Make no mistake, there is a fire burning within Bob Huggins. When he’s won as long as he has, and in such an impressive way, losing like West Virginia basketball has this year does not sit well with him. Many tremendously successful seasons were not a fluke. This year is a fluke.
Bob Huggins is a man obsessed with winning. The most dangerous kind of winner is one that is currently failing and longs for the sweet, sweet taste of victory again. Watching the NCAA Tournament at home this year will not be easy for Coach Huggins. This year’s team was set up to be successful. Without dissecting everything that went wrong this year, just about everything that could possibly go wrong did. Perhaps there should have been fallback options in place in case Sagaba Konate decided to fake an injury, or Esa Ahmad failed to come close to living up to his hype as a 4 year starter, but both cases were unlikely coming into the season.
To say that someone is “obsessed with winning” is almost a bad thing in our culture. Yet, we admire those who show genius in what they do, and most often that takes an obsessive personality. Huggins is a basketball genius. Behind genius there is often incredible pain and suffering. Likely tortured by his own thoughts and obsession, this season has almost certainly affected his health and has been very painful emotionally for him. This is compounded by the fact that he can’t go on the court and do anything about it. He watches in horror and suffers.
Bob Huggins can’t fake it. He can’t paint a rosy picture and he can’t act like everything is fine. He doesn’t blame his players and take jabs at their effort in post game conferences because it’s a particularly effective strategy; he can’t help himself. He’s very much aware that he can put players in position to be successful and win if they listen to him explicitly. A constant failure to take what he’s told them countless times in practice and execute it in the game is maddening for him. He’s perfectly incapable of keeping that in and to himself. For him to allow you, the fan, the viewer, to think that the product you saw on the court was what he wanted, what he had coached, would mentally and physically destroy him. This year’s team is not Bob Huggins. This year’s team is a product of players not listening to Bob Huggins.
His mind is likely running a million miles per hour with thoughts of how to fix this. And he will fix this. In his only two losing seasons in his career (1984-85 with Akron and 2012-2013 with WVU), the following years he led his teams to winning records (Akron went from 12-14 to 22-8 and WVU went from 13-19 to 17-16…and then 25-10 the year after that). His teams have missed the NCAA Tournament just 3 times in the past 27 years. In other words, this won’t last long.
The bones of a very successful team are already in place and we will be back strong next year. Fran Fraschilla, little twerp average former collegiate basketball coach and painfully mediocre ESPN color commentator, recently claimed that West Virginia basketball is “5-6 players away from being relevant again.” Believe that Bob Huggins will spend every waking moment proving him wrong. The intense pain of not making the NCAA tournament will be replaced by the pain of not winning an NCAA Championship next year and the year after that, until his ultimate goal is accomplished and he finally wins it all for the great state of West Virginia. And it will happen. Or Bob Huggins will die trying.