Coach Cal has another youth movement to overcome

Ira D. Combs — Tri State Sports Media

December 9, 2013

God knows we love you, Coach Cal, but sometimes, well, let’s just say it frustrates me when I know we’ve created our own problem.

John Calipari has recruited the nation’d elite teenage basketball players to college basketball’s supposed gold standard for going on five years now, yet he has expected all of those players and teams to squeeze the otherwise usual two to three years’ experience gained by most college basketball teams into two to three months each year, and surprisingly in two of the first four years it basically happened.

But even in those two great years there were a couple bumps in the road in the loss column. The 2011 group gave BBN the first real scare of the Calipari era, but even that team circled the wagons nicely down the stretch in February and March to a Final Four finish. And by the way, that team may have actually been Cal’s best coaching job since he’s been at UK. Last year’s group was Cal’s lone disaster season, and to be perfectly honest had Nerlens Noel not went down it very well may not have been as tragic as it ended up.

This year’s team may be the most talented of all five of Cal’s UK teams, especially in physical stature and pure raw basketball skills, but right now it appears these young pups may have a bigger bark than bite when it comes to executing during the tough times down the stretch. This team simply isn’t very impressive at times when it comes crunch time on the boards, and especially in getting those 50/50 loss balls.

And so far at the free throw line these young superstars are, well, let’s just say you can attribute the Michigan State and Baylor losses both directly to misses at the charity stripe.

Even as frustrating as the Baylor loss was, I keep reminding myself that it’s still early in the season and I know this team has everything it takes to win a championship except the mental and physical toughness, which can come as the season progresses.

As in the past, the national media and recruiting services along with Big Blue Nation have put this new group of UK basketball players up on another giant pedestal and everyone expects these young teenagers to handle it with maturity way beyond their age. Now Cal has to bring them down a notch to reality and make them understand that it’s the fundamentals of basketball that create and produce the championships. Most of all Cal has to create an atmosphere within the team surroundings that makes these infant superstars coachable again.

It can be done and I think will when it’s all said and done come April, but there may be another bump or two in the road along the way with this team.

Right now as we drift through this week and toward the next big time battle against North Carolina, I pinch myself every morning when I get up and say we could still have Billy G. pulling the reins of UK basketball.

Remember those years? I do, and I strongly suggest BBN steps back and takes a deep breath and thinks about where UK basketball was before Cal and where it’s at now.

Move on with future scheduling and think of what’s best for UK and not the almighty dollar

A little over 20 years ago UK athletics director C. M. Newton and football coach Bill Curry changed the course of UK football in the state by finally bringing Louisville onto the UK football schedule, mainly to sell tickets and create a few more all mighty dollars for UK’s hip pockets, all while preaching to anyone who would listen that the series would bring a new identity to football in the Commonwealth and promote high school football even more.

As we approach the end of 2013, you tell me what it’s done for UK football and what has it done for Louisville football. That’s right, it’s done nothing for UK football but lower its image in the state and especially in the fertile recruiting grounds of Jefferson County.

Make no mistake, the series jump started Louisville football into the future where it stands today with a brand spanking new stadium and headed into a BCS level conference. Thanks a lot C.M. and Bill, at least Tim Couch and his late father Elbert had enough toughness in their blue bones to overcome your shenanigans until you were justly railroaded out of town.

Now we’re stuck in another Commonwealth football dilemma after Mitch Barnhart’s brainstorm idea of bringing WKU on the UK football schedule. So here we are at the crossroads again four years after a humble 2-2 split with the Hilltoppers and dealing with Joker Phillips’ surprising ineptness as a head coach, UK sits at No. 3 on the college football totem pole in the Commonwealth.

So, as we lay this in your lap Mark Stoops, please change this course of direction in scheduling at least for a decade or until you can revive UK football to Rich Brooks’ standards and look elsewhere, because I’m hearing strong rumors that the new EKU president is seriously considering bumping the Colonels up to Div. I A.

While we’re on the subject of scheduling, we may as well make some recommendations to Coach Cal. These neutral site games are turning into another nightmare for our historic basketball program as we now sit at 1-2 this year after the Baylor loss, and by the way let’s take a break from these Baylor Bears for a while anywhere. The untold truth with the neutral site games that has never been told by any of the UK coaches who have used them over the years to insinuate that it prepares the team for NCAA tournament games in March.


What it does is it raises the percentage of winning this type game (because UK’s fan base will or has traveled better in recent years than their opponent in these games) versus playing an opponent on its own home court. Rick Pitino started it all and Cal has continued it because their huge egos have grown above taking a loss on more occasions than the normal Div. I coach. Joe B. Hall took on all comers including Indiana, Kansas, and anyone else who would do a home and home set with the Wildcats. Today’s neutral site games simply cheat the season ticket holders out of a couple nights of quality basketball each season all because a few coaches have grown a little bigger than their britches over their careers.