Saturday, February 01, 2014

Former UConn assistant feels right at home in Cincinnati

In the "it's a small world department" I finished with my breakfast in a downtown Cincinnati hotel this morning when I walked into the lobby and one of the first people I saw was former UConn defensive coordinator Hank Hughes.

Hughes spent the last 13 seasons at UConn and had a pair of stints as UConn's defensive coordinator. However, he was not retained by new UConn coach Bob Diaco and it didn't take long for Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville to hire Hughes as Cincinnati's defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator. Hughes spent the 1993 season coaching the defensive line for the Bearcats so there is a sense of familiarity for him in his new gig.

"I am excited about the opportunity to be here," Hughes said. "It is kind of like coming back home for my family. My wife is from this area, she is from the Northern Kentucky area and I met her here 20 years, this is where we got married so there is a little bit of personal touch there above and beyond the professional side."

Hughes helped UConn play in five bowl games during his time with the Huskies and obviously he has mixed emotions about leaving Connecticut while landing on his feet in Cincinnati.

"I was there a long time, Hughes said. "It was hard to leave it but it is easy to come to Cincinnati that is a very easy move to come here. That is not a hard decision to make but it is always tough to leave a place you have been 13 years, you have a lot of friends, a lot of ties, people that you are close to and you have invested a lot so it is always hard to leave a place you’ve been. When you feel like you are going to a great place, it is easy to go to that place."

So what will he remember the most from his 13 years coaching at UConn?

"To me this is a people-based business and it is the people," Hughes said. "I met a lot of great people, I have a lot of great friends there. They will remain great people and will remain great friends so that will last a lifetime. You will run into somebody 20 years later and it is like yesterday and I have that relationship with them and I have enjoyed that."  

Hughes hit the ground running in terms of recruiting. In fact when I left him in the lobby, he was about to check in with one of the players he is recruiting. Next up will come the process of preparing for spring practice and getting to work for Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville.

"It's a great opportunity," Hughes said. "I know some of the guys here, I know some of the guys who were here before when I was here (in 1993) some are back and some are still here. The chance to work with Coach Tuberville, it is a great opportunity and he has a great defensive background and a great head-coaching background."

Finally, with Cincinnati playing at UConn during the 2014 season, Hughes will be coaching at Rentschler Field again but he downplayed the extra emotions that he will be dealing with on that day or night.

"In this business after a while a game becomes a game and it becomes more about what you are doing, what your team is doing than it does about what the other team is doing or where you’ve been," Hughes said. "It will mean zero to these guys here, the fact that I coached there won’t mean anything to those players so other than having been there 13 years that is not going to be a big factor."



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