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Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’

Sports Geek — Who should Kentucky get for their next coach?

March 27th, 2009 8 comments

Today the University of Kentucky athletic department and the men’s basketball head coach, Billy Gillispie separated ways. The separation was announced at a 4:30pm press conference after several days of speculation. You can follow the Lexington Herald-Leader’s coverage here!

There are numerous reasons why they needed to part ways but they can all be summed up with the fact that the program was going in a direction that Kentucky did not like and Gillispie was not the right coach to change that direction. Tubby Smith drilled a hole in the bottom of the ship and started it sinking. Gillispie was brought in to try and plug that hole, but the ship was still sinking. Now Kentucky needs to find someone who can save things.

But who will that be?

Florida’s head coach, Billy Donovan has been mentioned. He has built a strong program at Florida, a football school. Donovan is a Rick Pitino protege having been his assistant at Kentucky during their magical run. Is he interested? Would he fit in at Kentucky? Even with his National Championship, he is high profile enough? Can he be consistent? Florida didn’t make it into the NCAA tournament this year. That folks is a huge red flag. If Billy G’s failure to make the dance got him chased out of town, why do we think Billy D will be any different? He does come with strong UK cred having been a well respected assistant.

On the subject of assistants, does Kentucky court Leonard Hamilton, the current head coach at Florida State? He was Joe B. Hall‘s long time assistant at Kentucky? He’s partially responsible for one of the banner’s hanging at Rupp Arena with the 1978 National Championship. On the other hand, 1979 was an NIT year (though in fairness, it was a 40 team field, not a 64 team field, so it was harder to get to the big dance. Again, Hamilton doesn’t have the name power to bring in the McDonald’s All American’s needed to be a consistent Top-10 team. Also a major Geek negative, Hamilton’s Wikipedia page is abysmal. If a coach doesn’t have a decent Wikipedia page, how good can he be anyway?

How about convincing Rick Pitino to come home? Joanne will never go for it. So he would have to commute the one hour drive from Louisville to Lexington. I’m sure a private helicopter would be ponied up to make it happen. Arizona is reported to be chasing Pitino, but I doubt Joanne would put up with Tuscon if she couldn’t handle Lexington. But with Pitino just getting Louisville back to national prominence (sure Louisville wants to be a Football School!!!) he would be a fool to win and run.

Pat Riley? He could do the job, but has no interest in college basketball. He’s too used to life in Hollywood East, er. Miami. Lexington would be too simple for him.

Coach K? He would be met at the border with loaded shotguns. Roy Williams? He is the new evil overload of college basketball (though you have to respect him. He is a very good guy to be the arch-devil…..) but he is so happy at UNC, he wouldn’t give it consideration.

Jim Calhoun? The NCAA is looking at his program at UCONN for rules violations. Kentucky can’t risk that route.

John Calipari? He certainly puts together winning teams. He’s yet to win the big one, and in each of his coaching stints, he’s needed two to three years to get the teams to the NCAA. He has the most wins behind Roy Williams among active coaches. His two college jobs lasted 8 and 9 years respectfully, so based on his history, he may be ready to move on.

Bring Bobby Knight out of retirement?

Who ever it is, it can’t be someone who has built a low pressure school to making the dance. He has to be a proven winner. Someone who consistently, year-in and year-out produces a champion. It has to be someone who can thrive under the extreme pressure that is the Kentucky Basketball faithful yet not mind living in a small farm town. Kentucky doesn’t need a builder, it needs a star and those are few and far in between.

What do you think? Chime in by posting a comment on the blog.

Sports Geek — Is it time for Kentucky to find a new coach? Is it time to fire Billy Gillispie

March 15th, 2009 No comments

Its time for the NCAA‘s Big Dance and time for Billie Gillispie to dance out of Lexington.

“March Madness” is a wonderful time of year for sports geeks.   This week, hundreds of thousands of people will be filling our their “Brackets”, studying records, trash talking their friends as they all enjoy four weeks of basketball tournaments.

The first week has just finishing up as each conference plays out their conference tournaments.  For some conferences they will get to send only one team to the 65 team national tournament so winning your end of season conference tournament is their only way to the show.  Other conferences, primarily those of the bigger schools will get to send multiple teams to the tournament so their best teams, win or loose, still get to play.

And of course some teams are always expected to be there, such as Kentucky.  Its been 17 years since Kentucky last failed to make it to the NCAA tournament.  That was their probation year, a time most Kentucky fans would like to forget.  It ended the Eddie Sutton era, leaving the program with a NCAA death sentence for violating recruiting rules.  But on the other hand, it meant the beginning of the Rick Pitino era which brought the Wildcat’s back to national prominence.

But Kentucky’s record would have gotten them into the tournament that year, had they been eligible.  You have to go back to 1979, 30 years ago to find the last time they missed the tournament on their record.

Thats a pretty good showing.  There are a lot of schools who would love to have Kentucky’s dominance.  But as most people know, the Wildcats have been on a downward slope and are at risk of allowing the UNC Tar Heel‘s to claim the most all time wins.

This slide started when Rick Pitino left Lexington to go back to the pros.  Kentucky hired Tubby Smith to replace Pitino and Kentucky won a national championship.  Of course it was a team of Pitino recruited players.  Smith was allowed to explore other opportunities in 2007 and was replaced by Billie Gillispie.

Most Kentucky fans had been calling for Tubby to be dismissed for several years when it became apparent that he was not recruiting the level of talent to keep Kentucky at the top of college basketball but they were still making “the show”.

Gillispie had shown an ability at Texas A&M to bring a program in trouble back to life and this is what made him an attractive coach to Kentucky.

But Kentucky needed more than a turn around.  It needed an image recovery.  College basketball success is based a lot on recruiting the best talent.  The best talent goes to schools who are always the best.  But with the downward spiral, the best recruits were not choosing Kentucky.  There was hope that Gillispie would be able to do this.  But he hasn’t.

Most of you might be saying, its just his 2nd year and he’s still dealing with a lot of Tubby players.  True that, but he’s not got the clout to get the big recruits.  He’s not been able to manage his talent well and now unless there is some grace of the NCAA bracket gods, Kentucky will be not be going to the big dance.

UPDATE: The basketball gods did not shine on Lexington and UK did not make the 65 team field. Is it too much to ask for UK Basketball to be in the top 65 teams in the country?

Are we to the point where Gillispie needs his walking papers?  In most cases, no, two years isn’t enough time to do anything.  But this isn’t most cases.  This is Kentucky.  They need a big time coach with a big reputation that can get the caliber of players necessary to dominate.  I don’t know who that is but the powers that be in Lexington need to be giving a serious look if they want to remain the Mecca of College Basketball.

Billy, you’re a nice guy and I believe there are a lot of colleges where you could do a great job.  Kentucky isn’t right for you.  Lets recognize this and get you to a school where you can be successful and get a coach in at Kentucky who can be what Kentucky needs.

Sports Geek — Carolina v. Duke who to cheer for (or against)

March 8th, 2009 No comments

We’ve all heard the description of this basketball rivalry.  Two teams who in recent years seem to stay at the top of the college basketball pack live a mere 9 miles apart and is considered to be the best rivalry in all of college basketball.  They play each other twice during the year with a potential 3rd meeting in the ACC playoffs and a possible 4th run-in during the NCAA championship.

Explain this?

North Carolina is your classic Bible Belt state. So why do we have Blue Devils? Demon Deacons? Even Cary’s High school and middle school’s are the “Imps”. Even UNC’s mascot is a curly horned goatish beast which.

But today at the Dean Dome (Dean Smith Center named after the Evil Overlord himself — remember I’m a Kentucky fan!) the powder blue clad Tar Heels host the Blue Devils or as they are known affectionately as the “dookies”.   Today’s game will determine who wins the ACC regular season title.  This title doesn’t mean much other than seeding for the ACC tournament later this week.

In an interesting twist, because of the ACC’s quest to be a football conference and the growth to accommodate their BCS dreams, all basketball teams do not play each other twice during the season.  This has created some very interesting scenarios for the sports geek to ponder with the ACC Tie breaking system.

If UNC wins today, they win out right, two games head of Duke.  Duke is a game behind UNC going into today’s contest and if Duke wins, they will be tied since they have split their head-to-head match ups.  The tie breaking scheme is basically one of looking at head-to-head match-ups until one of the teams has an advantage.

The process is complex and given that I don’t give a squat about the ACC or its member teams, I’m not going to delve into it any further than saying today’s game should be a good one with the title on the line. If you’re interested in more details go see this forum post.

Now Kentucky has struggled and as much as I like Billy Gillespie, the coach, they are on the outside looking in at the moment and may not make the NCAA tournament.   If I were writing the contract for the coach as Kentucky, this would be a reason to fire clause.  The other two are never loose to Tennessee or Vanderbilt.  But I’m not the AD, so I don’t get my say in these matters.

At the end of the day, UNC will probably gain another 4-6 wins on Kentucky before the season is out, halving the lead the Wildcats have.    Therefore I need Duke to win today.

So why for the life of me, when I went to get a glass for ice water this morning and I was looking at a plastic cup did I make the conscious decision to choose a baby blue cup from a UNC game over one from a Carolina Hurricanes game?

Am I loosing it?  Could I actually start liking UNC?  Or is it a case that I really loath Duke and UNC is the lesser of the two evils?  Why am I so tortured by this? I swore when I moved to NC that I would not become a NASCAR fan and well hell would freeze over before I ever cheered for an ACC school.

I’m going to watch NASCAR and ponder this….

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I’ve returned from UNC and survived to talk about it.

February 7th, 2009 2 comments

A couple of weeks ago, my wife received a pair of free tickes to see the UNC Tarheels play the Virginia Cavilers at the Dean Smith Center on the UNC Campus.  The arena is named after their retired Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith.

No one can argue that Dean Smith was a great coach.  He has a national championship under his belt, coached the likes of Michael Jordan and James Worthy.  His famed “Four Corners” offense, where he intentionally tried not to score is directly responsible for the “shot clock” in College Basketball.  Even as a Kentucky fan, growing up in the Adoph Rupp era, attending the University of Kentucky during the Joe B. Hall era, you have to appreciate his accomplishments, even if he is the Evil Overloard  of Tarheel nation.

But free tickets are free and it was an experience my wife, the “Queen of Free” wanted to have while we live here.

Now we have been here in ACC hell for nearly 10 years.  I call it ACC hell because this has to be the most arrogant conference in all of college sports.  And you ACC fans who hate Billy Packer, the long time color commentator for CBS for the ACC being as strong as it is.  It could be game between Indiana and Notre Dame and all Billy Packer could do is pimp the ACC.

With the exception of UNC everyone else’s basketball programs are no where near the level the fans believe them to be.  Duke has its moments and has probably benefited most from Packer’s free advertising.  But UNC has always been there near the top and from a Kentucky perspective, they are the enemy, the biggest threat to our way of life

All teams ebb and flow through the years.  Some coaches will do well, others will not.  Some recruiting classes are stronger than others and this is to be expected.  But to be a top program you have to be there, every year.  You need multiple national championships and you need them in different eras and you constantly have to be posting strong winning records.

So as I was picking out my clothes to wear today, I called down to my wife “I don’t have anything Navy and Orange do I?” since that would be the Virginia colors.  “Do I have a UK cap?”.  It brought a chuckle to her, but I couldn’t dare wear anything close to resembling light blue.  So I found a Navy sports shirt with red trim.  She went with a very neutral white color.

We traveled to Chapel Hill to a park-n-ride spot on Highway 54.  If you feel you must ever attend one of these evil events, I highly recommend using park-n-ride.  Its $5 per peep, but you don’t have to deal with traffic at an on-campus arena with no practical parking.  The UNC campus is a bunch of twisty passages all alike.  Being dropped at the door and picked up at the door is a very handy option.  For the $10 we paid, we were handed lovely Tyvek green wrist bands, which I found out later is how you find the right line to get into to find the right bus.  So far, this is a positive event.

Once we arrived at the arena, it was a short climb of steps through people holding up various numbers of fingers, people begging for tickets. Why can’t they just go to the ticket booth?  There were quite a few open seats in the upper deck corners.  Now at this point, I was tempted to sell out gift tickets, pocket the money and call it a successful day.  But I didn’t want to deny my wife her experience.

The entry lines were dividied into people with bags and people without.  Since we packed light, we headed into the non-bag line and was quickly ushered into the arena.  Once inside, the small concourses caused the sea of powder blue lemmings to pack together like penguins huddling to keep warm.  The line for the ladies room was at least 50 people deep.  As we moved from gate A around to find our seats, there was plenty of chances to look down upon the hardwood and see the pre-game activities.

We took a full tour around the arena as we were looking for a co-worker of my wife’s who was working a concession stand.  We never found him, but we ended back in to the Blue sardine packing company again.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to our seats.  Now at this point, I was feeling a bit of awe about the building, but it was only a tinge.

Our seats were upper deck on the asile and for the most part had a pretty good view when the man in front of me sat back in his seat, but he leaned forward most of the game and his melon blocked about 1/4th of the court.

The game for the 1st half was pretty boring and we spent most of the time checking out the people than the game.  The endzone students who bounce the whole game was better in person than it appears on TV.  The section of students besides the band who stand the whole game was a nice touch.  The band sounded good and though none of the dancers, grouped into 4 groups along each edge of the floor were in sequence with their dance steps, they at least were well cooridinated with the music.

Half time came and they were honoring members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  The problem I have with this is that they were inducted years ago.  How many times are they going to honor James Worthy or Billy Cunningham or the Arch-devil overlord himself, Dean Smith?  The latest inductee was several years ago.  Now supposidly there is a new banner or something, but the banner was already revealed and it was something to show on the big TV screens and get these UNC legends some more face time.  Seriouslly, WTF was that about?  Someone explain it to me.

Now Coach Roy Williams, one of the HOF inductees, must have had a “Come to Jesus” talk with the players at the half because they came out and made Virginia look like a pickup team.  We enjoyed the two “line changes”, where they brought in their subs late, to get about a minute of play time each.    (This is why we like hockey.  Everyone pretty much has to play…..)

After the game, we went down to the floor level and actually stepped out onto the hardwood.  I was hoping I would get a feel of emotion from being there.  It was cool, but that overall feeling of greatness just wasn’t there.

We colleted a set of the nice plastic cups, 4 small and 4 large.  It should serve at torture for my NCSU loving son and my die-hard Duke co-worker.  Free game, free glassware!  On the way out, one of the concession stands had left a bunch of hotdogs on the counter, more freebies.

We met a parent of a hockey player who played with our older son so the line for the shuttle bus passed quickly as we reminised and caught up on our kids.

My soul did not rot and there is no risk of me becoming a UNC fan anytime soon.  I would go back again should more free tickets come our way.

That said, here is my list of sports venues tha speak too you based on their history and feeling of the ghosts watching over you.

  1. Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY.  Home to Kentucky’s Legandary basketball program.
  2. Joe Lewis Arena, Detroit, MI. OMG what a feeling you get when you walk into that building.
  3. Hershey Arena, Hershy Park, PA.  Wilt Chamberlain’s scored his famous 100 points here, but it was the hockey ghosts of minor league hockey that spoke out there.
  4. Wrigly Field, Chicago, IL.  While the Cubs are championship free, you know some major baseball love has been felt there.
  5. HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY.  While very new in the scale of arena’s go, you feel it when you walk through the doors.

Now I will admit, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, the old Chicago Stadium and the Boston Gardens should be on this list, but I’ve not had a chance to visit them.

But I’m glad I went.  It was a good experience.