Big Blue Nation- Some Things You Learn the Hard Way


“Shoot yeah, man!  We’re just gonna reload and compete for the Final Four pretty much every year”

Yes, I celebrated  a championship in 1996.  Never liked Pitino.  Just tolerated him while he was here.

Yes, I celebrated in 2012.  Calipari is ok.  He seems to be a little kinder to people .

I still think John Calipari was a great hire.

Of course I celebrated in 1998.  Tubby was my guy.  Integrity.  None of that northern arrogance.  A gentleman.

If you don’t like Tubby as a person, you may not like people.

If you loved Pitino when he was here but hate him now, then you will probably hate Calipari when he leaves too, like he left you at the altar.

But I kept a list of all the people who used the phrase “10-loss Tubby”.

I love coaches who can take their guys and beat your guys and don’t have to have supreme talent to win; winning ugly is acceptable.

I never bothered to learn how to spell Bill G’s last name.  I remember that there were people actually celebrating like it was actually a good thing that we’d fired Tubby and hired him.  Some things you learn the hard way.

Calipari’s potential 40-0 team quickly approaches becoming his 2nd consecutive 10-loss team (“Tubby has to go.  He just can’t recruit.)  Some things you learn the hard way.

My dad took my brother and me to our first UK game the first year Rupp Arena opened.  I remember actually saying a prayer as I listened on the radio when we trailed Providence in the NIT semifinals in 1976 (and of course the prayer was answered and we won).  I remember crazy details of the 78′ championship game as a 10 year-old boy.  Never missed a game as a student at UK, even Eddie Sutton’s last miserable year.  Saw adults cry after the 92′ Duke loss.  Scraped my knuckles on the ceiling during the 94′ LSU comeback.  Drove 15 hours with a pregnant wife to watch a regional final vs Tim Duncan’s Wake Forest team in 96′ in Minnesota.  Took an infant to the Final Four in 97.  Drove 22 hours with a toddler to San Antonio for the Final Four in 98.  Made it back to the Final Four with my son in 2011 in Houston and to the regional semifinals and finals in Atlanta with my son in 2012.  I bleed blue.  I take UK basketball kinda serious.

But this year, the craziest thing happened on the way to 40-0.  I quit watching.  No heart.  Lack of effort.  No fundamentals.  Mistakes that you’d expect freshmen in high school to get benched for, are repeated over and over and over, and the same kids stay on the floor giving the same lame effort.  Accountability?  Will to win?  Nope.  Laziest, most selfish team ever?  Definitely.

Gee,  I could park myself in front of the tv and watch bad teams compete hard and play with a sense of pride and lose night after night.  But I just couldn’t watch that crap any more.  Thirty years.  The worst.

All the irritating things that I have heard in recent years begin to sound so lame and based on wishful thinking.  Most of it can be filed under the category of “the same basic cloud of salesmanship that coach Cal spews 24/7/365 toward 18 year-old kids”.  People actually believe that we can fill our roster with high school kids and win a national championship even though it’s never been done before.  It hasn’t.  Don’t try to revise history on me.  And it’s not going to happen.  This year’s group of so-called super freshman have no clue how to play basketball.  I’d go as far as saying that anyone who coached them in middle school or high school should be tarred and feathered.  Calipari falls into that same category.  “Oh, it doesn’t matter if ____declares for the draft, we’ve got ____ coming in next year” (and he looks awesome on this mix tape that I watched on YouTube dunking against 5’10” guys)

Too much of this season is spent as a recruiting poster for next season.  The message is clear from Big Blue Madness on.

1) “We are a players first school”  FALSE.  That only applies if you are Anthony Davis or John Wall (then you are his recruiting pitch).  If you are Kyle Wiltjer or Ryan Harrow, you transfer because you may not have a scholarship.  If you’re Archie Goodwin or Marquis Teague you quietly walk away to the D-League.  If you are Jarrod Polson or Jon Hood you live like a 2nd class citizen while the 5-star guys get 40 minutes a game while giving horrible effort and embarrassing the Kentucky uniform.

2)  It’s all about the NBA.  All Calipari wants to talk about is how many players are in the league and this is the place to come if you want to get there.  Constantly parading former players around to impress the recruits.  Sure, it’s effective.  Perhaps it’s shallow and perhaps we have a shallow pool of players?  It’s certainly a shallow pool of basketball IQ, heart, will to win, and any resemblance of unity.

3)  Instant gratification.  This is the killer.

If the coach wants to develop players, he needs to shut up about one and done.  He needs to shut up about the draft. 

Kids are showing up that don’t know how to play.  They don’t need to show up on campus with intentions of staying only one year.  They need to have intentions of learning the game of basketball.  And here’s a novel idea that this year’s group seems to have missed out on their entire life:  they might need to set out to do all the things necessary to help their team win basketball games.  That brings us to the final point.

4)  Me.  It’s all about me.  The “One and Done” world has evolved a bit over recent years as this generation of players has passed through middle school and high school with the “elite” label, having the disadvantage of seeing the instant success of too many Derrick Rose types while their AAU & high school coaches have failed them with accountability and fundamentals…….and at the same time, college coaches are telling them they can be the next Lebron or D Rose.

5)  Me #2 is Cal’s ego.  He gets a little too caught up in draft numbers and NBA players and forgets about WINS in the ongoing system of the sales pitch production that UK basketball has become.    Coach has to kill the draft talk and get into some Vince Lombardi type stuff.  Nobody really cares about the NBA, especially UK fans.  Besides, he’s in danger of absolutely flooding the D-leaugue and Euro-leagues.  Cal owes it to his players to give them better and firmer life advice than to let them enter the draft when he knows they’re not going to get a sniff of an NBA roster, not to make his next year’s roster better but because he is in a position to give them advice that can have a huge impact on their financial future (Goodwin and Teague?  Really?  just another notch on his draft belt and get them out of the way for the next crop?  A chance for an actual nba career after 4 years of college? probably)  Selfish fans blindly drink it up and those players begin to fade into obscurity.  Who sees it coming and is in a good position to steer them away from it?

tubby and chuck

This picture is what college basketball is really about.  A man of integrity that can flat out coach.  And a player that did everything he could to help his team win……for 4 years.  I’m sick of the year-round production.  I’m not 18 and I get tired of propaganda geared toward the next crop of recruits.  I get tired of seeing kids on the floor wearing UK uniforms that act like they should be playing for Louisville.  Some players can make any coach look bad.  You can’t teach a kid to play with heart.  Cal better start recruiting some kids that have it.  He might even want to take Chuck Hayes with him to help him identify what it looks like.  Some things you learn the hard way.

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