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Huggins Turns Down Clips' Offer

Bob Huggins still wants to coach in the NBA some day, just not for the Los Angeles Clippers.

First, he wants to win a national championship at the University of Cincinnati.

Huggins informed the Clippers late Monday that he was staying at Cincinnati, which he took to the Final Four in 1992. Huggins turned down the Clippers' four-year contract offer reportedly worth $8 million.

"We received a call from coach Huggins Monday evening notifying us of his latest position," said Joe Safety, the Clippers' vice president of communications. "We wish him well."

Huggins has a long-standing interest in the NBA and pulled himself out of consideration for the Miami Heat's job in 1995. His name was linked with several openings this offseason, and the Clippers offered their job last Friday.

"To have the opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA and to coach the greatest basketball players in the world is without a doubt a goal of mine," Huggins said. "I'm hoping someday I will have the opportunity again. But for now, I have made commitments to players, families and the community that I would like to see through."

Huggins was in Michigan recruiting when he informed the Clippers of his decision.

During his 11 seasons at Cincinnati, Huggins has taken the Bearcats to one Final Four and made them a consistent Top 25 team. They were the preseason No. 1 in 1996, when they lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

They were ranked No. 1 most of last season as well and were considered the team to beat in the tournament before center Kenyon Martin broke his leg.

Without their best player, the Bearcats lost in the second round for the fourth consecutive year. Martin was the top pick in the NBA draft.

"I still have the burning desire to make a run at the national championship, and there's no better place for me to do it than here," Huggins said.

He would have had a tough job in Los Angeles. The Clippers were 15-67 last season, continuing their run as the NBA's least-successful franchise.

Huggins' interest in the NBA goes back to at least June 1995, when he withdrew as a candidate for the Heat's job and signed a 10-year extension with Cincinnati.

He talked about a contract with Miami when the Heat halted negotiations because Pat Riley resigned from thNew York Knicks, making him a candidate. When Huggins pulled out, Riley got the job.

After that, Huggins set about trying to get back to the Final Four. He put together his best team last season, but wound up with one of his biggest disappointments when Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament and the rest of the team crumbled.

Cincinnati enters the upcoming season without five of its top players from last year's team Martin, forwards Pete Mickeal, Ryan Fletcher and Jermaine Tate and guard DerMarr Johnson.

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