The Curious Case of Kentucky Basketball

The following is the transcript of an Internet chat Cory Graham and I had about the current state of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program and Coach Billy Gillespie Please ignore any glaring typos, misspellings or grammatical mistakes as this was not written for show:

Kevin: i can see his point on the part about saying coaching at UK, to him, isn’t any different. you just approach it as a job. your job is to win, no matter what school. here’s my problem with “uk fans.” they bitch about tubby and how he can’t recruit and he’s so awful and blah blah blah. so, they run him out of town and Billy G is brought in playing with, for all practical purposes, Tubby’s players and the fans who complained about how awful Tubby’s players were suddenly are upset that those “awful” players aren’t producing for another coach. it’s like we’ve talked about before — i’d say it’s 50-50 on the fans who want uk to win and the fans who want uk to lose

Cory: well, he’s had two years. now you may say that isn’t a very long time, but with guys like Beasley, Mayo and Durant now being forced to go somewhere, where are these recruits we were promised? you can make a deep run in the tournament with one or two guys these days

Kevin: the first year wasn’t really enough time to recruit, so as far as Billy G’s players, he’s had one year

Cory: he has one of the top five duos in the entire game in meeks and patterson and didn’t make the tournament. as shane, john and i have pointed out regularly, there are maybe five teams in the country that wouldn’t trade their top two guys for our top two guys

Kevin: but the other three in the lineup gnerally stink. remember, shaq, kobe, karl malone and gary payton lost to the pistons and the lakers were coached by phil jackson, who has some notoriety for being good. Sometimes players just don’t execute, like with turnovers — there’s not a whole lot more the coach can do about that. that’s just on the players. Billy G’s MAIN problem (and it is a big problem) seems to be the head games he’s playing with them. they don’t make sense

Cory: kevin hall, you know enough about basketball to watch how he coaches a game and see that he does some of the craziest shit i’ve seen any coach do this season. when he kept meeks on the bench for five minutes as that south carolina game spun completely out of control even my MOM commented on how that made no sense

Kevin: as i said, his head games are a problem

Cory: that seems to be his strategy, though. it’s a flawed strategy and it clearly isn’t working since i doubt he’s going to completely alter the way he coaches, i see it as a large problem
Kevin: there’s also a big problem with the perception from fans. should the UK position be like the US presidency in that it’s as much about your polish as it is your policy?

Cory: that’s certainly a part of it, always has been. there are things that come with being the coach of the university of Kentucky. you get the glory and the grandeur of being at the helm of one of the four blue blood programs in the nation, but you have to take what comes with it. if you don’t like that, then don’t take the job. if you somehow didn’t know that, then you should have done your homework

Kevin: i think it’s different. i think the times have changed so much and UK is having a hard time catching up with it. hear me out

first you have adolph rupp, who was by all acounts a grouchy fellow. he excelled in a time when college basketball wasn’t nearly what it currently is then you have joe b. hall, who schmoozed the little old ladies and did an admirable job following a legend, but wasn’t necessarily the greatest of coaches

eddie sutton, well, let’s just not dwell on that

then you have rick pitino, a man who hit UK basketball at the right time. he was flashy, he was good, he was polished and he was right for the beginning of the modern entertainment culture. he was handsome and dapper and funny. So THAT became what UK fans think we’ve always had, when in actuality, it was the exception to the rule

and Early Pitino was the guy gladhanding the folks in Eastern Kentucky, trying to rebuild. Late Pitino cared more about New York than Harlan

so, the image of UK isn’t Rupp, Hall, Smith. it’s Rick Pitino. it’s like how white Christians picture a white jesus — we just can’t face the reality of the truth. our religion might not be what we picture in our mind

and then Tubby comes in with college hoops exploding, and the rest of the country started finding out ways to exploit the one-and-done types while Tubby, bless his soul, held fast to the belief of “making men of the boys.” and in doing so, the wins left the program, at least what fans were used to, so they did the only thing the could — they came after him with pitchforks and torches

UK basketball has no true identity, not anymore. when we look in the mirror, we see george clooney when really, we’re george costanza: a great guy and not an unattractive fellow, but just not what everybody longs to be

the end

Cory: well, allow me to retort

Kevin: ok, jules

Cory: i can’t speak to the old, die-hard uk fans… i’m not one. i’m a transplant to this state, and while i arrived young, i arrived with a family that was fully grown. thus, kentucky basketball hasn’t been a part of my life since birth. so my frame of reference is really the moment that pitino took over the team, and from that moment on

and yes, that is the modern uk era, and that is what most people are identifying with everything you’ve said about pitino and smith is true, but the two of them have defined what it is to be a coach at the university. we like clinging to the championships and the good times of the past, but that’s just ancient history now. most people identify the team with what we’ve had in the last two coaches.

while people didn’t like various things about tubby, no one argues that he wasn’t charming, likable and a very good representative for the program. same goes for pitino

so now, bringing in a guy with a very serious substance abuse problem (not that i would judge that, but it doesn’t help to win friends and influence people… believe me, i know), that’s prickly to the media and doesn’t seem to have any interest in doing the dog and pony show is a problem.

he could probably get away with that kind of thing if he was winning games, but he’s failing in that department as well. so now, UK fans are looking at a guy that isn’t getting the job done AND they don’t like. most people i know that wanted tubby out of town always pointed out that they liked him, they just didn’t like the teams he put together. now we have a guy that doesn’t have either quality

so, i can understand the frustration because it’s my frustration. i didn’t like him from day one, i’ve never trusted him, but i did believe that he would be successful. now that he isn’t successful, and i’ve been proven right about his character, it’s impossible to even watch the team… which is why i can’t stand the guy

the end

Kevin: well, clearly i’m right and you’re wrong

Cory: and vice versa

Kevin: *the two hug. fade to black. and scene!*


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