By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky basketball standout John Pelphrey struggles to explain what made Joey Couch so special to him.
They were high school basketball teammates at Paintsville before both came to UK. Pelphrey became one of the “Unforgettables” while Couch was an all-SEC defensive lineman.
Pelphrey became a successful college coach — he’s now assistant coach at Alabama. Couch had some personal struggles but had moved back to Paintsville and had his own insurance agency before he passed away from a heart attack in December.
Couch was the only one allowed to call Pelphrey “Big Red” because of his red hair. Pelphrey never let anyone else get away with calling him that.
“Just never had to question where he stood with you when it comes to being a friend or loving and caring about the (Paintsville) Tigers or the Wildcats.” Pelphrey said. “You lose somebody like that, it is just hard to put into words what it is.
“Somebody told me a story and I had forgot about it, but Joey used to carry a bag of dog food around in the back of his car and if he saw a stray dog, he would give it a handful of food. He just had an unbelievable heart. If he saw you coming it was going to be a hug and huge smile. That big heart never changed.
“You are going to be hard pressed to find anybody who crossed paths with the guy who didn’t have a similar story or feel the same way. Just a great, great loss. We will never get over it. A lot of us will be able to learn to deal with it, but that is something you never get over.”