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Vaught’s note: This is a response that “David” made to a post I had applauding UK’s decision to put former coach Tubby Smith into the UK Hall of Fame. He makes points I am sure not everyone will agree with, but wanted to make sure you had a chance to see it.
This is from vaughtsviews.com reader David:
“There is a strong argument to be made for UK to honor Tubby in this fashion. This is of course the first step in the process for Tubby to have jersey retired in his name. While I am not sure that the entire body of work warrants that distinction, Tubby most likely will have a banner in Rupp.
“While you can point to the 1998 title or the uninterupted trips to the NCAA Tournament, I believe Tubby’s greatest contribution is the manner in which he left UK. Tubby could have ripped the school — despite Smith being the one to resign — and burned bridges. As an African-American he could have said that the expectations and criticism were more a product of racism than failing to return to the Final Four.
“I don’t believe race was an issue in Tubby leaving, although ignorance and prejudice are a part of all communities in America — north, south, east or west. Tubby could have used that issue to his advantage.
“Tubby Smith, though, was better than that. Smith demonstrated class by taking the high road and moving on before the heat or pressure grew worse. If Rick Pitino can keep his banner (a different conversation for a different time) then Tubby Smith should join the ranks of the proud in the near future as well.”
Six University of Kentucky greats will be inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in late September. The 2013 class includes former UK student-athletes and coaches Oliver Barnett (football), Rex Chapman (men’s basketball), Leslie Nichols (women’s basketball), Orlando “Tubby” Smith (men’s basketball), Press Whelan (track/cross country) and Jesse Witten (men’s tennis). The class will be formally inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 27-28, in conjunction with the football game against the University of Florida.
Oliver Barnett (1986-89) capped his career as UK’s all-time quarterback sack leader. He earned third-team All-America and first team All-Southeastern Conference distinction as a senior. Barnett registered 271 career tackles and 26 quarterback take-downs as a defensive lineman. In addition to his tackling prowess, Barnett notched 12 forced fumbles and 43 career tackles for loss. As a junior, he was named to the National Strength Coaches Association All-America Team for his on-field performance and excellence in strength training. Furthermore, he was tabbed All-America honorable mention and second-team All-SEC as a junior. His 850-pound squat lift is still the record at UK. Following his collegiate career, Barnett suited up for the Blue-Gray and Senior Bowl all-star games before beginning a six-year stint in the NFL. His professional highlights include a trip to the 1994 Super Bowl as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
Rex Chapman (1987-88) is one of the most successful players in program history. In just two seasons in the Blue and White, he poured in 1,073 career points. He was a two-time All-SEC first team selection, while also garnering National Association of Basketball Coaches third-team All-America honors following his sophomore season. Chapman claimed Most Valuable Player accolades at the 1988 SEC Tournament, while also excelling in the classroom and being named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. After concluding two successful seasons as a Wildcat, Chapman was selected eighth overall in the 1988 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He enjoyed a 12-year career in the NBA before becoming an NBA scout and executive.
Leslie Nichols (1983-86) remains one of UK’s greatest performers on the hardwood. She was a three-time All-SEC honoree by the league’s coaches en route to a career record of 72-41 and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances during her tenure. She still ranks fourth all-time in UK’s career scoring chart with 1,797 career points good for an average of 18.2 per game. A four-year starter at forward, Nichols remains the only player in program history to log a triple-double. She totaled 18 points, 13 rebounds and 11 steals against Louisville in 1986. Furthermore, she ranks second all-time at UK in double-doubles (35), fourth in steals (278), fourth in career rebounds (877) and fifth in blocks (102).
Orlando “Tubby” Smith (1998-2007) coached the Wildcats to the program’s seventh national championship in his inaugural season. At the time, the 35 victories during the 1997-98 title run were tied for the second most in a season in program history. Smith was a three-time National Coach of the Year (1998, 2003, 2005), as well as a three-time SEC Coach of the Year selection. During his term, the Blue and White claimed five regular-season SEC championships and five SEC Tournament crowns. In NCAA Tournament play, Smith finished his career at UK with the sixth-best winning percentage (.690) among active coaches with a sterling 29-13 record, including 23-9 while with the Wildcats. Along with the national title, he guided UK to three additional Elite Eight appearances. In SEC Tournament action, he owned a 20-5 mark in winning five of the events. Smith coached UK to 22 or more victories in all 10 seasons at the helm.
Press Whelan (1957-61, 1967-73) starred as a national champion and All-American as an athlete before returning as UK’s head coach. As an athlete, Whelan (pronounced “WHAY-lan”) won a national title in the two-man, 10-mile relay. He set a record time while winning the 1957 SEC cross country championship and also captured the SEC track title twice in the two-mile run. His stellar performances led the Blue and White to SEC cross country championships in 1958 and 1959. Following his career, he served as an assistant coach in 1961. He was named the cross country/track and field head coach in 1967 and held the post until 1973. Whelan guided the cross country squad to an SEC title in 1970. His athletes won four individual national titles and 33 conference crowns. Whelan played a role in the integration of the SEC as he coached the league’s first African-American track athlete, Jim Green. Following his collegiate coaching career, he assisted the U.S. State Department by coaching foreign track teams in Turkey and Lebanon. Over the years, he has continued to run and competed in three Senior Olympics and one national senior indoor championship.
Jesse Witten (2002-05) capped his career as the most decorated men’s tennis player in program history. Upon the conclusion of his career, Witten was the only four-time men’s singles All-American in NCAA history. He earned five All-America honors during his career, four of which came as an individual and one as a doubles player. Witten was a four-time All-SEC selection and the 2005 SEC Player of the Year after claiming 43 singles victories. He advanced to two Grand Slam finals (2004 ITA National Indoor Singles Final and 2002 NCAA Singles Championship) as a Wildcat, and is still the only UK player in school history to achieve the feat. His career got off to a blazing start as he hauled in SEC Freshman of the Year accolades after helping the Wildcats to a 23-10 mark and eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2002. As a professional player, he qualified for several Grand Slams including the US and French Opens.
By LARRY VAUGHT
MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — He was a five-year player at Kentucky under coaches Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, and Jeff Sheppard was part of two national championship teams and another team that lost in the national title game.
He believes junior to be Kyle Wiltjer has made a mistake by transferring from UK to Gonzaga over a lack of anticipated playing time this season because of coach John Calipari’s recruiting class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans.
“I hate it. I actually think it is a mistake for Kyle to do it but each one has to make his own decisions,” said Sheppard, who spoke at the Ohio UK Convention here Saturday. “I was really hoping that he would stay and that he would even consider redshirting.”
That’s what Sheppard did in UK’s 1995-96 national championship season. It was his junior year but Pitino knew with UK’s talented roster of future NBA players that an extra year of eligibility could help both UK and the player — kind of like one might argue that a redshirt year at UK could have gone for Wiltjer.
“It is just a great ride at Kentucky,” Sheppard said. “I don’t think his NBA status is going to be helped playing 30 minutes for Gonzaga versus playing 10 minutes for Kentucky.”
Sheppard thinks UK will miss Wiltjer’s experience. He played on UK’s 2012 national championship team and was the Southeastern Conference sixth man of the year last season.
“We really, really need his experience. The experience that we had on the team minus Jarrod Polson is now gone. I just think it is a huge key for NCAA Tournament success is to have experience,” Sheppard said.
Having a player that made 90 3-pointers the last two seasons might have helped UK this year, too. Freshman James Young is a solid outside shooter and twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison both have 3-point range. But none is considered the pure 3-point shooter that Wiltjer has been.
“It changes the team without him and his shooting,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard, the 1998 Final Four MVP, admitted that Wiltjer is a “player kind of like me” in many ways.
“He doesn’t need to be the best player on the court. Last year we tried to make him the best player on the court and tried to make the offense go through him and that didn’t work,” Sheppard said. “The year before when he wasn’t the best player on the court and he could stretch the defense, he gave people fits. That’s what I wonder. Is he going to go to Gonzaga and be a featured guy? I don’t think his game is to be a featured guy.”
Instead, Sheppard thinks Wiltjer would be better suited to look at what another former UK player — Scott Padgett — did to reshape his career. Remember, Padgett was an academic casualty under Pitino and had to return home to Louisville for a semester and was a five-year player. He was also a key to UK’s 1998 national championship.
“Scott was a great shooter but he was gritty and strong and would fight you all the time. He did all the little things and then Scott had a long NBA career and is going to be a great coach one day. He found his niche and then worked to make himself even better,” Sheppard said.
So why does he think Wiltjer, who said he came to UK because of the competition he would face daily, left?
“Part of it is just going through tough times. These kids don’t want to go through tough times any more,” Sheppard said. “They leave (for the NBA) too early. They quit too early. They think it is always brighter on the other side. There are so many life lessons to learn going through adversity, going through the tough times. It is just a different game. We’ll see how it plays out, but I really think he is making a mistake and really hate it for him.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
This is not exactly a Kentucky-related post, but certainly I thought it was worth sharing.
Remember for Kentucky assistant coach Mike Sutton? He worked under Tubby Smith and then became head coach at Tennessee Tech before his career was cut short by his own illness.
Now he’s trying to help raise funds for his 4-year-old granddaughter, Libby, and pediatric brain cancer research with his second annual “Stache-Bash.” Here’s information that his charming wife, Karen, sent:
“Okay … see this very pleasant, clean shaven face? At the end of January, it will be marred by the existence of a probable hideous mustache. Beginning January 1st Mike ( or Pop Pop as he is known around these parts), will attempt the grow the mustache I made him shave over 28 years ago. Of course, the facial hair growth is part of the 2nd annual ‘Stache-Bash benefiting our almost 4 year old granddaughter, Libby, and pediatric brain cancer research.
“Many of you are aware of Libby’s story and her brave and courageous fight. She was diagnosed with an optic pathway glioma in September 2010 and just recently completed 61 weeks of chemotherapy. An MRI was done on Friday and shows the tumor to be stable … the best news we could ask for at this time. Christmas was wonderful for Libby and her big sisters and we are delighted to be living near to be a bigger part of their lives. We’re all hoping for a much healthier 2013!
“The outpouring of support in our local community has been breathtakingly tremendous … and it continues. One of the fundraisers is the ‘Stache Bash.’ Mike isn’t able to do much physically, but wants to do his part to help Libby. This precious little girl owns his heart. He can grow a mustache(I think) and he is soliciting your sponsorship of this very worthy cause. One very important aspect of this event is to raise awareness and to fund research for a cancer that is way more prevalent than one would guess. Part of these proceeds will help offset Libby’s mounting medical bills not covered by insurance.
“Kevin and Kelly have also been very generous in ‘paying it forward’ by sharing these “gifts” with others in the community who share these same experiences. Of course, you are under no obligation to participate, but should you choose to help Mike and the other guys exceed last year’s total contribution (in excess of $13,000), you may send a check, of any amount, made payable to Love for Libby and sent to: Karen and Mike Sutton, 515 Sailview Drive, Tega Cay, SC 29708. Sponsor contributions should be received by January 31st.
“Our hearts will love you for it and I promise to send a picture of the ‘finished product.’ Libby sends a big, smiling thank you too!”
* * *
For additional information, email Mike Sutton at email@example.com and you can follow his granddaughter’s journey on Facebook at www.caringbridge.org/visit/libbykern/journal.
By LARRY VAUGHT
For several years Tim Bess had been encouraging his wife, Danville artist Anne Crawford to do a painting based on the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball. Last summer she found herself considering the best way to portray the deep tradition of UK basketball in an original oil portrait.
“Her artistic, creative mind went to work. She then invited our family to share ideas, to discuss the painting, to conduct research, and to take a close look at all that is encompassed by UK Basketball’s tradition throughout the decades,” said Jean Crawford Griffin, Anne’s sister.
Finally, the idea came. Why not a painting with each of the UK coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari — who won a national championship with the Wildcats.
“Each coach and championship trophy became a part of Anne’s vision for the painting,” Griffin said.
The painting shows each coach with the trophy — or trophies for Rupp — he won. They are all standing on the Rupp Arena court.
“We looked at things to see how to portray each coach, but Anne creates her own vision. She has to have some reference for facial features, but everything Anne does is an original and this certainly is a unique piece of art,” Griffin said. “We thought about including all the UK coaches, but we decided we did not want one (Billy Gillispie) of them in it. So we thought the best thing to do was go with coaches who won a championship.
“We started the research and started looking at the trophies and how they have changed over the years. We wanted to make sure we were as historically accurate as possible.”
Anne Crawford, 51, is well know for her portrait and equine art. She has done historical medical art, but this is her venture into what she hopes might turn into a series of legacy paintings.
“We don’t think there is anything like this piece of art anywhere,” Griffin, who has two degrees from UK and once worked in the UK athletics department. “Our whole family is Wildcat fans and we knew if Anne was going to broaden her horizons into the sports world this would be the best way to start and a very talked about piece of art because there is nothing like it. We looked at maybe doing one for football, and thought no. Anne is really good at catching game action, but this one with all the coaches is what came to mind and what all the family liked best.”
Griffin, a six organ transplant recipient , calls herself a grassroots donate life ambassador and is active in the annual UK-UofL Gift of Life Challenge between Kentucky and Louisville during basketball season. It’s a drive to sign up organ donors that began in 2001 and the winner will be announced when UK and Louisville play at the YUM Center in December.
Crawford and Griffin would like to think there might be a way to get Kentucky coach John Calipari involved with using the painting to promote organ donations. They are considering producing a limited number of prints and Griffin and hopes there might be a way to involve Calipari and/or Louisville coach Rick Pitino in the project.
“We would just do a limited number of prints so that people would be very proud of having print No. 1 or print 100,” Griffin said. “We want the original painting to be in the best possible place whether that be in an individual owner’s hands or one of the UK coaches or his family. Maybe it belongs in the UK basketball offices. It’s not easy to know exactly where it belongs or what will be the right thing to do.
“But if there is a way to promote organ donation and the tradition of UK basketball at the same time, that would be great for everyone. This is a unique painting and we are open to any and all ideas because we know how unique this is from anything else.”
This comment by King Ghidora about coach John Calipari caught me eye the other day:
“I’m starting to think that maybe Cal is the best coach to ever walk the sidelines at UK. Yes I know that’s blasphemy to many but what he’s accomplished in this era rivals the best things Rupp did. It was a lot easier for Rupp to recruit the best players IMO because many teams didn’t give a hoot about basketball. Many did of course but still it’s not like today where every school in the country realizes the awesome moneymaking potential of a good basketball team. Heck they had assistant football coaches and guys from the PE department coach many of the SEC teams back in Rupp’s era. Rupp lobbied hard to get the SEC to take basketball more seriously. Cal doesn’t have to do that.
With the 4 straight #1 recruiting classes, the national title, 5 players going in the first round draft, two players drafted first and second, two #1 draft picks in 3 years, a final 4, undefeated in the SEC, and all this in a time when recruiting wars are epic battles is just amazing. I can only wonder what he could have done with a 40 year run in Lexington. And I have barely scratched the surface on what Cal has brought to the table. His accomplishments just keep stacking up and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. Several polls have the Cats ranked #1 for next season.”
What Calipari has done in three year is amazing. But rather than rate where he belongs on the all-time UK coaching list after just three seasons, it brought another question to mind: Where would you rank Calipari among UK coaches when it comes to in-game adjustments?
How does Calipari stack up against Joe Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie (yes, we have to acknowledge he really did coach at UK for two years)?
Hall, Pitino and Smith also won national titles. Sutton might have if his run at Kentucky had not been so disjointed by personal issues. But which of those coaches, including Calipari, made the best in-game adjustments?
By LARRY VAUGHT
With Kentucky product Rajon Rondo doing his best to keep Boston alive in the NBA playoffs, there is a great read by Daniel Solzman at wildcatbluenation.com.
It’s an in-depth story with comments from noted Boston columnist Bob Ryan to Cats Pause founder Oscar Combs to UK play by play announcer Tom Leach and many more. It also has some insights from former UK coach Tubby Smith, who recruited Rondo and never quite unleashed him like the Celtics have.
With Solzman’s permission, here is what Smith had to say:
“Like any other coach that’s had the good fortune to be around young men like Rajon, you’re fortunate to coach him,” former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said in a phone interview. “You’re just so proud of what he’s able to accomplish, reach his dreams, his goals, take care of his family, and those are things you talk about when you recruit young men. You tell them—Hey, look, if you do certain things, do the right things, then guess what, stay true to your commitment. Rajon’s always had a passion for the game. He did everything we asked him to do at Kentucky. I know that even when he decided to leave early, he finished up the right way with his mom right by his side, academically left here in good standing, and those things are, that’s critical, because I appreciate that about Rajon.”
“Rajon is good of an athlete, pound for pound, side for side, he’s as good of an athlete as I’ve ever been around,” Smith said, echoing the comments made by other coaches about the Celtics point guard.
“I’ve had the good fortune to work with guys with the Olympics, whether it’s Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd,” Smith added. “I don’t think I’ve coached someone, a better athlete, in my coaching career than Rajon Rondo so you knew he was gonna be great.”
Read the complete story at http://wildcatbluenation.com/