college guys. And some of them had some brushes with the wall as the earth went by. But they're good guys. I mean, I've gotten to know them and they've always treated me really well. To this day, whenever I see them, they go out of their way to say hi to me. They were a lot of fun. They had a lot of personality, and they did have their personality of their coach because they knew how good they were. And for them to go to the Final Four was no surprise to them at all. They were going to go out and kick ass and take no prisoners, and that's what they did. They were amazing. And when you said about being surprised when they beat Memphis for the fourth time that year in the regional final, and they beat them by like 30 points. And remember, we were walking back towards locker rooms after the game, and Tom Gresham turned to me and said, you and I are the two most surprised guys in this arena.

[00:39:53.020] - Bill Koch

Aren't we? Because we used to go to NCLA tournament games to cover them just for the paper when we didn't have a team in them. And we come back and say, god, we look at those teams in that tournament and we look at UC's never going to be that good. And then they were three years later in the Final Four.

[00:40:12.910] - Todd Jones

Great players. Anthony Buford. Herb Jones. Nick Van Axel, Cory Blount. Just great players and got it done.

[00:40:21.750] - Bill Koch

Sure.

[00:40:23.170] - Todd Jones

So many of those players have told great stories. In your new book about Huggins called Hugs, there's a lot of stories about bob, do you have a favorite Bob Huggins story?

[00:40:37.430] - Bill Koch

Here's one that comes to mind. He had a player named Darnell Burton, who outstanding shooter, and he got suspended, but they wouldn't say why, they just said it was violating team rules and found out the reason was he had tested positive for marijuana. But the guy told me it was just one source, and I wasn't allowed to write it just on one anonymous source. I was in Hugs office one day and I said, oh, by the way, Bob, I know why Darnell was suspended. And he goes, well, you better be damn sure if you're going to write that, you better be sure that you're right. And I said, Well, I'm sure of it. And he goes, Why do you think it wasn't?

[00:41:40.820] - Bill Koch

I said, Because he tested positive for marijuana. And Hugs goes, well God damn it, Bill, every professor on this campus smokes pot every weekend. No one says a word about that. And then I thought, well there's my.

[00:41:51.880] - Todd Jones

Second source confirmed it, and August was probably right too.

[00:41:58.040] - Bill Koch

Yeah, he was exactly.

[00:42:01.130] - Todd Jones

Well, when I think of Hugs, I think of five letters. Yeah, I don't know if that's a story you're allowed to tell. You can tell a sanitized version of it. Go ahead. We might have to edit the tape, but go ahead.

[00:42:14.920] - Bill Koch

So you want me to tell it the real way?

[00:42:16.860] - Todd Jones

Yes. Let's hear it.

[00:42:18.790] - Bill Koch

Well, I heard this story from an assistant coach. We were in Puerto Rico. I was riding on the team bus coming back from a game, and he said to me, have you ever heard the DMF Hall of Fame story? And I said, no. So he tells me a story. It has to do with Melvin Levitt. Really good player, Melvin.

[00:42:36.900] - Todd Jones

Good guy too. Melvin, yeah, really good guy.

[00:42:38.850] - Bill Koch

Melvin apparently dropped a course, like in spring quarter and it dropped him below 12 hours, which would have made him ineligible for a scholarship. He wouldn't have been a full time student. So Hug finds out about it, and he goes through the system and gets him put back in another course. And then he calls all his players together for a team meeting in the players lounge in 5th 3rd arena. And on the walls are these giant team pictures of all of Hugs players down through the years at UC. And he starts pacing up and down in the room, telling everybody what a stupid thing that was for Mel to do, and how you guys are so stupid. I can't believe I got to clean up after you guys like this. And he wheels around the Melvin. He goes, Melvin, I'm really odd to say this. He says. Melvin go ahead. You're a dumb motherfucker. He goes, you may be the dumbest motherfucker who has ever come through this school. And look around you. You're in a dumb motherfucker hall of Fame. I heard this story. I didn't really know if it was true. Somebody told it to me.

[00:43:40.710] - Bill Koch

But I spread the story around among sports riders, as, you know, legendary. I was in La one time, and UC was playing UCLA, I don't know, 2016 or something like that. And Mark Whipper comes up to me from the Orange County Register, and he goes, hey, Bill. He says, I'm just curious, any guys on this team in the DMF Hall of Fame? He knew about it. So when I wrote the book, I really wanted to use that story, but I didn't think I could use it unless I knew for sure that was true. So I got them the end of my interview with Melvin, and I said, Look, I got to ask you about this. I said, I want to preface this by telling you that my daughter knows this story, and she loves it. She thinks it's really funny, but I've always wondered if this really true. And he goes, well, he says, there was a time when I dropped the course. He says, I wasn't going to just let it like that. I was going to get back in another one. But he found out before I could do that. And sure enough, that led to Dumb motherfucker hall of Fame.

[00:44:38.370] - Bill Koch

I said so it's true. And he goes, yeah, you can tell your daughter it's true.

[00:44:44.430] - Todd Jones

Well, we just told our audience it's true too, so thank you for confirming it. It's one of my favorite sports riders, and we actually have it on tape now, so I love it. I love it. Huggins Hall Fame coach, great coach, obviously, and a character. And really in the early 90s, cincinnati was such a hotbed of college basketball with characters. It's a weird city, and that you've got Kentucky fans right across the river. And Rick Patino had it rolling down in Kentucky and then across town in Cincinnati. Had Pete Gillen and later Skip Prosser and Xavier. They had it rolling. And you had Huggins had it rolling. I mean, you had all these people just clashing. And when I think about rivalries in sports, I think about Xavier versus Cincinnati. Now, there's a lot of great rivalries, right? But what is it about Xavier versus Cincinnati that makes it such a special rivalry?

[00:45:43.960] - Bill Koch

Well, they're so close to each other. It's literally like just a couple of miles. Xavier has always been it's not like Duke of North Carolina where they've always both been great programs of both national programs. Xavier was terrible. They were worse than UC, even in UC's bad years. So they have this David and Goliath thing where Xavier really takes great joy in beating UC whenever they can, right. And they just hate each other. The Xavier fans really hate UC. I think more even than UC hates Xavier. But maybe I'm overstating that. But the famous handshake game where Hugs wasn't a big fan. He wasn't a big fan of Pete Gillen either.

[00:46:25.270] - Todd Jones

Well, let's set the scene, Bill. Let's set the scene. I'm covering Xavier for the Cincinnati Post. You're covering Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Post. We're sitting basically together. Courtside. It's January 19, 1994. Xavier wins a hard fought game in the old Cincinnati Gardens. What a great barn. Remember that place? Feet would stick to the floor from stale beer and smell like cigars. Xavier wins 82 76 in front of a rocket sold out crowd. The coaches walk toward each other to do the usual post game handshake. And what happened?

[00:46:58.830] - Bill Koch

Well, Hugs wouldn't shake Gillan's hand and so Gillen just got furious. Hugs just started to walk away. And I remember this maybe you have a different memory, but I remember Gilan walking off the floor. His face was all red. He was walking off with his assistants and he was, like, literally almost spitting. He was so mad. I don't know what he was saying.

[00:47:19.190] - Todd Jones

But, like, screwdriver, I know what he was saying.

[00:47:21.650] - Bill Koch

Something like that. What was he saying?

[00:47:23.300] - Todd Jones

He was saying, fuck him.

[00:47:24.520] - Bill Koch

Yeah. We get in the Postgame press conference then and I remember I asked Hugs, why wouldn't you shake Gillin's hand? And he goes, Bill, I'm not a phony. And I asked him like, three or four different ways. And every time he would just go, I'm not a phony. I'm not a phony. And then I found out later, according to Hugs, one of the Xavier assistant coaches was yelling at Hugs during the game, like, sit down and shut up and stuff like that. So Hugs wouldn't shake. Gyllenhand. They've made up since then, though. They're good buddies again now.

[00:47:55.830] - Todd Jones

Yeah, it's interesting. They had a really contentious relationship because they were battling over turf and attention and success in the same city. It made for great storytelling. I mean, there was always something going on and people thought that if you covered one team, you were with them or something, but I didn't care. I just thought it was great fun to be around because I love college basketball and the personalities made it such that there was always something happening.

[00:48:21.080] - Bill Koch

Yeah, there was also the Xavier had this image that they like to promote of being choir boys and we graduate all our players and we never do anything wrong. And that used to really get under Hugging skin because Hug is always portrayed as a guy with a black hat and Gillian and Zebra were always lily white, they never did anything wrong and that used to really take him off. So that was always underlying there. But then when skip professor came along, hugs loved him. They got along great because in Hugs perception anyway, skip didn't play that card and he was more genuine. And I love Pete Gillen. I think that I covered Gillen's first year at Xavier, but Hugs just couldn't abide that. What he perceived is that he thought there was a genuine phoniness to that.

[00:49:06.310] - Todd Jones

Yeah, I like Pete, too. I covered him a few years and he was always great to deal with. He had a bit of a character that he played and you didn't really get to know him as well personally, but Skip processor was just, you know who you're dealing with and Skip is probably one of the most beloved coaches that I ever covered in terms of people. I never heard anybody say a bad word about Skip. He was just a good guy and obviously tragic when he died at such a young age of a heart attack, miss him.

[00:49:40.890] - Bill Koch

Do you remember when shortly after he died, you and I and a couple of other riders got together and what was the name of the pub he used to go to in Hyde Park? We went there, we met there and drank a toast to him. To Skip.

[00:49:52.360] - Todd Jones

Yeah, the Irish half Irish pub or something like that.

[00:49:54.830] - Bill Koch

Yeah, that's how good of a guy he was.

[00:49:58.570] - Todd Jones

Right. Well, the Xavier Cincinnati thing is such a heated thing and I think one of the things that Cincinnati was able to do was they were able to get themselves on the brink of a national championship. They almost won it in 92. They got to the Final four. They had a great team again in 93, lost a tough regional final and overtime in the Carolina. And then in 2000 they had the best team in the country and the best player in the country, Kenyan Martin. And they were going to be the number one seed that just looked like a team that was going to finally win that national championship that Cincinnati fans have been waiting for since the early sixty s. And then you're in the Pyramid,. The Pyramid in Memphis. And you're at a Conference USA game, a meaningless game really. And Kenyan Martin breaks his leg. You're sitting court side. Did you realize what happened at the time, that it was that serious?

[00:50:59.350] - Bill Koch

You see a guy go down like that and you never think the worst right away, because most of the time they get back up and they either play again or they go to the bench for a while. They come back in, or maybe they miss a game or two, but this was something quite different, and it was their first game in the tournament, and they were playing St. Louis, the team they had beaten by 40 points, like a week earlier. And Kenyan goes down, and he knew right away that he had broken his leg. And Hugs comes out, and Kenyan tells him, he starts apologizing. He was told me later, he said he kept saying, no, not now, not now. This can't be happening. And Hugs tried to calm him down, like you did for Deshawn Brian in West Virginia years later when he tours AC. I remember it was like the air was out of the balloon. There's no way they should lose to St. Louis. And I remember they took Kenyan to the hospital, and then he came back and he was in the locker room after the game, and he had his leg propped up on a bench, and he was doing interviews in there.

[00:52:01.740] - Bill Koch

He sat there and talked, answered every question that anybody he never said, I don't want to talk anymore. He just sat there and kept answering questions, and he kept saying, I'm going to be with these guys the rest of the way. We're still going to win the national championship. Well, they won their next game against North Carolina, wilmington, I think it was, and then they lost to Tulsa. But they were so good that I remember thinking, well, maybe they can still make a run. They still got a lot of good players, and Hugs is a really good coach. Maybe they can just reinvent themselves. They had Dermar Johnson, who was a lottery pick that same year that Kenyan was, but they didn't have any time. They only had a couple of days to reinvent everything they were doing, and so it just didn't work out. It was sad.

[00:52:44.950] - Todd Jones

You think about Kenyan, you know, sitting there answering those questions. I think about him, how far he came as a player and but also as a person. When he first got to UC, I mean, he was so quiet and shy.

[00:52:59.890] - Bill Koch

He was scared.

[00:53:00.590] - Todd Jones

He really wouldn't talk much at all. And by time he left, he was a leader. He was a total leader and the best player in the country, and I think that showed. Another side of what Huggins did as a coach, is that he brought these guys along, and I think sometimes that gets overlooked. You just think about basketball, and Kenyan Martin is a representative of what Huggins.

[00:53:23.380] - Bill Koch

Did for players that's a big part of what my book is about. Every one of those guys swears their allegiance to Huggins because of what he did for them, not just as basketball players, but in other ways. They had a player, Terrence Gibson, who was on the Final Four team. He was hub's first recruited at UC. He wasn't a highly recruited guy and he wasn't a great shooter, but he played really hard and he hustled and played good defense. And Hugs asked him one time, what do you want to get out of this? He knew he wasn't going to play in the NBA, and he said, I know this because this is in the book. And parents said, Well, I want to be able to someday get a good paying job so I can support my family. He was from both in Alabama. He didn't have any money. He was very poor. And years later, Terrence told me he was sitting in hugging's basement in lovely New Year's Eve party, and he said everybody had gone to bed and it was just me and Hugs were sitting there. And Hugg said, Terrence, let me ask you something.

[00:54:24.400] - Bill Koch

He says, when you first came here and I asked you what you wanted to do, you said you want a good paying job? Hug said, Did I uphold my part of that bargain? And Terrence said to him, Coach, you did more than you even told me you would do. He said, you upheld your part of the bargain and more. Terrence works for JTM meets. He's been working for him for like 40 years. He's a grandfather. He lives in the area. And when Huggins got his DUI, they made him go to a press conference and he was suspended. They announced his suspension and he had to read a statement. And I remember looking in the back of the room and there was Terrence Gibson and Cory Blunt, two of the players from the Final Four team. And I asked Terrence when I interviewed him for this book, I said, why was it important for you? Why did you go to that press conference? And he was driving in his car when I was talking to him, and he started crying and he apologized. He says, I'm sorry I'm crying. I'm sorry I'm getting all emotional. But this is how I get when I talk about Coach.

[00:55:22.310] - Bill Koch

He says, I was there because I love that guy and I love what he did for my life. And if anybody ever says anything bad about him, they better not say it around me. That's the kind of allegiance he has to those guys.

[00:55:33.770] - Todd Jones

From those guys, yes. I think that gets overlooked sometimes. A guy like Huggins, they take on this national image. It's almost like a cartoon character. People generalize to the point where it's like they don't even see all the different complexity that we're all complex. We all have different layers to us, but from afar, this fire breathing dragon guy, and he's hard to deal with. But you spent all those years around and you got to know him, especially in the early days, right? I mean, you could talk to Bob every day, right?

[00:56:07.900] - Bill Koch

I would go up every day, say, practice with three. I'd go up around two, and I'd walk back to his office and I knock on the door. It was always dark and there he always had the blinds closed. And he would most want me to come in. And I would sit on a couch right in front of his desk. We would just talk for like 45 minutes or so, sometimes about stories I was writing. But sometimes we would just talk. And then it was time for practice. I'd walk out with him and we'd walk to practice. And then I could talk to it's not like it is today. I could talk to whoever I wanted to. I didn't have to set up an appointment or anything. I was just waiting for the players to come out. And it was great. And we talked about all kinds of stuff. He is a very complex guy. After he had a heart attack a year later, I did a story like one year, looking back on the one year anniversary of it, and I asked him at the end of the interview something like, why do you think this happened?

[00:57:04.690] - Bill Koch

Or Why do you think you survived? And he said, I think God had a plan for me. He said, I don't know what it is, but I think he has a plan for me. And I thought, Come on, cynical scribe. But I think he really believes that. And I think he really has a very rough way to go about it. A lot of rough edges. But he really believes that coaching, a big part of coaching, is improving those guys lives. And he can't stand for those guys to throw away a chance like he had guys want to come to him and quit. Almost all of them at some point will come to him and quit. He talked about it. He had a player named Terry Nelson, one of the California guys on the Final 14 who wanted to be a comedian. And he actually did some stand up, like on the open nights in California. He went to tell Hugs he was leaving, and Hug says, Terry, what are you going to do? And Terry said, I'm going to go back and do stand up. And Hug said, Terry, you're not that funny. And he said, don't be one of those guys who go back home and then sits in the park drinking what was the cold 45 Martin Liquor, and talk about how the white man screwed you over.

[00:58:13.090] - Bill Koch

Don't be one of those guys. And Terry said, Well, I went back to my room and I thought about it, and he was right. And so he just sucked it up and figured it out.

[00:59:04.450] - Todd Jones

That's why I say yeah. There was so much more going on than just basketball, and I think that gets lost sometimes. It sounds like a philosophical and kind of way out there, but it's true. I mean, when you're around a program as much as you were around Cincinnati's program all those years, from really the mid eighty s to like, 2014, you got to see another side that maybe you don't see if you're looking at it from the outside. And so many of those great stories are in your book Hugs. I recommend that everybody check it out. It's a great read. There's a lot of fun stuff in there and a lot of wisdom, too. Huggins is 16 years at Cincinnati. They stand out to me. He's one of those personalities that I feel fortunate to be around somewhat in my own career. And nobody knows Huggins quite like you do, Bill.

[00:59:56.340] - Bill Koch

Yeah. I realized as I was writing this book, that those years of covering Huggins, a lot of times it was a pain. He could be hard to deal with, but for the most part, he was pretty cooperative. It's only when he perceived that you were messing with him that you crossed him. And by that he could mean if you were just doing your job. But I also realize now, as I look back on it, those are probably the best years of my career covering him, what he did at that program and the way the city embraced him and how funny he was to cover every day. Those are really interesting times. Like one time he was in West Virginia and I was still at the Enquirer, and I called him up. UC was going down to play there like two days from then. And he was living in a hotel down there because his house wasn't ready yet. He was living up on a suite above top floor. So I just said to him, are you going to be in the hotel bar tomorrow night before the game? And he said, no, I don't think so.

[01:00:47.410] - Bill Koch

When I get down there, I drive through a snowstorm to get there and I check into my room. I go down to the bar to get something to eat and something to drink and sitting there talking to UC's sid and in walks huggins with his friend Chuck may. Chuck and the whole three or four other guys. And they all sit down at the table and he comes over to me and he puts his arm around me and he goes, hey, man. He goes, we had some good times together, didn't we? And I thought, yeah, I don't know how good they were for me all the time, but now that I think about it, they were good times. It was a lot of fun.

[01:01:21.530] - Todd Jones

Yeah, it's great that we ended in a bar because that's where we've been here in a virtual bar. The bar lights are coming up. Unfortunately, I think it's close in time so I'm going to have to take the tab for you. Bill, thanks a lot for you taking the time to join us again, recommend everybody read bill's new book hugs. And I do want to thank you personally for all the advice, laughter and friendship that you've shown me over the years. It's been a real pleasure am innocent with you today.

[01:01:52.570] - Bill Koch

Thanks, Todd. I really enjoyed it a lot and it's been great knowing you too.



View Less

Recent Episodes

View All

David Steele: “He said Len Bias is dead. It just sounded so insane.”

Press Box Access
David Steele recounts the many twists and turns in his nearly four decades as a sportswriter......
Listen to David Steele: “He said Len Bias is dead. It just sounded so insane.”

Mark Whicker: “We Turn to Athletes to Reaffirm Who We Are.”

Press Box Access
Our 40th guest on Press Box Access is the esteemed Mark Whicker, one of my all-time favorite writers and people in the sports media business....
Listen to Mark Whicker: “We Turn to Athletes to Reaffirm Who We Are.”

Jerry Tipton – “Every Once in a While, You Feel Like You’re Witnessing History.”

Press Box Access
Jerry Tipton knows where all the bones are buried when it comes to University of Kentucky basketball after covering the Wildcats for 41 years....
Listen to Jerry Tipton – “Every Once in a While, You Feel Like You’re Witnessing History.”

Melissa Isaacson – “Michael Never Saw Us as the Enemy.”

Press Box Access
Melissa Isaacson takes us into old Chicago Stadium, where smoke rose to the ceiling while Michael Jordan soared into history....
Listen to Melissa Isaacson – “Michael Never Saw Us as the Enemy.”