Michael Huger

Website – https://bgsufalcons.com/sports/mens-basketball

Email – mhuger@bgsu.edu

Twitter – @coachhugerbg

Michael Huger is entering his 7th season as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at his alma mater, Bowling Green State University

Huger came to Bowling Green after four seasons at the University of Miami. He had spent eight total seasons as an assistant coach for head coach Jim Larranaga, whom he played for at BG.

Prior to following Larranaga to Miami, Huger coached four seasons at George Mason where he helped lead the Patriots to the postseason every year.  Huger began his coaching career at Longwood University (Va.) where he spent two seasons.

Before joining the coaching ranks, Huger played professional basketball in Europe for 13 years, spending time in Finland, Holland and Belgium.

A native of New York City, Huger is a 1994 graduate of Bowling Green State University where he was a Naismith Award nominee and the runner-up for MAC Player of the Year as a senior.

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Take some notes as you listen to this episode with Michael Huger, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Bowling Green State University.

What We Discuss with Michael Huger

  • Picking up the game late as a 12 year old in New York City
  • Playing AAU Basketball for Riverside Church
  • His development as a high school player
  • How he ended up in Ohio at Bowling Green with Coach Jim Larranaga
  • Losing out on the MAC Player of the Year as a senior to Gary Trent
  • His overseas professional career
  • How connections helped him get his first coaching job at Longwood University
  • His “Good to Great ” story from when he was hired by Larranaga at George Mason
  • Building a program at Miami that could compete for the ACC Championship
  • Getting the opportunity to return to his alma mater, Bowling Green
  • A simple philosophy – attitude, commitment, class
  • “I’m telling you the truth. I’m not going lie to you and tell you what you want to hear.”
  • Why delegating lead to success as a head coach
  • Discipline was the last thing he gave up because he had handled that throughout his career as an assistant
  • Players passing the culture down to incoming players
  • Sharing his program with his family
  • The joy in building lasting relationships with players
  • Recovering from COVID and preparing for next season

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle this morning, but I am pleased to be joined by Michael Huger, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Bowling Green State University, Michael, welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Michael Huger: [00:00:12] Thank you for having me, Mike, I really appreciate this.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:14] Excited to have you on and looking forward to chatting, want to talk and go back first to when you were a player.

Tell us a little bit about you as a basketball player, growing up in New York city, just how you got into the game. And let’s just kind of run through your various stops from high school to BG, and then to your ability to play as a professional player.

Michael Huger: [00:00:33] Well, it started I started playing late actually for New York City.

I started playing at 12, so that’s, that’s late for New York city standards. Those guys out there at six. And I used to just sit and watch and, you know, kind of play the little bit. And one day one of my friends, Lamar. Said that the Ts bucks are having tryouts in the cages. Are you coming?

And I know, forget this there. I said, nah, I’m not coming, man. I’m gonna play football. He said football. He was like, [00:01:00] no football, play football, that kid. And I was like, nah, I’m gonna come. I’m gonna come. I’m scared to death. I ain’t want no parts of basketball. And I remember looking out my window where my mother lives in the projects in Harlem and Foster.

I could see the basketball court. So I see everybody out there and I said, I found God out there. I got to hear Moe and everybody else, you know, tease me for the rest of the time. So I’d go out. And now I’m, I’m probably about this height at 12, I’m probably six foot 2. And I’m the biggest one of the team I wound up making it.

I’m the 12th man on the team. We’re like a local travel team and we’re beating teams by 50 points and I’m getting in the game just because we went above 50. I wasn’t one of these key guys on that team. I tell you that now that next summer 13, I kinda just stayed back a little bit. I didn’t play as much.

I wanted to work on my game to get there. I was just so frustrated at how good [00:02:00] those guys were and how bad I was. So just started working on my game at 13 and by 14, I’m the best player on the team. So it’s like, oh, here we go. I’m the best player on the team. And now at the time in New York City, we basically had two AAU teams.

It was the Riverside church and the New York Gaucho. So those were the only two AAU teams. So I decided to go and play with Riverside church. My Buck’s team had broken up. He couldn’t, you know, basically hold on to us anymore. And I wanna go into play for Riverside church in early launch. And it was, it was so much fun playing with Riverside.

Took me all over the world. I mean, we went to France, you name it, we were all over the United States and played against the best competition. We also had the best team. So it was fun. My teammates were Adrian Audrey who played at Syracuse. Bryant Reese who played at North Carolina myself started, we had a Chanel Scott who played at St. John’s, Dow bonds who played at Georgia tech. So we were loaded. Well, we [00:03:00] were hall high, major, high, major basketball players wound up, going to Adelaide Stevenson in the Bronx played for Steve Polson. Was the best experience for me going to play for him. He taught me so much about the game and just discipline.

He taught me discipline and the biggest thing was defense. I was the best score on the team as a south. We went to the city championship, lost the Springfield gardens, Albert Rich, and those guys beat us. We had Billy Singleton who played at St. John’s and Reggie golf who played at Maris. Those were our seniors and I, I barely played as a sophomore because I did defend Mr.

Polson, man, you got go get on this court unless you play defense. So I had to work on my deepens by the time I was in junior, I was better defensive. I was the sixth man on its team that won the city championship. We beat Lincoln high school with Norman Marbury. Stefan’s Marbury’s older brother, so we want to beat them in the championship.

And then the following week, he has a senior year. Average 20 points. I was the first player that Steve post coach that average 20. Now we had ed [00:04:00] picked me Fred brown, all these guys that he coached. And I’m the first average 20 points. I mean, I could score, but I really want interns in a deep visit.

Tell Mr. Post told me about that. Got a scholarship to play here at bowling green. Played here for Jim Larranaga. Who’s also from the Bronx from Parkchester in the Bronx, went to. And he was, this was his first head coaching job here at bowling green. He knew Mr. Larch and Mr. Polce, they knew those guys well and built a great relationship with them.

I had a lot of those schools recruit me, Providence seal hall temple, you name it. They were there, but I didn’t. I just felt like coach Larranaga was telling me the truth. He told me, you know, everything you get here at bowling green and be earned, nothing to be given. And that was like the first time.

It’s true. You know, I had Calipari at UMass. I had some, you know, Rick Barnes is at Providence. PJ Carlisimo was at Seton hall. John Chaney was at temple. So it was like, you know, you have all these big name coaches already. I just chose. I felt bowling green was the best [00:05:00] fit for me in the best place for me. And came out here, had a great career playing here all conference.

My junior, senior year was actually run up play at a year two. Gary Trent, Gary Trent beat me. Most of these guys are no Gary Turner Jr. His son. He was a freshman when I was a senior. I thought I had it in the bag. You know, my team, everything I play well, having a great senior year. And they gave it to him.

I was highly upset for about three years. And then he became like the 13th FIC and NBA draft. And it was like, sorry, maybe it was back. Maybe they were right. Didn’t know at that time. So you know, got over that, that was fun. Had a great opportunity to go play overseas in Europe. During my junior year in college, we went to Highland and played in something called the Harlem basketball week out in.

And over there agents saw me play and then right at the end of my senior year, I got a call and ask was out, still interested in playing. I’m like, if y’all going to pay me to have fun, of course I’m willing to play. [00:06:00] So a play my first year out in Finland Turku. A great experience to go. I’ve been to Europe before a plant Riverside church and playing that at bowling green, been to Holland and France and you know, but never to Finland.

So to get out there to see it, it was, it was, it was incredible. I mean, just going out I remember the sun came up at 11:00 AM and went down at 1:00 PM. We had two hours of sunlight and it wasn’t really sunlight. It was kind of hazy. It was like, it wasn’t the good stuff. So, I mean, it was incredible to be out.

We played in a tournament. I remember at the beginning of the year, it was in it’s called lap land. Is that the top of Finland? And it was night the whole time. I mean, just, you just see the moon go around the building and like, you know, it’s like super fast. It was, it was just incredible. We go back out there in the spring to play again, and then the sun is up the whole time.

It’s like, oh my goodness, this is crazy. I mean, it’s. You, you, you would never imagine this in your [00:07:00] wildest dreams on how incredible this scene was. I had a great career in Finland. Spent two years in Holland, played in Harcum a small town and I played in Rotterdam, which was the big a town out in the Netherlands had a great time.

Wound up playing nine years in Belgium, I spent for an Antwerp Belgium spent one on the coast deeper, and then I spent four on the French. Part of Belgium was a Lee age. And one summer I came back early and I’m seeing like, I can’t even get into my building and wondering like, what’s going on.

The tour de France thoughts and liaise belts. I never knew that I played there for about three years before I found out the tour of the frost started liaise Belgium. So it was, it was a lot of fun just to see that and, you know, kind of hang out down there. Started my career. I got a call. From a one of my assistant coaches, Steve Murphy, who’s now with Creighton.

He, he had just became the head coach at, at Hampton. If you remember the [00:08:00] little fellow who won, I think they beat, they were like a 15 seat and they beat Iowa state. Steve Murphy was my assistant. Co-chair at bowling green. And he called me when I was playing overseas. I was about 28. I just signed a two year deal to go back to him.

He offered me the job to come work for him at Hampton. He offered me 30. I want to say 35,000 to go and work for him. I’m like, man, I’m almost making that a month. I’m not, I’m not going out. Like, you know, I said, I just signed a two year deal. He said, well, come, come with me, come hang out with me. I’ll be in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Just come hang out with me down there. We’re watching ABCD camp and, and, you know, just see what you. I went down there and like, knew everybody, all the assistant coaches, guys, I played against the high school guys. I played against overseas guys. I played against in college. They all were coaching and I’m like, whoa, you know, like this is, this might be something, you know he gave me like a piece of paper and said, write down who I liked and [00:09:00] write some notes about them.

And I did that and turned it into him at the end of the day. And he liked what I wrote down and he said, you know, well, what do you think about coaching? And I was like, I don’t know if I really want to coach, you know, this was fun, but I don’t know. He said, what do you want to do? You can’t play forever.

And I said, well, when I’m done, I think I want to teach or something. I can’t be in an office. You know, I think I would want to teach and be around people. He said, well, what about coaching? I was like, I don’t really think I want a coach. He said, well, coach you is teaching. Coaching is teaching the game basketball.

And I never thought of coaching in that regard. And once you said that I was like, this might be on to something. So around 32 I, I tried to give him the coaching call the couple of the, you know, my assistants Anthony Solomon was a head coach by then. He was the head coach at St. Bonaventure. Mark Iavaroni was the head coach at Memphis Grizzlies at the time.

Coach Larranaga was at George Mason. So it was, you know, having this opportunity to get into coaching and nothing popped everybody. Eh, we, we don’t have anything and, you know, I said, all right, I’m [00:10:00] gonna go play another year and then go back and play another year. Next year, have this, eh, nothing happens again.

I said, all right, I’m gonna go play one more year. At 34, I get married by way. Married my wife, Tanya, who I met here at bowling green. Once, once we got married, I tried to get into coaching again and nothing popped. So I went back overseas again and was married, but she stayed back and I said, man, I can’t do this another year.

You know this is my last go round. And you know, I got to find something and then we go from there. 2005 coach Larranaga calls me and said, Hey Mike, I got a job opened up. He told me everything about the job. He told me to salary everything. I’m so excited. Like, yes, you know, he’s like, yeah, George Mason.

And we’re talking. And then at the end of that conversation, he said, but I can’t hire you. He said, I need somebody with experience who could coach the DC area, who can get recruited to DC area. And he wound up hiring James Johnson as an assistant that [00:11:00] year, they actually go to the final four that year.

And it was just an incredible. He calls me about a week later at the, at the talked about the job and said, Hey, one of my former assistants, Mike Ghillean has a job opened up in Longwood. Would you be interested there? Just transformative division one. And would you be interested in a job, right?

Yeah, coach. I definitely don’t want to go back overseas. You know, so I said, of course, I’m interested in a job. We, my wife, Tanya, now we were living in Buffalo at the time, but I was down in New York city visiting my parents and we drove to Longwood is about a seven hour drive to Longwood down in Farmville, Virginia.

And I just remember meeting my deal in having a great conversation. He offered me the job on the spot. You often need 19,000, 19 five was my first salary. And I was the happiest person on earth to get 19 5. And that was really what I was like, I’m making this a month for sure. So it was so much fun to go down and coach [00:12:00] and, and Mike Ghillean, Doug Teebo, bill rice, and those guys taught me everything about college coach.

I knew nothing. College coaching and none of the stuff, skill development, Mike Gillian said, just, just teaching the stuff that you, that you did as a player, just do everything you did as a player with your workouts. Do what I got. And I want to get really good at skill development. It was awesome. He said, I want you just to go to New York and, and you know, everybody there just recruit.

So I want to recruit in New York, New Jersey from Jeff Bryan to Duran Neil, all these guys out of, out of New York, New Jersey. I just stayed in New York, New Jersey in two years. I want to recruit maybe four or five players the longest. So I felt good about that. That situation. Two years go by coach.

Coach Larranaga calls. He has a job opening. I wound up going down and getting the interview with coach Larranaga in 2007 season my wife and I, we would drive and actually down to. Cleveland to see her [00:13:00] parents. And we had the task to George Mason. He called right after he passed the exit.

It said, Hey Mike, what are you doing? I was like, nothing. He goes, you’re not doing anything. He said, well, why don’t you come up and bring your wife, Tonya. I would like to meet your wife, Tanya. So we want to turn it around on the exit. Going back to George Mason, sitting there talking with coach Larranaga.

We were having a great time and, and he asked my wife at the time, he said, Why should I hire Mike? And I’m like, oh Lord, why did he ask her that? You know? So she said, you see this book you’re on your decks. It was a book called good to great he’s. She said, do you remember the line in the book where you say, get the right people on the bus and then decide what you do?

Well, Michael is the right person to get on your bus. Now you have to decide what coach I said. I loved that you see the set that Michael out of high too right away. So he wound up hiring me. I spent four years with coach Larranaga at George Mason. We, we wound up going we made two NCA [00:14:00] tournament appearances.

My first year we made it down. We lost a Notre Dame in the first round. The next year we make it through our recruiter, kid Lucas. And Luke Hancock was a care from Roanoke, Virginia. Kevin Keats coached him at Hargrave military academy. He called me, said, I got a kid. Why don’t you come down and take a look at him, came down and took a look.

Look at Luke Hancock, fell in love. Like God, this kid is what we need. Exactly what we need. Tell Coachella. Coachella was kinda like, eh, don’t know. I said, coach, if you don’t listen to anything else I say in college coaching, we gotta take this kid, Luke Hancock. He is very good, but we want to take it.

Get them to campus. Yeah. A little shaky to begin and it’s like, God don’t know what we don’t do with them. We spend as Georgetown, Luke has 20, 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. Coachella was like, we’re going to start them. Everything changes. So he wound up starting leads us to a championship. His sophomore year.

We play Villanova in the first round, we were the first CA [00:15:00] team to be an eight seat and play the Nazi Villanova. The first time we want to beat Villanova in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Luke Hancock has to step back three to win the game. I mean, like incredible that next year we wound up going to Miami.

We go to Miami and we have one scholarship. We tried to get local Hancock, but we didn’t get him. We wound up taking a kid named Shane Larkin and, and the rest is history. We had shade. I remember getting down to Miami the, you know, the people around Miami said is three things we’ll never do.

We’ll never be. Duke will never be Carolina and we’ll never win an ACC championship. We did all of that within the next two years. So it was a great experience down in Miami wound, up spending four years down there won the ACC championship in 2013, regular season. Was the number two seat. We had the highest ranking of a, of a Miami team at the time.

Just so much fun being down in Miami and getting to experience that had an opportunity to come here to [00:16:00] bowling green in 2015 went through the interview process. I just remember having fun going through that interview process of getting to know the people again and seeing the guys that I haven’t seen in years.

I want to get in the job. I remember the night Chris Kingston was the athletic director at the time. I remember he gave me the call and he gave me the whole spill about the team and told me everything about the team. And at the end of all of this, we spoke for maybe 45 minutes before the end of the conversation.

Is there anything preventing you from becoming the next day coach at bowling green state university? And I was like, yes, you know, this is it. We got it. I went in my wife and son, Michael, and the best sleep. And I told her we just got bowling green. She was very, very excited about that. We both went to school here at bowling green.

She’s from. Getting her close to home and me from New York is, you know, probably about a eight hour drive to New York where Miami was a flight everywhere. We went, it was a flight Miami. So a lot of fun, just, just getting that opportunity to, to get back here at [00:17:00] my Alma mater things have changed since I’ve been back.

They built up campus. We have a new arena, the Stroh center. We played in Anderson arena. Very nice. We had a chance to sell it out. We beat them. 18th ranked team in the country. Buffalo. It’s just been a great experience to be back and well taken care of. I mean, it’s just a blessing to be back here at bowling green and I’m so excited.

So to get back to work this year, especially after COVID last year, and now we have an opportunity, we have six new guys coming in and just getting ready to go to work and have fun.

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:33] Absolutely. All right. So what are the things that you’ve built your program on there at bowling green when you walked in the door and you were like, okay, I’m taking over for the first time as a head coach.

And I want to put my stamp, I want to build this program in the image that I’ve had in my mind, because obviously as you’re an assistant coach, I’m sure in the back of your head, you had it in your mind that at some point. I’m going to get an opportunity to be a head coach. It’s something that was on your radar.

So when you finally get that opportunity, what does that look like? [00:18:00] What do you have to come in and do? What do you see when you initially walk in the door in order to know that you’re going to be able to have a successful program?

Michael Huger: [00:18:08] The biggest thing was the culture. We had to change the culture. And that was from the bottom up.

That was everything about it. We had to change and we have a simple philosophy, attitude, commitment class. Attitude life is 10%. What happens to you a 90%, how you react to it, commitment, make a total of unconditional commitment to our program, to our families, to get better to our academics class always carry yourself in a first class manner.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Those are the things that we live in. Those are the things we had to clean up. So is, is, I mean, when I say it’s from the bottom up where like, no, do rags on campus and you know what I mean? Like it’s like we have to clean up everything, pull your pants up, like you name it.

We had to clean it up and discipline. We had to [00:19:00] have discipline from, from start to finish. So those were the things that we had to start and it’s. Getting that trust of the plates for me going into my situation, I was the third coach in three years. So now it’s like, Hey, I heard this before from this coach.

I heard this before. Are you the real deal? Are you, are you going to do what you say you’re going to do? And then I had to prove it. So that’s making guys. Making guys run from not going to class missing a study hall missing a training session that you’re supposed to be in. I’m making you run. You’re missing games is all.

And then it’s like students the real deal. But I also care about you. I want you to get your degree. I’m the one that’s going to put my arm around you after all of this stuff. You know what I mean? I’m going to tell you what you needed to hear. I’m telling you the truth. I’m not going lie to you and tell you what you want to hear.

I’m going to tell you the truth and can you handle it? So those were the things we had to clean up from start. I mean, very fun day go, you know what I mean? And that was the thing. So once we got [00:20:00] that cleaned up, the culture started to change. We started to win. We started to win games. We started to win the right way.

And then we had the younger guys, the older guys teaching the younger guys, and we didn’t have that coming in. I had to kind of do it all. My assistants are learning me. So it’s like, we’re all in this together. And, and once we got it, Dan. It was good. Success was right there. We had, like I said, I owed the guys teaching our younger guys and it’s been, it’s been really, really good so far.

So it hasn’t been any issues. Guys have been holding each other accountable and now it’s not me holding them accountable. They’re holding each other accountable.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:42] I think when you can get that player led team and put their culture in their hands, that’s when you really start seeing a difference when you’re having to do it all, obviously that tires you out too.

As a coach, you, you can only be, you can only be that guy for so long. You got to put that you got to put that in the hands of the players and have them take over. And then you’re in a much better, a much better spot. Go [00:21:00] ahead.

Michael Huger: [00:21:00] And also as an assistant, you’re so used to doing everything on your own. You’re not used to delegate.

As when I first came in, I’m trying to do everything. And I’m wa I’m just dead tired. I’m coming home, my wife. Yeah. But I just need to go to sleep right there. I need some breasts tiring. So once I figured out how to delegate and now trust my guys with this stuff. And once I give it to them, they started to come back to me with the answers.

And now it’s good. I’m not following behind them to try to get the answer right away, you know? Handled it. And then that’s what I knew we were successful.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:37] What’s the thing that you can’t delegate, or you don’t want to delegate. What’s the thing that’s most important to you that you have to have your hands on, on a daily basis?

Michael Huger: [00:21:46] That’s a good question that, that I I’ve been, this is year seven for me now. Didn’t have a lot of turnaround. This is the first year that I had turnaround with new coaches. So. The, the, the biggest, that the last thing actually, I [00:22:00] let go was the discipline. I was still the guy that disciplined the guys.

I enjoyed that part because I also enjoy hugging them at the end of it. Like, you know what I made you run, right. Oh, you know, why we doing this? Right. And so that part made it. That was the last thing I would say I gave up was that you know, everybody else has their job to do. And I also have, you know, a million things going on, but the discipline was probably the hardest thing for me, because that’s what I did with coach Larranaga.

I did that at George Mason. I did it at, at, at Miami. So that was that was a hard thing to, to kind of let go of. Was that part,

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:38] What’s the biggest challenge that you see?  

Michael Huger: [00:22:41] The biggest challenge right now is our recovery from COVID. Having a COVID year, we struggled at home. We were really good on the road, but at home we struggled because we got used to that fan atmosphere, having no fans in the building and the energy that they brought to the stroke center, and we lived off less.

[00:23:00] And the last two years, we probably lost two games at home. And, and, you know, last year alone, we probably lost seven, maybe, you know? So it was like, goodness gracious. So the biggest challenges, can we get that back? Can we get that back? What we’ve built the last two years? Can we get it back? And that, that’s probably my biggest challenge right now, along with the fact that I got six new guys in trying to implement those guys into our system and the way that we played, but the beauty of having.

I only lost one player from last year’s team. So now we got all these guys back and plus six new guys. So it’s easy because our older guys, like I said, we’ll be teaching our younger guys. So that helps us out. Tremendously.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:41] Last question for you, Michael, what is your biggest joy when you wake up in the morning?

What’s the one thing that makes you the happiest puts a smile on your face, being the head coach at bowling green?

Michael Huger: [00:23:51] The, the thing that makes me. I have a couple of things. I’ll share a couple with you. The thing that makes me the happiest when I wake up in the morning and is having my wife and [00:24:00] son being able to share this moment with me of, of, of being in everything, being involved in the program from start to finish.

That part has been fun for me. But the, the, the most fun is getting up and coming into work every day is, you know, I, I talked to our guys that’s, you know, one saying that I’ve heard is choose a job that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. I haven’t worked in. I would say at least 41 years, you know, it’s that much fun to go.

I mean, it’s, this is so much fun to go in and coach the guys and mold these young men, and then you see them five years later and they have families and they’re married and they’re still playing professional basketball and they’re doing well. And you say like, I’ve done something, right. I did something right with these guys.

They have their degree. They’re able to play professional basketball, if not, they’re able to get good jobs when it’s, when it’s all said [00:25:00] and done. And, and I felt like me and my staff had a big party. These guys success. And that’s the joy that I get is when I see them years later. Oh, when I get that invite to their wedding and Hey, I’m getting married in this day and you know, I can’t make the wedding, but I sent them a gift there’s stuff like that.

So that that’s probably the most joy I have is, is the end result of what the work that we’ve put in here at bowling green and Miami and George Mason and Longwood.

Mike Klinzing: [00:25:28] Yeah, absolutely. I think those relationships with players and a lot of times, again, you can, we all get judged by success. On the floor in the moment, but ultimately you think about that 10 years, 20 years down the road, what your guys are able to accomplish in their life as human beings really ends up being an important piece of your success as a coach, which can obviously be measured in the moment.

You only see. As you look back retrospectively, which I know makes anybody who’s coached, you know, when you get that phone call and on the other end of the line, somebody says, Hey coach, there’s nothing better when they’re sharing something great from their life. [00:26:00] That’s just one of the, one of the biggest joys that any of us who have coached kids in the past have, have had.

I just think it’s a, you know, it’s something that every coach loves to, to be a part of. So, Michael, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule today to jump out with us. Really, really appreciate it. And to everyone out there. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch you on our next episode.


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