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Huggins ahead of the game

AP Photo
With a penchant for pullovers, WVU coach Bob Huggins won't be prone to a new item in the NCAA rule book prohibiting coaches from shedding a coat in protest of an official's call.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Bob Huggins isn't exactly going to raise the sartorial splendor of the Big 12's fraternity of coaches. When the group met Wednesday here at the Sprint Center for the league's annual basketball media day, he was the one without the suit and tie.

The only one.

Then again, perhaps Huggins has known something all along that most of the other coaches in the country did not. He's worn nothing but pullovers for the better part of his tenure at West Virginia and in doing so was perhaps simply preparing for an NCAA crackdown on coaches' decorum, which now specifically spells out one of the reasons a coach can be assessed a technical foul.

It's for angrily shedding a coat in protest of an official's call.

"See, I'm prepared,'' Huggins said. "Let me tell you, I got a technical for throwing my jacket when it wasn't in the rule book.''

At a media day fairly devoid of much real news - Kansas was announced as the preseason league favorite a week ago, the preseason all-league team was announced a week before that and Rick Pitino and Jim Boeheim weren't here to exchange barbs as they were at Wednesday's Big East media day in New York - discussions regarding the NCAA's stated crackdown on bad coaching behavior would have to suffice as the most interesting topic.

Huggins basically shrugged off the new rules, insisting that most officials will continue to officiate the way they always have. Some are more prone to react to provocation than others, and specifying what constitutes egregious behavior won't change that.

"We go through this periodically,'' Huggins said, recalling that roughly 20 years ago a group of school presidents were seated near the benches at a Final Four and didn't care for some of the things they heard, precipitating a crackdown on language. "Be honest. Do you think some of these guys are going to change the way they officiate? I can help you with that. They're not.''

Still, never before have so many specific acts been printed in black and white - it comes in the form of an appendix to the rules this year and will be placed in the rule book next season - regarding coaching decorum and what can be grounds for a technical foul.

Many are fairly standard and logical, such as questioning the integrity of an official or using "profane, vulgar, threatening or derogatory remarks'' directed at an official or an opponent.

But the new rules also prohibit "prolonged, negative responses to a call/no call ... [including] thrashing the arms in disgust, dramatizing contact by re-enacting the play, or running or jumping in disbelief over a call/non-call.''

The rules also call for a technical if a coach, in an effort to show displeasure over a call, "emphatically removing one's coat ... or throwing equipment or clothing onto the floor.''

The rule does suggest that officials "should permit certain behavior by the head coach who engages in spontaneous reaction to officiating calls'' as long as the coach remains in the coaching box and the actions are not prolonged or egregious.

Still, it has never been in the rule book that a coach cannot raise his arms in disgust or shed his jacket. He doesn't even have to throw it. It is possible grounds for a technical if he "emphatically'' removes it.

Well, Huggins has at least eliminated that possibility by not wearing a coat.

West Virginia's players, of course, are well versed in Huggins' reaction at times to officiating calls. But even they can't believe that it would be grounds for a technical foul. Deniz Kilicli looked over a copy of the new rules Wednesday during media day - he and Jabarie Hinds were the WVU players on hand with Huggins - and he, too, shrugged them off. But he also pointed out that if the rules are enforced as they are written, it's just not good for the game in some respects.

"I think it just kills all the emotion you have,'' the WVU senior said. "But it's not going to change [Huggins]. You know better than I do, he's always been a guy who does whatever he does. He's going to be more careful about what he's doing, I'm sure, but it's not like he's acting. Nobody's acting. It's just what you do. It's just who you are.''

Still, it is going to be interesting to see how officials handle the new, more-specific rules. Big 12 supervisor of officials Curtis Shaw gave a presentation on officiating Wednesday and pointed out that if the rules are on the books and they aren't enforced, then officials who aren't enforcing them might be less likely to be chosen for choice assignments, specifically conference and NCAA tournaments.

But Shaw - a former official who might have called more technical fouls during his career than any other official in the game's history (his 621 between 1997 and 2008, for instance, was 152 more than any other official, according to Statsheet.com) - also said he was of the opinion that coaches who are prone to such antics will adapt quickly.

"Our coaches are really smart,'' Shaw said. "They know what they can and cannot do. And they know who they can and cannot do it to.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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