Most Recent Posts
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- Swiss Cat Part 2: Larry continues his adventure in Switzerland
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- UK coach Mark Stoops was patient with Neal Brown because he was “all-in” on hiring him
- UK signee Marcus Lee overcame early education struggles to succeed in academics, athletics
By LARRY VAUGHT
With the last few months that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has had, would it really be that surprising to see a horse he has 5 percent ownership in win Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Rick Pitino became a Hall of Famer and an NCAA champion on the same day. Now he is positioned to become a Kentucky Derby-winning owner if Goldencents wins on Saturday.
“Obviously, we’re rooting for Goldencents, but the Derby is something that you never know” how it will evolve, Pitino told reporters Wednesday. “If we don’t win it, I’d like to see someone like (trainer) Shug McGaughey win it. He’s never won the Derby, he’s a great trainer and a friend of mine. I’d like to see a Goldencents-Orb exacta, that would be awesome. It’s anybody’s ball game. It’s not like basketball, where you can look at a team and say they’ve got a little bit more firepower. You just don’t know in the Derby because you don’t know who’s going to get into racing trouble.”
So what do you think? Will Pitino’s horse win? Do you want Pitino’s horse to win? Or do you have another horse you hope and expect will win the Derby?
By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s really too bad that Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t let his daughter, Erin Calipari, talk to the media more because she’s not a bit afraid to voice her opinions and often does it in a humorous, biting way that is very, very entertaining.
On Twitter (@TheErinCalipari), she constantly treats followers to bits of wisdom as well as inside information — like the time she chatted about her father making her make free throws as a youngster.
Recently she caused a bit of a buzz by having a little fun over the tattoo Louisville coach Rick Pitino got. She tweeted, “From now on when my dad does something embarrassing I will just say to myself “at least he doesn’t have a giant back tattoo”
My response was that her mother was probably saying the same thing — I know my wife still does over the three small tattoos that I have.
Several national media members picked up on her tweet as a sign of what the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry is all about. Myself, I just thought it was Erin being Erin and having a little fun that we should all enjoy.
Vaught’s note: David Brock is a page designer at The Advocate-Messenger, former high school athlete and life-time University of Kentucky fan. Enjoy his take on the success Louisville athletics has had — and see if you share his feelings and/or pain.
By DAVID BROCK, firstname.lastname@example.org
What a year for University of Louisville athletics.
Ouch. That does sting.
Writing that, or even acknowledging it privately, was painful. However, it pales in comparison to the cumulative toll the justifiably squawking, constantly pecking flock of UofL enthusiasts have started to take.
Given the months-long Cardinal siege, Advocate-Messenger sports editor, Larry Vaught, was curious just how well this unhinged University of Kentucky alum and fan was holding up. The answer is a bit complicated, but I believe the character Roger Sterling from the TV show “Mad Men” may have come as close as anyone to expressing the inner life of sickos like me right now: “I don’t feel anything.”
UofL is on a remarkable run, but they haven’t merely excelled. #L1C4 has hit UK fans where it hurts and done it under the bright lights, with the world watching.
Pitino couldn’t win one without being headquartered in Lexington? Now he’s got his (belated) UofL title and a tattoo of Little Brother’s lame Twitter marketing slogan.
Louisville plays in an inferior football conference? Well, they’re heading to a better one and taking the soul out of an SEC powerhouse on the way out the door. When’s the last time UK beat Florida?
Matthew Mitchell’s got the women on a collision course with the Final Four and he can get busy on the dance floor? At least when Jeff Walls gets beat down by a women’s powerhouse the music at the Big Dance has reached its crescendo.
How’d UK do in the NIT? Oh, really? Robert Morris, huh? Shame.
Along the way, local and national media outlets have perpetuated the sports coverage equivalent of a Yum!Center “red out.” UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich has basically had a free, 24-hour platform to showcase his sports programs, along with his deservedly-cocky attitude and endless collection of mock turtlenecks.
It has indeed been difficult to stomach, especially in light of Kentucky’s brief return to mediocrity.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the question that was asked incessantly over the last several months about whether UK fans should root for their bitter rivals without their own skin in the game. I honestly didn’t get how that narrative was so prevalent. While I understand the premise, and fair points can be made in support of supporting our in-state rivals, why can’t fans hardwired to oppose everything from the other teams’ coaches, to their colors, would suddenly be compelled to feign excitement for each other.
Did UofL fans support UK in last year’s tournament? At any of the admittedly low-level bowl games we made it to under Rich Brooks? I suspect not.
There are nice, sane and mature people who call themselves UK fans and did cheer loudly for UofL. While I don’t have real hate in my heart for UofL or their fans, I guess don’t need sports to be nice, sane or mature all the time. So, no, I didn’t root for UofL, but didn’t actively root against them in any of their final three games. I was resigned to their ultimate triumph and even able to acknowledge they were the best team. (Although I was really taken by that Spike Albrecht kid for Michigan. I didn’t not fist pump after his third three-pointer, but I swear it was involuntary).
A certain amount of respect for what UofL’s basketball and football teams accomplished, and how they did it, crept into my sports-addled mind. On a scale of “grudging respect” to “healthy respect,” it probably hewed more toward grudging with a side of disdainful. Considering the pinwheel-eyed hatred Louisville teams have stirred in me before I was rather proud of my progress.
Like most flesh-and-blood humans, I also watch sports for the chance to see the human spirit triumph over adversity. I was duly shocked, then moved by the Kevin Ware storyline like everyone else.
I remain realistic, though. Some things won’t change, and don’t necessarily need to, about the nature of sports rivalries.
Whether a few UK fans pull for UofL or vise versa, the sibling rivalry will always be a mirror that shapes the way we see ourselves and our schools. Right now, my mirror is of the funhouse variety and I appear to be getting crushed by a giant red fecal factory with wings perched on my back.
Pessimism hasn’t completely taken root.
It’s difficult for me to even let myself think about what next year’s basketball team could be. I’m more excited for UK’s football future with every Stoops recruiting victory.
But Vaught was probably right about my chances of washing away any of this feeling before next basketball season. Unfortunately, the existential dread expressed in this column could have a long shelf life.
Vaught’s note: Maybe my memory has faded, but I can’t remember knowing that Rick Pitino said yes to Michigan back in 2001 and then changed his mind to take the Louisville job. But that’s what he said at the Final Four Sunday when asked about the contact he had with Michigan back in 2001 after he left the Boston Celtics. I thought his answer was one you might enjoy, especially since he basically says it was his wife who convinced him to take the Louisville job.
Question: You mentioned that you had some contact with Michigan. Can you take us through that decision making process from 2001. Is it a little bit ironic you’re facing them tomorrow night for a chance to win another title?
COACH PITINO: It was kind of a funny story because I agreed to be the Michigan coach. I lived in Boston right on Com Avenue. We visited Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. My wife doesn’t like Las Vegas. We had young children at the time. She said, Look, if we were all ‘let’s go,’ we have young kids. I just don’t want to go out west. I don’t want to go to a different time zone. I want to stay near our family. It wasn’t Las Vegas as a town, it was the fact that it was west of the Mississippi. I’ll go to any job, but want to stay closer to home.
So I took the Michigan job. That morning I agreed. I forget what the name was, I think it was ‘Outright,’ which when I called the Michigan AD, he didn’t want me to use my real name to get through to him. My wife came up and, as I said, I’m on the third floor, putting together all the things together with the Michigan contract.
She had a book. There was an expression in the book that, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a Lamb. My wife doesn’t swear. She didn’t want to go to Michigan because I’ve never visited there, I didn’t know anybody there. She wanted to go back to Kentucky where she saw the family so happy for eight years.
I said to her, You don’t understand, the Kentucky coach can’t coach at Louisville. You’re just not getting it. She said, It’s one game every year, and every other year you have to visit. What’s the big deal?
I said, It’s a big deal. We don’t want to do that. We’ll be miserable. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.
She said, You know what, that line you’re always using, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb, you’re an F ing Lamb, then walked downstair.
I said, Think about it. There’s half a million Kentucky fans in our town. It’s not like living in Lexington where if you wear red, you get shot. It doesn’t work that way.
She said, I don’t care, your family is going to be happy. Now I have to call the AD. It’s 12:00. He had a thing between 12:00 and 1:30. I think it was squash or racquetball, where he can never be disturbed unless it’s a matter of life and death. His assistant said, Is it a matter of life and death?
I said, No, it’s really, really important. It’s a matter of life and death, because I changed my mind.
I’m sorry, I can’t put him through to you, do you want his voice mail?
So now I’m leaving this long voice mail. I rambled on saying it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world, but I have to go back home where my family grew up, my children grew up. I gave a long winded story. Never till the NIT when I got a chance to speak to him in person about it. I went to Louisville. It was the right move not necessarily for me. But it was the right move for my family.
Vaught’s note: Louisville coach Rick Pitino was asked at the Final Four in Atlanta today how eager the Louisville fan base is for a national title after Kentucky winning the title last year. Enjoy his answer.
Question: You understand the state of Kentucky as well as anybody. How would you describe this fan base right now and how starved are they for this after Kentucky won it last year?
COACH PITINO: I’m sure they are. But to tell you the truth, I have about as little interaction with fans and the media as any person probably in coaching. I just live in my own cocoon. I don’t read, I don’t listen. I just coach and enjoy that aspect of it.
I have probably one of the best relationships with the Louisville media as any coach in the country because I don’t read ‘em and I don’t listen to ‘em. That’s not a negative. There are great writers in our town. It happened a long time ago when I was in Lexington. I made up my mind with the media. I want to treat everybody as if they’re my friends. You have to say bad things about us sometimes because we have bad nights.
I don’t know what’s going on. I’m sure they’re enthusiastic. I’m sure they’re fired up. I can tell you one thing, I don’t subscribe to the fact that Kentucky won it. I don’t get into that. I love Kentucky. My eight years there were Camelot. I got nothing ever negative to say about them or their program. I love Louisville. I want us to be successful.
I rooted for them to win the championship last year. I think 90% of the Louisville fan base wanted them to win it. There’s 10% on both sides that don’t subscribe to that.
Vaught’s note: Check out this question Louisville coach Rick Pitino got at the Final Four and see if you agree with his answer.
Question: You’re here in Atlanta, SEC country. There’s a perception in this part of the country that basketball, SEC is struggling with basketball. Could you talk on that and whether that perception is real or not?
PITINO: Well, they’re struggling the last few years. Back when I was at Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, were all great. I think my first LSU basketball game was against Shaquille O’Neal. Back then, SEC basketball was great.
It’s down. It’s cyclical. You know, new coaches take over. They’ve got to recruit and so on. But it is a little down the last few years. But it will change. Those things are cyclical.
Vaught’s note: Louisville coach Rick Pitino participated in a Final Four teleconference today. One media member asked him if he understood how “feverish” the Louisville fan base was when he took the job there? Let me know what you think of his answer.
Q. You see the numbers about how Louisville is the top rated basketball market TV wise. Before you took over the program, were you aware of how feverish the fan base was?
COACH PITINO: It always picks up when you’re winning. According to Forbes magazine, nine years in a row now we’ve been the number one revenue producer in college basketball. As a matter of fact, we made $44 million, which was more than the Green Bay Packers and $15 million more than our second place finisher, North Carolina.
So basketball in our state, a small state, we are in the top three in attendance every year. Kentucky is always one or two, then Syracuse. There’s states like Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, that are so much into basketball. We don’t have professional sports, so we are the professional team. The fervor is incredible. We must have had 20,000 Louisville fans there yesterday.
It means an awful lot to them because we do not have professional sports. If the Jets are doing poorly, you go to the Giants. If the Mets are doing poorly, you go to the Yankees. Or you pick up hockey.
It’s picked up now with back to back Final Fours, Kentucky winning the national championship last year. It means a lot in our state.
Vaught’s note: Kentucky fan Mike Sims took exception to a recent story by Dennis Berman, the Wall Street Journal Marketplace Editor, about “Kentucky Basketball’s New Death Star” that took what Sims felt were unfair shots at UK and coach John Calipari. One also has to wonder about the Wall Street Journal even acknowledging that Berman is a “longtime Louisville fan” at the bottom of the story. Sims sent this response to Berman that he shared with me that I thought you would enjoy.
By MIKE SIMS
Most of BBN has come to the realization that jaded journalism such as yours are simply part of the package that is now UK basketball. It comes with the territory and is actually complimentary in nature. Everything from veiled negative innuendo (Pat Forde) to outright disdain of UK hoops (Dan Dakich and Pete Thamel) moves the needle, prompts responses such as the one your reading and perpetuates those ever so valuable clicks of the mouse. Congratulations.
In spite of your assertion otherwise, my memory is vivid and includes the past, present and the perpetual future….Elite 8 (2010)….Final Four (2011)….National Champions (2012)…NIT (2013)…best recruiting class in the history of college basketball (2014). Sure, I could go back further, but for the purposes of your agenda, it’s really all about the era of Cal.
In good conscience, can you name one fan base, athletic director or head coach not named Mike Krzyzewski that wouldn’t instantly trade places with Cal since his arrival in the Commonwealth? Why is it so difficult to accept that Cal has nurtured and developed a dynamic in Lexington that heretofore never existed? Anywhere. Period.
From day one, he has fully embraced the pageantry and rich history of the UK basketball program and has masterfully integrated his own brand of ingenuity and creativity like no one has ever done in college athletics. Are we to believe that Pitino would turn away the likes of Drake, LeBron and Jay Z. Further still, would he not readily welcome those players that Cal has arriving this fall or falls previous?
Sure, I’m disappointed about this year’s team missing out on the NCAA Tournament. What Kentucky fan would be thrilled with a nationally televised loss in the NIT to Bobby Mo? Although the cool factor and moment in the national spotlight for those kids in Pittsburgh and their mid-major program was awesome and undeniable. But that too speaks to what our program is capable of doing.
For you to characterize this year’s Kentucky team as “wilting beneath the expectations” while neglecting to mention the season ending injury to Nerlens Noel is utterly absurd and derelict on your part as a journalist. Maybe it’s your memory that requires calibration.
Where is it written that the UK fan base isn’t allowed to be disappointed? In the midst of that disappointment, why should UK fans be required to temper their enthusiasm and/or apologize for beginning to turn the page in eager anticipation of the recruiting equivalent of Halley’s comet that is scheduled to spectacularly crash in Lexington this fall?
The answer is simple. What we owe you or anyone else is this…nothing. No apologies for celebrity friends of the program, facilities that will make your jaw drop and certainly no apologies for why our program’s success exceeds that of your program. No apology for our disappointment in the 2013 season or for the unbridled enthusiasm for the ride that awaits in 2014.
Doesn’t mean I like it, but no one can legitimately argue that Louisville hasn’t had an outstanding year. I’m sure the Cards and their faithful enjoyed their success at Rupp as much as UK and BBN enjoyed its invasion of the Yum Center one year ago. Touché.
However, why suddenly has Rick Pitino been given any credible latitude to look down his nose and make snide remarks in the direction of Lexington? He alone has a stranglehold on developing teams with intensity and developing potential? Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Darius Miller may take exception with that assertion.
Pitino has admitted he made a mistake by leaving Lexington for Boston. However, that decision is not the one that has aged him 20 years in the last five, forced him to exile his own son away from coaching alongside him in Louisville and decimated his credibility as a recruiter and as a man. Pitino can coach until he’s 100 and those miserable facts won’t change or be forgotten.
Yet somehow, because the planets have aligned in 2013 and his team advances beyond Cal’s for the first time…suddenly he’s qualified to impart his infinitive wisdom on Cal’s enlightened methodology of program building and program management? Please spare us the illegitimate insight.
Go ahead and commence with your arguments asserting Cal is dirty. We’ve heard them all. They only offer further evidence that it’s lonely at the top. If and when those accusations are ever proven during his tenure at Kentucky you can say you told us so. Between now and when that day arrives, we’ll be enjoying an unprecedented ride that’s sure to envied by all college basketball fans who don’t count themselves amongst the members of BBN.
So continue on in search of those clicks. I believe you know down deep where they reside in college hoops and why.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Should Kentucky fans be happy to see Louisville doing well in the NCAA Tournament?
The Cardinals beat Colorado State 82-56 in Rupp Arena Saturday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in hopes of making it back to the Final Four where they lost to UK last year when the Cats won the national championship.
Many feel the Cardinals could win the title this year and with the recruiting class coach John Calipari has, UK already is the odds-on favorite for 2014. That could mean three straight national championships for the Bluegrass.
Former Kentucky star Rex Chapman and UK fan Ashley Judd made it clear on Twitter Saturday night that they were “all-in” with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals.
@rexchapman “Dead serious. We didn’t make the tourney. They did, & have the best team in the land”
@AshleyJudd “Typical Pitino #1 overall seed NCAA blow out game…Go Cards. I have you winning it all. The rising tide and success lifts all Kentucky!”
Numerous UK fans took exception to how both felt. What about you? Are you pulling for — or against — Louisville? Do you even care if Louisville does or does not win?
By LARRY VAUGHT
USA Today compiled its list of the 10 most hated coaches in college basketball and not only did current Kentucky coach John Calipari land on the list, but so did Adolph Rupp and Rick Pition. The list also included Jerry Tarkanian, Jim Calhoun, John Chaney, Bob Huggins, John Thompson, Mike Krzyzewsk and Bobby Knight, who was No. 1 on the list.
Let me know what you think. Do Calipari, Rupp and Pitino belong on this wacky list?
Calipari came in at No. 5 and here’s what the article said about him: With his slicked-back hair and expensive Armani suits, John Calipari is like the Gordon Gekko of college basketball coaches. Those snake-oil-salesman mannerisms rankle a lot of people — among them Jim Calhoun, who called Calipari “Johnny Clam Chowder” for faking a Boston accent while coaching at Massachusetts. Some fans think Calipari could be as crooked as Gekko, too. Final Four appearances at UMass and Memphis were vacated due to NCAA violations. These days, some are unwilling to believe his success at Kentucky, with rosters full of one-and-done future NBA lottery picks, is legit, and they point out he never has been personally implicated by the NCAA.
Rupp got the No. 3 spot in the article: In his 42 years at Kentucky, Rupp became one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and also one of the most disliked due to his nastiness. Rupp ran his teams as if he were a drill instructor, and years after playing for him, former players spoke of Rupp like an abusive father.
“He wanted everybody to hate him, and he succeeded,” UK legend Bill Spivey once said. “He called us names some of us had never heard before.” Added former Wildcat Tommy Kron, “He was a tough, gruff kind of guy who would verbally abuse his players to get them to play harder.”
The Wildcats’ dominance in the Southeastern Conference under Rupp proved, to a certain extent, that his tactics worked.
Rupp has been further demonized over the years by portrayals of racism, such as a very unflattering Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford. While accusations of racism have been strongly challenged in the Bluegass State, the perception remains and tarnishes his legacy in the eye of the public.
Pitino? He got the sixth spot for these reasons: It’s a good thing New Yorkers have thick skin, because this sweet-talking Long Islander native has been called every name in the book over the last two decades in the NBA and college basketball. Shameless self-promoter. Egomaniac. Whiner. Opportunist. Weasel. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No one hates Pitino more than the fans in Lexington, who watched him leave a dream job at Kentucky for the NBA, only to return to college ball four years later to coach bitter rival Louisville. Fans like to point out that Pitino looks a lot like Al Pacino in the 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate — especially in his patented white suit. In case you haven’t seen the movie, Pacino plays Satan.