Robert Plutchik never dreamed that his name would find its way onto the sports pages, least of all tied in with another famous Robert, this one named Huggins.
Plutchik was professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. A noted psychologist, one area in which he was highly interested was emotion, developing a theory that there were eight basic emotions.
Plutchik’s eight basic emotions were: Joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation.
Now you may be wondering by now what it is that brings Plutchik and Huggins into the same discussion, but in reality it is quite simple.
While himself a magna cum laude graduate of West Virginia University, Huggins became a practicing psychologist in his real world profession of basketball coach. And while he was hardly aware of it, he made great use of all eight of Plutchik’s basic emotions.
Many of them are apparent just watching him coach a game, the first listed one being the least prevalent, that being joy.
Certainly, though, he has preached that his players must trust in each other, while exhibiting disgust and anger at times at their play, more often at the conduct of officials. He has certainly exhibited sadness when defeated and surprise, sometimes, when his team actually performs as he had hoped it would, for he all too often anticipates their mistakes.
This leaves us only one of Plutchik’s emotions to discuss and that is one that he believes allowed the Mountaineers to defeat Cincinnati on Saturday.
When asked how his team had come out after the first half and completely controlled the backboards against the best rebounding team in the Big East, he had a one-word answer, but it was an answer that only a Plutchik could love.
“Fear,” said Huggins.
If that sounds simple, it is, for they anticipated his anger and disgust if they failed to do the job on the backboards.
The statistics heading into the game showed that Cincinnati had the widest margin of rebounding success in the conference, pulling 7.5 more rebounds per game than their opponents. They knew WVU would be difficult to outrebound, for the Mountaineers were second in the conference with a 7.0 advantage, but Coach Mick Cronin could not foresee WVU pulling in 41 rebounds to 30 for his team, including a 26-15 second-half gap.
“We don’t get outrebounded like that,” Cronin said. “It just doesn’t happen. If it does, we don’t win because of the configuration of our team. We’re
not the world’s greatest shooting team. If we get outrebounded, we’re not going to win.”
Yet, on this occasion, the glass belonged to the Mountaineers.
“If we would have been able to outrebound them or just be even, I think we probably would have won the game,” Cronin said. “You’ve to give their kids credit. They did a great job going after the ball in the second half.”
You can add it up any way you wish, but the bottom line tells you that was the difference in this game.
West Virginia had 13 second-chance points off offensive rebounds to five for Cincinnati.
That’s an eight-point difference.
The Mountaineers won by six.
Rebounding, you see, is far more will than skill. Oh, it helps to stand 6-9 and have a wide body and long arms and timing and an ability jump.
But you know how Huggins sees it.
“No one ever got a rebound that didn’t try for it,” he said.
That is how it was. Yancy Gates, Cincinnati’s big, tough forward who is the Bearcats leading rebounder, put it this way:
“They wanted it more than we did and they went and got it,” Gates said, having been shut out from getting any rebounds in his 20 minutes on the floor.
And what motivates a WVU player to want it more?
Dr. Plutchik, the envelop please.
Players know they will get the look from Huggins. They know they will hear his voice ringing in their ears. And they know it will be up close and personal because they will be sitting on the bench, where he can take all of his anger out on them.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.