The Next Big Game!

  • UK FB Blue-White Game:
    in 1 day, 14 hours, 29 minutes

Larry on Twitter

Jennifer Palumbo

This is the final part of a series with media members offering their opinions on Kentucky’s season.

Question: Do you think, in general, Kentucky fans are still solidly sold on what John Calipari is doing and has done at UK or do you sense some uneasiness after the last two seasons?

Ryan Lemond: “There has definitely been some uneasiness lately, and I think even Cal would admit it’s justified. There is no way this team should have underachieved the way it did this year. No way! I think UK fans love Cal. They believe in him, but the last two seasons have been a disappointment in everybody’s book. That’s gotta change. I would still take a national championship for two underachieving years, but most fans can’t do it. Win, and win now, and win a lot!”

Larry Glover: “I think all would agree he can really coach. You don’t get to Final Fours at three schools without really knowing what you’re doing.  However, some are legitimately questioning the ‘restocking the roster with freshman every year’ as the best long term approach. I think a balance between experience and talent needs to be struck.

“Honestly,  I think his promoting UK as a ‘Player First Program’ is a bigger issue for lot of folks in the BBN. Some of his quotes on the matter are giving the impression that winning games and championships are not a high priority.  I don’t share that point of view. I think Cal is very motivated to win big. I think he feels, and I share this opinion, that if you recruit and produce great talent … titles will come as a result.”

Keith Taylor: “Based on what I have heard there are some doubts about the one-and-done players. Fans miss the connection they had with four-year players. I sense they are missing the bonding and building relationships with the veteran teams and an experienced team.”

Tyler Thompson: “I think most of the fan base is still on board with Calipari. Given the right ingredients (talented freshmen plus veteran leaders), his recipe hasn’t just proven successful, it’s won Kentucky its eighth national championship.

“I think the one thing UK fans have learned this season is that you can’t rely on freshmen alone. The learning curve is too steep. Cal’s first three teams at UK have all had veteran players step up and give valuable contributions. Back in 2010, it was Patrick Patterson; 2011 Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins; 2012 Darius Miller. Even last year, Julius Mays tried to put the team on his back after Nerlens Noel went down. Coming into this season, most of us thought Willie Cauley-Stein or Alex Poythress would take that role, but so far, neither have, and the lack of leadership haunts this group. In turn, the freshmen have been expected to do it all on their own, and unfortunately, none of them are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, two unique players mature beyond their years.

“Fortunately for Calipari and Kentucky, there is talk that the one-and-done rule may give way to a two-year rule, which would improve things immensely.”

Mary Jo Perino: “I think there’s definitely been a referendum on one and done players, but I don’t think that’s the problem. You don’t turn any of these guys away and you don’t truly know who will stay and who will go. But I do think there are some fans fed up with it. On the whole, it’s really tough for me to have a legit conversation with someone who really doesn’t think Cal is the guy for the job. I still believe he is 100 percent. Now if this happens again next year.”

Mark Buerger: “Not based on what I hear on Sundays. The tiny minority that wants a new coach is out on the far limit of sanity, but when you make a big production of telling a passionate and dedicated fan base that you are going to run the program they love in a new way and immediately follow it with seasons like the last two, you pretty much invite people to ask questions.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “UK fans want the team to compete for a national championship every season. Obviously last season was disappointing, but it also showed how hard it is to create the 2012 level of success. I think most rational fans appreciate that Cal is doing everything he can to bring the best players to UK.  The preseason hype by recruiting analysts and the media raised Big Blue Nation expectations to unrealistic heights. Every time I heard 40-0 talk, I cringed.  I want Coach Cal and the Cats to believe they can win every game, but that can be their goal. And if it ever happens, I’ll be first in line for the T-shirt.”

Tom Leach: “There’s always going to be uneasiness when things don’t go well.  Fans set the bar high at Kentucky but that’s why this program continues to win championships through almost every coaching transition.  Kentucky fans love to get to know the players and so they, along with Calipari, would love to see the rules changed to enable players to stay in the program longer.  I think the overwhelming majority of fans–when not in the moments after a loss–would say they believe in Calipari but they’d like to see that “tweak” in the rules that would provide a little more continuity of rosters and add a little more experience to each team.”

Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) shoots over a Georgia defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) shoots over a Georgia defense during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference men’s tournament, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

This is the third in a series of stories on the Kentucky season with various media members offering their insights as UK gets set to start NCAA play.

Question: Do you see any scenario where UK could make the Final Four this year after starting the season No. 1?

Ryan Lemond: “Not a chance in France. Only if all the other teams come down with a month long flu bug. There is no way this team has showed me anything to indicate they are a final four team, especially finishing out the season losing three of their last four and nearly four of their last five. No way.”

Larry Glover: “For UK to make the Final Four, they would need a really favorable draw in terms of match ups and the region would need to fall apart a little bit. They also needed to escape the dreaded 7 to 10 seed zone. If so, they would avoid 1 and 2 seeded teams in the first weekend.  That would be a big help.”

Keith Taylor: “No. They would have to make a total transformation from the last two weeks of the season. They haven’t fared well against ranked teams. Do not see any reason to believe it all changes now, especially if opposing teams apply consistent pressure and get the Cats rattled.”

Tyler Thompson: “I think the only way it could have happened is if they won the SEC Tournament. For a group this young, momentum is everything. In my opinion, 95 percent of this team’s problems have been mental, which is completely understandable given their youth and the unreasonable expectations. For this group, it’s never ‘can they beat someone,’ it’s ‘will they beat someone,’ and if they had banded together to win the SEC, they may have finally cleared that mental hurdle and realized their full potential.”

Mary Jo Perino: “No, just being honest. The blueprint on how to beat UK is already out there and established, as much as that pains me to say.”

Mark Buerger: “None. They have shown no sign that they can put together any kind of run, especially against better teams.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “If nothing else, this college basketball season shows anything can happen. At the beginning of the season, who said the only undefeated team would be Wichita State?  I’m not saying UK will be in the Final Four, but why not?”

Tom Leach: “Yes.  Several times this season, I have cited Kentucky’s record in comparison to Michigan’s Fab Five group of 1992 (the only team to start five freshmen in a national championship game).  The overall records and the records against quality teams are quite similar and that ’92 Michigan team seemed to catch fire in the NCAA Tournament and each win fed their momentum.  And that Michigan group was a 6-seed that year.  The odds are against UK making that kind of run but could it happen?  Absolutely.  The seed is not as big a deal if the team gets its game right and we certainly saw signs of that last week in Atanta.”

This is the second in a series of post with various media members on the Kentucky season going into NCAA play.

Question: What player has surprised you the most — either by what he has done or has not done?

Ryan Lemond: “It’s got to be Willie Cauley-Stein. He was projected to be a lottery pick, and he started out the season that way. But once SEC play started, he not only lost his starting position, he lost playing time. There are times when he just doesn’t play with much heart or energy.  That’s inexcusable to me. Didn’t you come back to better yourself this season? Lack of effort has led to many ‘missing in action’ games this season, often when the team needed him the most.”

Larry Glover: “Andrew Harrison has been the biggest surprise. He was talked about by recruiting experts as transcendently good but instead he’s been very much a work in progress. In time, he can become a really good college guard but I’m not sure I see a guy that can play a lot at the next level, … at least not right now.”
Taylor: “Expected better point guard play from Andrew Harrison. His up and down play has hurt the team but that’s to be expected from freshmen.”

Tyler Thompson: “I’ve been disappointed in Willie Cauley-Stein. After UK lost to Robert Morris in the NIT, Willie seemed like a man on a mission, vowing to come back and right all of last season’s wrongs. Before this season started, Willie even said he was ready to be the ‘go-to guy’ Kentucky needs, but thus far, he’s disappeared just as many times as he’s appeared. Willie is one of the few players on the team who wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, but at 7-foot with those athletic skills, his upside is tremendous, and for that reason, his hit-and-miss progress this season has been disappointing.”

Mary Jo Perino: “It’s players. It’s probably going to be the easy answer, but for me it’s true, it’s the Harrison twins. We thought after last year when there was no real point guard, this would be a different story. My belief is just they are not as good as we expected them to be. That’s not necessarily their fault either. It’s also unfair to put them together all the time (even though I just did) but fair or unfair that’s how they are judged. We may have been completely unfair with our expectations of the Twins and perhaps if they stuck around another, I think they would improve a lot. They just aren’t what I thought and that’s ok.”

Mark Buerger: “To start with something positive — just for the shock value — Dakari Johnson has surprised me with how much he has developed. Game-wise, he’s pretty close to the only guy who seems to have improved much over the course of the year. He moves better, his offense has improved dramatically and his energy level and effort have improved to the point that he often seems like the only guy who’s playing hard.
“On the other end, it’s hard to pick just one. I guess James Young’s struggles have been the most surprising thing given the way he was lauded during the pre-season. Obviously he is capable of great things, he just hasn’t really shown it in a while.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “I’m most surprised by Willie Cauley-Stein. The incoming freshmen received a lot of attention, but Willie’s progression from last year has been impressive. He struggled at times this season, but he’s also had some great games.”

Tom Leach: “Dakari Johnson.  He has developed into a real force as a low-post scoring threat and you can tell he’s worked hard to improve his defense.  A smart player finds a way to maximize his assets and minimize his weaknesses and that’s what Dakari has done.  Also, it looks like his teammates are really feeding off the energy and passion with which he plays the game.”

This is the first a of series of articles with various media members on their thoughts on Kentucky’s season as the Cats get set to start NCAA tournament play.

Question: What has this Kentucky season been like compared to what you expected on Oct. 15?

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “I never ever thought in a million years we would be sitting here in March talking about a 10-loss season and a 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Back in October I bought into this team. I believed all the hype. I believed it was the best recruiting class in UK history and one of the best in the history of college basketball. Final Four was for certain, and hanging banner No. 9 was a strong possibility. I honestly don’t think I’ve covered a team that has failed to meet my expectations more than this team has.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “This season has been a big disappointment. I didn’t expect 40-0 but I did think UK would have a team that could compete for a national championship and they don’t.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Expected more wins, especially against top 25 teams. It’s hard to gauge what to expect from a team that starts five freshmen. I definitely expected better production from Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Starting a freshman point guard produces roller-coaster results unless you are John Wall.”

Tyler Thompson, Kentucky Sports Radio: “Pretty much a 180. If you had told me Kentucky would finish the regular season unranked after going in as No. 1, I would have said you were crazy. This freshman class was heralded as the greatest in college basketball history, and everyone, from Cal to the media to fans, bought the hype, in part to erase the memory of last season’s NIT loss. Looking back, it’s clear that these freshmen aren’t as talented as we thought, and Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein haven’t matured into the veteran leaders that been so crucial to Calipari’s teams in the past.”

Mary Jo Perino, former WLEX-TV anchor and current Comcast Sports South contributor: “Absolutely nothing. I never believed they would go 40-0, but if you asked me which was more likely an undefeated season or 10 losses, I would have said undefeated every time. It’s not over yet, but I never really imagined myself being apathetic in many ways about this team in March.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports Talk: “Short of a complete disaster, but certainly a major disappointment. I always thought the 40-0 talk was dumb, and I thought the team would struggle early, especially against this schedule, but I had really figured that by now they would have things figured out and be playing up to their talent level. They just aren’t.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKYT-TV news anchor: “I had high hopes for this group of incredibly talented players even though most of them had never played together. This is a such a young team trying to come together in a short amount of time, and this season shows talent alone isn’t always enough to win.”

Tom Leach, Kentucky Radio Network and Leach Report: “It was hard to imagine a team so reliant on freshmen would be able to avoid some bumps in the road but there was so much hype for this group that it was hard to avoid getting caught up in the expectations that were unrealistic for that circumstance.  Hopefully, we’ll all remember that for future situations.  But when that expectations bar was set so high, this team was set up to fall short.  My broadcast partner, Mike Pratt, thinks they’ve been dealing with that as far back as the Baylor game in early December and I salute Calipari and his staff for finding a way to relieve that tension prior to last week’s SEC Tournament.”

Jennifer Palumbo and Larry Vaught posed with UK's national championship trophy during the Ohio UK Fan convention earlier this summer. (photo submitted)

Jennifer Palumbo and Larry Vaught posed with UK’s national championship trophy during the Ohio UK Fan convention earlier this summer. (photo submitted)

Vaught’s note: WKYT-TV news anchor Jennifer Palumbo makes her prediction on Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville game along with her thoughts on how true UK fans with season tickets should approach the game. Enjoy.

By JENNIFER PALUMBO

Kentucky wins because UK is the better team and will have the home court advantage. It may go down to a last-second shot or block, but the Cats will win the Battle of the Bluegrass.

The Rupp crowd needs to be loud and proud. Don’t tell me to sit down because I’m cheering too much. Don’t tell me you pay good money for your season tickets, and you have every right to make as much money as you can scalping them for this game.

UK officials need to ask every fan wearing red in the first five rows where they bought their tickets. They know who the big donors are and where they sit. Any UK fan scalping tickets to the Louisville game should have their season tickets taken away.  If you’d rather let a stranger sit in your Rupp seat, you’re not a fan in my Big Blue book. Go Cats!!”

uk-ul-logo1Question: Who do you think wins the Kentucky-Louisville game Saturday and why?

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville. They are the better team.”

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “With so many factors working in its favor, Louisville should win at this point in the season, especially with the homecourt advantage.   But I’m also confident Kentucky’s talented freshmen will start to jell as a group and if that starts to happen by Saturday, the Wildcats would have a chance to win a close one.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville. They’re playing much more together than Kentucky is, and a hundred times more sound defensively. The Cards have plenty of motivation this year after what happened in April, and they’re playing at home.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Kentucky will win because the Cats owns the series and Cal owns Pitino.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Louisville. At home. Play better as a team. Way more experience in games like this.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I think the Cardinals will win the game. If UK takes care of the ball then they can take it to the wire but if they fold under the pressure then it will be a runaway win for U of L. One thing to keep an eye on, the longer UK hangs around the more the pressure builds for U of L late in the game.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “I am predicting a 50-49 win for U of L. I still don’t think UK has ‘found themselves’ yet, but they are getting closer. I think it’s going to be an ugly game, and the uglier the better for U of L’s chances to finally get a win over Cal’s Cats.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “I think Louisville wins this year on the fact that they have a more experienced team and have a proven outfit. They have shown that they can win on the road and also at home, which also is a plus for the Cards. Kentucky hasn’t proven it can overcome a hostile environment and Louisville will be a much-tougher place to play than Notre Dame. I give the nod to Louisville, 75-64.”

And ESPN analyst Dick Vitale is also predicting a 77-70 Louisville victory.

Question: What are the chances both Kentucky and Louisville could make the Final Four again this year?

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “Somewhere close to zero. I think there’s a decent chance that neither one does. Louisville has trouble scoring from time to time. I think that could ruin them come tournament time. Kentucky just doesn’t look like any kind of threat to get that good by the end of the season. I know they didn’t look like a threat two years ago at this time, but for some reason I don’t see this team making the kind of strides that team made.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “There’s a good chance because both teams are talented and well-coached.”

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “I would think Louisville’s chances are very good–veteran team with Final Four experience, likelihood of a top two seeding.  This Kentucky team will likely be in a similar position to the one two years ago, where some early setbacks left them with a number four seed so they would probably have to beat two or three higher seeds to make it to Atlanta.  Logically, their prospects of making three Final Fours in a row would not be as bright–but that group two years ago should  have taught us not to write this team off yet.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has better odds, than Kentucky. The Cardinals have a chip on their shoulder after last year’s loss to Kentucky in the Final Four and wants to prove they belong among the top four teams in the nation this year. Barring a total meltdown in the Big East, the Cardinals likely will open the NCAA Tournament at Rupp Arena and have an easier road to the Georgia Dome than UK at this point. In order to improve its chances, Kentucky needs to climb back into the Top 25 and compete flawlessly in the SEC. The room for error is a small one.”

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “It’s so tough to get there for any team.  I give Louisville the better chance.  They’ve got guys who have been there before. It will be much tougher for UK to get there.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think U of L’s Final Four run last year was kind of a fluke. They really weren’t very good at the end of the season last year (remember the 35 blowout loss to Providence), but they got ‘hot’ at the right time and made a good run. This year there is no denying that they are pretty good. With Dieng they are a Final Four caliber team, but they don’t have that outside scoring threat this year.  So I am predicting Louisville will not make the Final Four.
“I also can’t predict a Final Four for UK.  There are just too many red flags here at the midway point of the season for me to think they can make a Final Four run. I think they will have a great SEC run this year because the SEC is really down, and I think UK is going to only get better and better.
“If I had to lay odds in Vegas on either team reaching the Final Four, I would say: UK 55 percent and U of L 70 percent.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Louisville has a great chance to go far in the tournament this year, barring any season-ending injuries that just seem to have happened to the Cards over the last few years. I’ll be expecting them in the Final Four. Kentucky undoubtedly has the raw talent to make it to the Final Four again, but it all depends on how Calipari continues to develop this team mentally, as well as Ryan Harrow’s continued improvement.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “There’s a far better chance that neither team makes it than both teams making it.  Strangely, these two programs , as good as they are, are rarely title worthy at the same time.  They’ve been to the final four at the same time only twice since 1975.”

Next: Who will win the game?

uk-ul-logo1Question: Which team has the most pressure on it to win this year?

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “ Louisville.  They’re going to be favored and with such a big experience edge and the homecourt, they have more things working in their favor than at any other time in Cal’s time at Kentucky.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “If Pitino can’t beat Calipari Saturday then U of L fans will have to wonder if he ever will.  Rick is 0-4 against Cal and 2-7 in the last 9 games against Kentucky.  Plus, he’s not likely to win next either with the game at Rupp and Cal poised to bring in the best class ever  That means the pressure is all on the Cardinals.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ No doubt it’s Louisville. They’ve lost four in a row to their arch-nemesis and arch-rival.  They lost two games to them last year.  They lost in the Final Four to them last season.  They lost two years ago at the YUM Center to UK when it was supposed to be the big ‘christening’ of their new home. It’s Pitino’s old school. It’s Pitino’s old protege. Everything about this game puts all the pressure on U of L, but the biggest reason has to be that if Pitino doesn’t win this one, he may never beat Calipari at UK. UK is going to stay at top caliber team. U of L may never have this talent level again … ever.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “ Louisville.”

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Louisville, no doubt.  They’ve lost to Cal three straight years and are supposed to be the much better team. Pitino can’t lose this game.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Kentucky. Coming off a national championship and a Final Four win against Louisville, the Cats are still seen as being the top dogs and expected by UK fans to beat Louisville (always). Louisville has almost flown under the radar this year, even with their national ranking. Kentucky has much more to prove this time around, especially after they fell out of the top 25.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I’ll say Louisville, but only because everybody expects them to win. Kentucky needs this game to prove it can beat somebody good.”

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “Louisville has more to lose since the Cardinals are having what has been a banner season so far. A loss would drop Louisville in the polls, while a win for Kentucky would land the Cats back into the Top 25 going into the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. Kentucky hasn’t fared well on the road this year and a victory at Louisville would give the young squad confidence going into the SEC. Louisville has lost four in a row to the Wildcats, including twice last year.”

Next: What are the chances both teams could reach the Final Four again this year?

uk-ul-logo1By LARRY VAUGHT

With Louisville and Kentucky renewing their rivalry Saturday in Louisville, oddsmakers agree that this is the year Rick Pitino’s Cardinals finally beat John Calipari. Since arriving at UK, Calipari is 4-0 against Louisville, including a win in the Final Four last year when the Cats won the national championship. However, this year No. 4 Louisville is a solid favorite over unranked Kentucky, which has already lost to Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame. Three previous times in this series when Louisville was ranked this highly and UK was unranked, the Cardinals won each time.

Various media members who cover Kentucky basketball regularly shared their thoughts and insights on the game.

Question: Who will be the best player on the court for the UK-Louisville game?

Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “The best player on the court will be Louisville guard Russ Smith. Ten games into the season, Smith was averaging 20.2 points per game. Containing Smith will be a key for Kentucky to have a chance to beat the Cardinals at the KFC Yum!Center.”

Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Peyton Siva will be the best player on the court, but I believe Nerlens Noel has the best potential.”

Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “Often, in this game, the star player is someone we would not have forseen — think Josh Harrellson two years ago.  If Kentucky wins, I’m thinking it will be Alex Poythress.  If Louisville does indeed lack its primary shot blocker, Poythress could be hard to handle in the lane, if he brings his ‘A’ game.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I don’t think there’s ever been a harder year to answer this question. Logic says Siva, but he’s always prone to one of those two-assist, six-turnover games he has occasionally. Last time we saw Alex Poythress against a big-name opponent, he was probably the best player on the court. Will that Alex come back? So I’ll go with Russ Smith.”

Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think the best player on the floor will be Nerlens Noel, especially if Giorgi Dieng doesn’t play for U of L. I think Noel just keeps getting better and better each time out.  He’s already played pretty well against some other big guys this year — Plumley at Duke, Cooley at Notre Dame and Maryland’s big guy. Just as the U of L game was Josh Harrellson’s coming out party two years ago at the YUM Center, it’s going to be Noel’s turn this year to show the world why he’s considered one of the top two picks in the NBA draft this year.”

Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Archie Goodwin.”

Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I’m not sure if he’ll be the best player on the floor but I think Ryan Harrow will be the most important player on the floor.  Kentucky simply cannot turn the ball over.  If UK takes care of the basketball, it will create scoring opportunities for the Cats and that will limit easy opportunities for the Cardinals, who struggle to put the ball in the basket.”

Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Nerlens Noel might be the most natural talent on the court, but Russ Smith has also been playing great lately and is sure to provide some matchup issues for Kentucky.”

Coming next: Which team has the most pressure on it Saturday?

Jennifer Palumbo and Larry Vaught posed with UK's national championship trophy during the Ohio UK Fan convention earlier this summer. (photo submitted)

Jennifer Palumbo and Larry Vaught posed with UK’s national championship trophy during the Ohio UK Fan convention earlier this summer. (photo submitted)

By LARRY VAUGHT

WDKY-TV news anchor Jennifer Palumbo got her start as a sports reporter and remains an avid University of Kentucky football and basketball fan despite a not so pleasant incident not long after she was hired at WKYT-TV in 1995.

When Kentucky won the 1996 national championship under Rick Pitino in 1996 for its first title since 1978, Palumbo says she was the “low man” on the staff and drew the fan celebration assignemnt. She got hit on the head with a beer bottle thrown by a fan on top of a pay telephone booth.

“It kind of hurt. I leaned forward and there was blood running down my face,” said Palumbo. “Someone gave me a towel. I walked to a fire station around the corner, but there was so much chaose going on. The fire fighters said I was out of luck getting an ambulance, so I called the station and then sent someone to pick me up.

“But 99 percent of the fans are one who love Kentucky and have all those shared memories, good and bad. The reason we come back for more is we always want to be thre. Kentucky fans are the best in the country. I can say that because I was not born one. I grew up in Ohio, didn’t go to Kentucky. I married a UK graduate from Lexington, so I married into the UK family. Kentucky fans are everywhere and I really believe there are more UK fans who didn’t graduate from UK than did. We are a big group united by our passion to see the Big Blue do well. Where else do TV stations send reporters to cover fans watching games. Not a sports reporter, but a fan reporter.”

She was also the “fan reporter” when UK and quarterback Tim Couch went to the 1999 Outback Bowl.

“I’ve been to amazing football games. At the time of the Outback Bowl, I was single and no one else wanted to be gone for two weeks. I went to Florida,” Palumbo said. “I always wanted to be a sports anchor. It did not happen because I was told I was needed as a news anchor more. But I love being able to cover fans and their stories.”

Palumbo and her husband are friends with UK coach John Calipari and his wife, Ellen. If Palumbo is not working at a basketball game, she has lower arena season tickets behind the UK bench and sat with actress Ashley Judd behind the UK bench for a game at Vanderbilt last season thanks to tickets from Calipari in Nashville.

“My husband got to know coach Calipari through a mutual friend. It has been really neat to get to know him as a person,” she said. “We have never asked him for anything. In fact, we rarely talk basketball with him or Ellen.

“He is someone who gets it. He loves it here, but he loves his family that much more. You don’t see his wife much, but that’s how she wants it. She is not a coach’s wife who wants to be out there on TV. She is all about raising her children. They have two older daughters and a son in high school who is a wonderful golfer and plays basketball. They are just a wonderful family. The children do not try to capitalize on their dad being coach Calipari.”

Want an example?

“One daughter started out at UK but transferred. The final straw came when a boy came into class, pulled up shirt and had a Calipari tattoo,” Palumbo said.

She has gone to the fund-raising gala for the V Foundation put on by Dick Vitale the last two years with Calipari.

“Last year he was one of the three coaches honored after he had just lost his mom to cancer,” she said. “It was neat to be there and be part of that experience for him to pay tribute to his mom’s memory. This year was so much fun, too. There are so many great people there and so many great stories to share and tell. I love Dick Vitale and what he does and being part of that with coach Calipari has really been fun and emotional, too.”

catalist

For IPhones/IPads, and new for Android devices, the Catalist app by Larry Vaught is the best way to keep up with UK basketball. It's free!

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.