By Matt Jones on ©December 12th, 2018 @ 9:15pm
My second night of writing in one week…I am feeling the vibe
There is a lot to get to tonight and I want to finish in time to get back to Succession on HBO (which isn’t great but is very entertaining because every single character is despicable). Tonight we are excited to announce the $5,000 KSBAR Hammer Bowl Challenge. Over a year ago, when we first conceived the idea of opening KSBar, part of the rationale behind it was we wanted to have a location to do events and promotions that before, were impossible. I always love Bowl season…it is 16 days of daily Bowl games, often with stupid names and usually in locations that seem far from ideal (can you imagine making a Bowl game and then finding out you are playing in Detroit?). Over the years we have talked about ways to have a KSR Bowl Challenge, but they have usually fallen through due to a lack of coordination or time to put it together. Not this year…after partnering with out good friend Darryl Isaacs (the Heavy Hitter/Hammer always comes through), we have created a KSBar Bowl Challenge that will allow someone to win $5,000 and a host of other people to win smaller prizes. Here is how it works:
1. During every Bowl game of Bowl season starting Saturday, whoever picks the Winner/Point Margin of each game the closest becomes a finalist for $5,000. You will choose who you think wins the game, the margin of victory and (as a Tiebreaker) the actual score. Whichever person is the closest, becomes a finalist….we will have 41 finalists, one for each Bowl game
2. These 41 Finalists (or a proxy of their choosing) will come to KSBar the night of the National Championship (likely Alabama vs Clemson) and compete in a contest throughout the game to win $5,000. Players will be eliminated throughout the night as the game goes along, until the last 3 people go for $5,000. It is that simple
MATT, HOW DO I PLAY???
It is this simple…every day a Bowl game is played, if you come into KSBar at some point before the game and fill out an entry, you are in the contest…you don’t have to purchase anything (although we of course would like you to, since we have great food and an amazing Beer selection), but all you have to do is come fill in a slip before Kickoff. It’s that simple. So for instance this Saturday, there are five games…come in at any point and whatever game hasn’t started, you can enter. Next Tuesday, there is one game at 7 pm…come in anytime before 7 pm, fill out the card and you are in.
And as a Bonus prize, beginning Tuesday and on every non-Saturday of Bowl season, we will give $100 to whoever has the score the closest that is left in the Restaurant when the game ends…so if you are the kind of person that likes to hang out until late on a Tuesday when MAC teams play Football…you have a great chance at cash.
So that’s it…come in to the Restaurant, feel out picks and win. Become a finalist (which 40 of you will do) and $5,000 could be yours. And for those of you that LIVE TOO FAR AWAY TO COME IN, I will be having contests on Radio, Social Media and this Blog for a handful of the games so you can participate too. Thanks to the Hammer for being a part of it and we can’t wait to see you at KSBar every night to win
With that a couple of other thoughts….
Quade Green’s Departure
I got word of Quade leaving Kentucky last night and was disappointed with the news. He informed the coaching staff yesterday that he was going to leave and they asked if he would take a night to sleep on it and make sure. Because of the possibility of a change of heart, I only tweeted out the tease this morning and then at 1:30, UK and Quade made it official. The ending isn’t a huge surprise as the relationship between UK and Quade has been rocky from the beginning. Green was never the Calipari prototype of Point Guard that he prefers…he is undersized, isn’t particularly quick at getting to the whole, his defense is lacking and his score-first mentality is mostly with jump shots. That formula worked with Tyler Ulis because he was phenomenally tough, could disrupt with steals and became a very good passer. Those traits did not pass onto Quade and it made a square peg in a round hold.
Quade was very close to transferring last year and I think he considered it strongly. He ultimately came back, believing he could play some off-guard and still succeed in Year 2. But his defensive issues made it almost impossible for Calipari to trust to play him and the emergence in the last two games of Ashton Hagans, led Quade to decide to leave (he only played 8 and 10 minutes in the last two games). As I said on radio today, I think Quade is a good kid who will be a very good college basketball player in the right system. I don’t think he is a pro and I think the disconnect between what he thinks he is and what Calipari/Scouts do, ultimately led to the problems here. He was not a malcontent but he was a bit of a grump and I think he never truly embraced the UK model. I hope he has a ton of success and I think wherever he ends up (he will have lots of options but I think Washington is the early leader) will get a good player.
Quade’s departure does however showcase one of the issues and difficulties of recruiting at Kentucky under John Calipari. There are two types of players that truly excel and work here…top-level talents who have NBA potential and are here for 1-2 year apprenticeships and are ready to sacrifice to learn and move to the next level and 4 year players who understand what they are, accept their role and want to help the team and wait for their moment (think Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Julius Mays, Reid Travis, etc). The latter group isn’t a very large one and for the most part has only been populated by kids from Kentucky or Grad transfer. What I don’t think works here is the mid-level talent that believes he is a One and Done but is actually a 4 year college contributor. Players like that at Kentucky (including transfers from Stacey Poole to Charles Matthews to Marcus Lee to Ryan Harrow to Quade Green and players who leave and don’t get picked where they believe they should like Gabriel//Briscoe, etc) just don’t seem to excel here. I think they pick Kentucky because of the dream of a 1-2 year path to the pros…but when that doesn’t happen, they don’t feel there is a place for them and they leave or don’t reach their potential. I think part of the fault comes from a delusional sense of their ability (both the players and those around him) but it also comes from a culture that UK has to change…one that seems to suggest if you don’t make it after 2 years, you are a failure. I don’t think that culture is anyone’s fault but it doesn’t make it easier
I wish Quade the best. Just like Charles Matthews, I will pull for him wherever he goes. As for this team, I don’t think it will have a huge impact on how Kentucky plays. Hagans/Quickley will get his time and Calipari will look to Baker to replace his three point shooting. The key to this team’s success won’t be whether or not Quade is on the team…it will be getting better PG play, PJ Washington showing consistency and Tyler Herro making shots. If those happen, UK will be fine. If they don’t, they won’t.
I will leave you with one of Quade’s best moments, his game winner versus Vandy
So after the loss to Seton Hall on Saturday, I decided to make the trek to Broadway and see the most hyped Broadway production since “Phantom of the Opera” and catch “Hamilton” in all its glory. I came into the show a complete virgin…while I obviously had heard about it for years, I had never listened to any of the music or read any of the dialogue. I knew the story of Hamilton because I had read the book the play was based upon but otherwise, I came in fresh, hoping to experience it with sight, rather than just audio or Youtube clips. I can say after the experience, that it was amazing. There are very few times in life when you hype something up in your mind to a high degree and then it exceeds your hope, but that happened to me with “Hamilton.” I went expecting to see a cultural phenomenon, but instead found myself engulfed in the experience in a way that I can say has never happened to me at a live theater performance. Look, I have been to my share of plays and musicals and have enjoyed them throughout my life (I once yelled at Ashley Judd post-“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” from the audience and said “Cats won” after a UK game ended that went on during the performance…she smiled and pumped her fist). But never have I gone to a performance, forgot I was watching a production and been completely encapsulated in what I was viewing.
I really am in awe at what they were able to do…the musical takes an American Founding Father that most knew (if they knew him at all) simply as the “Treasury guy” and places him in his historical context in an amazing entertaining and innovative way. When you can find yourself not only bouncing to a rap battle diss track between two founding fathers that is focused on the topic of whether there should be a nationalized bank, but actually learning while doing it, you have to shake your head and simply say, “well done.” Lin- Manuel Miranda’s work is that of a genius and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The performance I saw obviously didn’t have the original cast, but those playing the characters were all tremendous singers, highly entertaining (I would enjoy playing the King George part, who kills) and were worthy of the material. I know some of you have seen a performance, and many others of you have heard the soundtrack, but if you ever get a chance to see it LIVE, please do so. It is extremely expensive in New York, but will be playing in Louisville in March and hopefully you can find a way to weasel in and catch it.
I actually have more to say, but I will save it for another day. Before you go (WARNING….NOT STICKING TO SPORTS), take a second and watch this interview I did with GOP State Rep Jason Nemes. I like Jason a lot and he is one of the authors on two bills that I bet many of you care about this legislative session in Frankfort…Sports Gambling and Medical Marijuana. We discuss both below and it is a good conversation
I pulled onto my street in Louisville last night at 2:38 am, after an 11 hour drive across Ohio/Pennsylvania swing-state interstates that seemed as if it would never end. Due to my new gig with ESPN doing the NFL Pre-game show, I find myself paying attention to NFL games with an attentiveness that I used to reserve only for UK affairs. 10 straight hours of NFL play by play (I highly recommend NFL Radio Channel 88 on Sirius/XM on Sundays….it is basically Red Zone with local broadcasts of the teams and you get some great homer cheering during the big plays) were exciting, but it was the last three that had my mind racing. We have had an amazing last few months around these KSR parts. We have seen the radio show expand, the TV show has reached record ratings, the website has received a huge Football bump and we opened a sports bar that has been a great success. It has been continued growth on all levels and I couldn’t be happier about what everyone around KSR has accomplished.
But I also realized that there is one thing that I do miss…I do miss the intimacy that defined KSR when we first began in 2005. Spending these last 10 days with Chris Tomlin (the only writer left who started with me back then) reaffirmed to me how special and unique this entire enterprise has been. We started from Hubby’s basement and now we do shows from the US Embassy Residence in Ottawa, Canada. It truly is a dream. But at the core of this entire enterprise, was just this….me at a keyboard, writing my thoughts and sharing them to people across the Big Blue Nation. In recent years I have all but stopped writing and I truly do miss it. I will never be able to recreate the output I once did, and with the work of Tyler/Drew, etc, there really is no need. But I do miss sharing my random thoughts and hope to add to them going forward. I have had this goal before and have usually flamed out (writing is hard…much more so than Radio and TV) but long trips listening to Tyler Childers give a man confidence. I hereby endeavor to write more…if not every day, at least once a week. And if I don’t…well I will buy you a drink (or hummus) the next time I see you at KSBar.
With that, some thoughts:
KSR Staff Changes
If you read the site earlier, you know this is the last week that TJ Walker will be writing for KSR as he leaves us to move onto another career as a real estate appraiser. While figuring out the value of Matt Bevin’s estate is much different than figuring out the meaning behind Tyrese Maxey’s Instagram posts, I am certain TJ will have a great deal of success as his work ethic and intelligence are of the highest rate. He has been a great addition here at KSR and helped us refocus our efforts in recruiting, once the lifeblood of this site. We appreciate his time with us and wish him nothing but the best…and if he hears scoop in the coming months, he will always be welcome to share it here.
With every loss, there must be a gain and so we are also happy to use this opportunity to announce the hiring of Jack Pilgrim as a full-time KSR Staff writer. Jack has been with us since his Sophomore year of College and now gets to join us as a full-time career. His work output is outstanding and I know of virtually no other student who has spent as much time balancing schoolwork, an outside job, volunteer activities and actually having fun as Jack has. I knew from the first day he began writing for us that I wanted him to eventually end up as a full-time staffer. That begins this week and we couldn’t be happier. Jack will focus on recruiting, but have a presence in many areas and we here at KSR are lucky to have him with us.
With his addition, we move Maggie Davis (who is also a tremendous talent both now, and for the future) up to our Sunday Editor and will continue to add to our staff in the coming months. We expect 2019 to be a huge year of growth for KSR and we are glad to have you along for the ride.
Madison Square Garden Misery
In 2005, I watched the Kentucky-Michigan State basketball game sitting by myself in my apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, desperately living and dying with each shot. When Patrick Sparks’s rim-bouncing three miraculously fell in the basket, not only did Austin, Texas erupt, but I went outside and screamed with glee as loudly as I have ever made a noise in my life. It still to this day remains the only time I have ever uttered a primal scream in my entire existence and I think of it often every time I see a fan acting out at a sporting event. It still to this day remains the most improbable big shot in UK history (considering the physics of it) and the follow-up fist pump to Billy Packer only makes it more amazing.
But as a great moment as that is, in my memories it doesn’t sit with pure joy. For along with Sean Woods’ free-throw line heave against Duke, Anthony Epps straight-away 3 pointer versus Arizona and James Young’s insane UCONN dunk, its memory is forever intertwined with the result of the game…in all cases a loss. In fact, with the exception of Aaron Harrison’s insane three-point string in 2014, it is oddly the case that the best shots in UK history have often come in losing efforts. Keldon Johnson’s halfcourt-heave on Saturday was just the injection of adrenaline this fan base needed to jumpstart the season. Well until it wasn’t. See since the Duke game, I have been shocked at the lack of energy around this UK basketball program. A combination of excitement over football, the lack of star power, the rise of Duke as the “cool” program of the day, a schedule lacking in fun and the deflation of unmet expectations has produced the largest sense of malaise I have seen since Billy Clyde was stumbling his way through 2009. Fans aren’t attending games (the fact that there are $15 seats for the game against Utah on Saturday is insane to me), our basketball conversation on the radio has been sparse and with the loss of top 5 recruits more commonplace, even the solace of recruiting can’t snap us out of our issues. With one beautiful heave from mid-court Keldon Johnson seemed ready to change that narrative. Now it goes into the dustbin of great moments in losing games and our fan base looks for a new reason to care.
I am not sure how to totally diagnose what is wrong with this group. The Sophomores haven’t improved to the degree they need to, our Point Guards all have defects that make playing any of them a choice in which defect will be spotlighted, Tyler Herro cant make a shot, Reid Travis is the team’s best player but is a step slow and can be exploited on Defense and John Calipari seems unable to connect with a group of good kids whose future seemed so promising. The Bahamas now looks to be a bit of a curse on this group, setting the standards high and giving them the burden of high expectations for a fan base that desperately wants/needs to be top dog again. I am unready and unwilling to give up…Calipari’s team turnarounds in 2011, 2014 and 2018 should have taught us that. But something is clearly missing with this group, not only on the court, but off in the connection with BBN. The back-to-back end of December contests against North Carolina and Louisville can bring everyone back…but losses could make the situation only worse. Trust Cal I do…but getting the team to call a timeout, run an inbounds play or simply guard the three point line would most certainly make it easier.
Feeling Better about Football Recruiting
College Football recruiting is not for the faint of heart. Kids commit/decommit and flip allegiances multiple times and it can cause even the most patient of us to become extremely frustrated. I can freely admit that the decision by Wandale Robinson to switch from UK to Nebraska one week after saying to me on TV that Nebraska was eliminated was head-scratching and bizarre. However I am a big believer that kids should go to school wherever they want and if the process that gets them there is convoluted, so be it. Since that decision though, many UK fans have thrown up their hands and said “WAKE ME WHEN THEY SIGN” and assumed that every UK commitment is going to flip. Case in point, JJ Weaver from Louisville, a 4 star talent who visited UL this past weekend, after committing to Kentucky. He posted the above picture and many UK fans wrote me, already assuming he was soon to be a Card. With that in mind, a few recruiting notes from me, someone who is admittedly not a UK football recruiting guru, but sometimes gets some good info:
1. I still think JJ Weaver will be a Cat. I believe him when he told Dave Lankford of Rivals.com that he visited as a favor to Vince Tyra (who had been nice to him when Bobby Petrino was not) but that he is still 100% committed to UK. The folks in Lexington still feel very good about him, and so do I.
2. I think UK is going to finish this class strong and probably keep all of their other commitments. Wandale was a unique situation and those around Lexington believe he always wanted to go to Nebraska but the pressure made him initially pick Kentucky. If that is true, I am glad he made the decision he did.
3. UK will get one Transfer that everyone who follows UK football will know…it could occur any time, although my guess is next week. I have said this for about a month and it is still the case. The only new scoop I have is that a 2nd transfer who is slightly lesser known to UK fans, but maybe equally (or more) important is considering transferring as well. If both come, it will be a huge coup.
With that, I will call it a night…we will be back on radio tomorrow, with an announcement about our $5,000 Bowl Challenge game, looking ahead to Utah and more. And later this week, for the 3-4 of you who care, I will write about my trip this weekend to see “Hamilton”, which was amazing. Adios
Today in James Wiseman news: the No. 1 player in America is spending the weekend in Nashville. The Music City native is staying close to home for his official visit to Vanderbilt.
Now, does anyone really believe Wiseman will end up anywhere other than Kentucky or with Penny Hardaway in Memphis? Probably not. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-11 power forward is making sure to take full advantage of all of his options – he’s already taken a visit to Kansas and has a trip to Florida State scheduled for the end of the month.
Wiseman was not in the audience for last night’s Big Blue Madness, but don’t worry – he attended the event last year as a junior, alongside future commit Tyrese Maxey and eventual de-commit DJ Jeffries.
Even though he missed this year’s BBM, he saw quite the show during today’s Vandy-Florida football game altercation… Dan Mullen vs. Derek Mason – who ya got?
I am writing this post while sitting through a rain delay at the College World Series in Omaha. I don’t think I ever believed I would actually attend the College World Series since (a) I am not a huge baseball fan, (b) have watched maybe three college baseball games all the way through in my life and (c) have had some unpleasantries with Omaha in my day. But I am here nevertheless and actually having a blast…I highly recommend it if you ever have some free time.
While I am here and on the beginnings of my two-week vacation, our KSR Summer staff of four college students is about to embark on a huge journey that is kicking off our newest KSR Campaign. #KSR120 will be a focus of ours for the next year and is being created to focus on the unique nature of the Kentucky fan base. As you may know, Kentucky has the third most counties of any state in the United States (for some bizarre reason) but each one of them is filled with one commonality, a love of the Big Blue. While some might dispute Jefferson (I won’t get into the fight today, but UK fans in Jefferson are definitely the most battle-worn), the other 119 have one certain thing in common….the most popular sports team in them is the Kentucky Wildcats. That is unique and something worth celebrating.
So as part of that, we here at KSR are going to be reaching out to every county. Through the course of 2018 and via our partnership with Braidy Industries (who is creating much-needed jobs in Eastern Kentucky), we will be doing things on this site and via our social media that will highlight each Kentucky county and what it brings uniquely to the state. For example, by the end of the summer, we will be publishing the list of the three best places to eat in each county, a handy guide that you can print out during your travels. We will continue such topics through the year and then in 2019, we will have a goal to have a KSR event (either radio, TV, Podcast or web) in every county in the state. It is quite an undertaking, but one we are looking forward to.
So what is happening starting tomorrow? We are identifying three locations in each county in Kentucky that will have the #KSR120 sign you see above hanging somewhere in them. Over the next three weeks, our four KSR College staffers will be traveling to every county, identifying our three locations and hanging the signs. Then, as we do various projects and giveaways through the year, these locations will be utilized. For instance, if I give away tickets to a game via a county drawing, the first person to take a picture at one of these locations, next to the #KSR120 sign will win them. The goal is to keep a KSR presence in each county and find locations that want to partner with KSR to make them happen.
So over the next three weeks, be looking around your county and see if you find one of the signs. Our 4 KSR Summer staffers have identified potential locations in each county, but if you would like to suggest others, please contact them…we are looking for restaurants, tourist attractions, hangouts or really anything that is loved by locals and is a place where KSR should be represented. I have attached the Twitter accounts of our 4 summer staffers below and if you would like to make suggestions, I encourage you to write them…each is in charge of 30 counties, so write them all collectively and the right person will see it.
We look forward to extending the KSR Outreach all summer long and when you see the signs start popping up in your county, take a picture and use the hashtag
By KSR on ©April 30th, 2018 @ 8:00pm
The Matt Jones Podcast’s No. 1 guest returns just in time for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. Tony Vanetti touches on a variety of topics with Matt Jones before Twin Spires handicapper Ed DeRosa gives some tips to help you win some money at Churchill Downs this weekend. Highlights:
— The best moments from the roast of Matt Jones.
— Vanetti’s vindication.
— How sports are like the state of Florida.
— Tony asks the question everyone is asking: Will Matt run against Mitch McConnell?
— McConnell’s greatest accomplishment as a Senator.
— Justify will be the Derby favorite, but don’t bet on him.
— A horse on the Derby undercard and an Oaks long shot that will win you some money.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay or check it out on the Stitcher app.
Today’s podcast is brought to you by:
After an extended hiatus, Matt Jones has picked back up the podcast microphone. The 65th edition of The Matt Jones Podcast is an extended conversation with former Kentucky Wildcat and current UK Sports Network broadcaster, Rex Chapman. They touch on a variety of topics, like…
— Is Rex worried that UK has developed a culture of failure if you stay in school?
— Why Rex believes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the most NBA-ready Wildcat.
— Will P.J. and Wenyen stay in the NBA Draft?
— Rex had to convince Rondo not to leave UK, on more than one occasion.
— His relationship with Cal…and his infamous National Championship pregame Tweet.
— How his opioid addiction started and what makes it different.
— The rehab process and Rex’s message to those who are fighting addiction.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay or check it out on the Stitcher app.
Today’s podcast is brought to you by:
By Matt Jones on ©February 08th, 2018 @ 9:22pm
Its Halftime of UNC/Duke and I am enjoying my Thursday night of force-fed ESPN College Basketball Hype. But while perusing the internet (and figuring out which piece of Tom Jurich memorabilia I am going to buy), I came across this article by Eric Crawford summarizing the Press Conference by new UL AD Vince Tyra. I admit that I skipped watching the Presser, since the only one that I care about is the one the NCAA will do very soon, but after reading Eric’s wrap-up column, I found myself having a very weird feeling. In fact, it was so alien to me that I wasn’t exactly sure how to process it and I had no choice but to come to the computer and bang out some thoughts on it.
I found myself actually being impressed by the new UL Athletic Director. What’s more, I was impressed in a way that is actually noble…as in, I had genuine admiration for some of the words and behaviors. I was impressed at times by the last UL Athletic Director before, but it was in a scheming, admire-the-criminal-audacity way, sort of like the way you feel when you watch Tony Soprano…knowing he is a societal rogue whose comeuppance is coming but admiring how he still finds a way to survive. This was different. For what Vince Tyra showed today is that the new Athletic regime at UL, at least the interim one, intends to get rid of the swashbuckling, bullying, rule-breaking, corrupt ways of the past and actually run an Athletic Deparment like (GASP) how an Institution of Higher Education should be run.
Tyra said today that he was voluntarily decreasing his salary from $1.2 Million to $850,000, thereby giving back the large amount granted to him by the interim President. His came to the number by averaging the amount made by the top 3 Athletic Directors of the ACC and then taking $4,000 less. To me, that is an impressive act…without being forced to, a person voluntarily took a pay cut as an example of some of the larger cuts that were soon going to be forced upon the Athletic Department. A leader showcasing self-sacrifice in order to set a positive example for those in his organization before making future tough decisions? UL, I hardly know ya! In contrast to his predecessor, the highest paid AD in the country, whose greed is so large that he would not allow the University of Louisville to use the Athletic Department’s Card logo without first paying the Athletics Department royalties (I am serious), Tyra seems to get that Athletics is a part of a greater whole. That is to be admired.
In addition, Tyra noted (finally) that the Papa John’s unnecessary seat expansion will be 6,000 seats instead of the 10,000 that Tom Jurich continuously promoted when the silliness was first announced. Folks around the project have been whispering about this for two years, but insisting that Tom wanted the larger number to be announced so they would have more seats than Commonwealth Stadium. One wonders if Jurich were still in charge, if he would note the actual seat addition or continuously lie in the future, exaggerating a la the WWF and Yokozuna’s weight, assuming no one would ever challenge and audacious boasts would become accepted fact. The admission continues the theme of the past year of noting actual attendance at games, in numbers far lower than the smoke blown in past years and making fans realize that the dreams of unlimited dollars don’t coincide with the truth of financial difficulties.
Tyra also noted that while it was not easy, the decision to fire Mark Jurich from the UL Athletics Department was needed. The fact that this was even in question showcases the way that the norms created by the absurd accepted behavior of the Jurich regime will take time to shift back to the reality of competent organizational management. There is a reason nepotism laws are in place in Kentucky and nearly every state…because hiring family members is almost ALWAYS a terrible decision and makes the removal of said members a constant headache. Having little Jurich in the UL Athletics Department was going to be a constant distraction and removing him was the only way to get rid of the issue. Whether it was fair to Mark or not is almost irrelevant…his entire existence there was due to familial favoritism and if his removal was due to familial bias, well so be it. If you don’t want your family members fired when you mess up, don’t hire them to begin with.
As anyone who reads this site, listens to my show or probably knows my name is aware, I have been possibly the biggest critic of Tom Jurich and UL Athletics for the last 5 years. While Jurich oversaw an Athletics Department that overflowed with success, like the culture created by “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the success begat corner-cutting, feelings of invincibility, dictatorial behavior, and in the end scandal that brought the entire operation down to its knees. In both cases the FBI delivered the final blow, but the knife was given by the actions of larger-than-life figures who thought rules did not apply to them. The good times were great but the fall was predictable, except to all those that became blinded by the green and chose to be #L1C4LIFE instead of level-headed viewers of reality.
Without blasting his predecessor by name, Vince Tyra’s actions are a direct refutation of the Jurich era and the mindset that accompanied it. Win at all cost and crush everyone that gets in the way may work in the short term. But in the long term it breeds enemies that will help to plot your downfall and creates accepted behavior that ultimately guarantees your undoing. Tyra seems to be getting rid of the problem by root and branch. I still won’t root for Louisville to win any game, but I can’t help but respect that the new regime seems to do for Card Nation what Mitch Barnhart has done in Lexington. You can win and do so in a manner that doesn’t sully everything around you. If the Cards keep doing that, hating them is going to be a lot harder.
It’s a new year around these parts (and presumably your parts as well) which means another attempt by me to write more on KSR. I go through this goal every few months for one simple reason…I still love writing and think it is the best way to communicate thoughts to the widest audience. But unfortunately the worlds of radio, tv, politics and pro wrestling have taken the majority of my time and sitting down to write a post (the best of which take an hour or so) becomes harder and harder to do. Nevertheless, we are nothing without goals to better ourselves, and thus I begin 2018 with yet another attempt at making my writing voice heard more often. So with that, some notes:
Kentucky Mojo Back
The last three months of 2017 were some of the most perplexing to me as a UK fan/media member in the 12-plus years we have been doing this. There was a definite sense of malaise around the fan base and less interest in the games that at any time I could remember. The reason for this was debated often on our shows, but regardless of the cause, there was no doubt in my mind that fans seemed less caring of UK Basketball (and even the final couple of football games) that at any point I could remember. However, I believe last Friday reversed the UK fandom course. The annihilation of Louisville, followed by a positive performance in the screwjob versus Northwestern, seems to have fans back on board and ready for SEC play. The last two Rupp Arena crowds (UL and Georgia) have been the two most energetic of the year and the emergence of happy Shai Alexander seems to have given the fans a personality to attach to for the 2nd half of the season. 4 of the next 5 basketball games are on the road, but the one in Rupp (next Tuesday versus Texas A&M) may be the biggest of the year. If the Cats are going to get that crucial victory, having an amped Rupp will be key to the ultimate success.
The biggest story in the UK internet world today is the seeming growing pessimism about UK’s chances with star recruit Zion Williamson. Two writers now have Clemson as the leader and both expressed this weekend that Kentucky has fallen behind the football school in pursuit of the Youtube sensation. The success of Trae Young at Oklahoma has undoubtedly had an effect on the idea that if you want to be a One and Done national star, you must go to Duke/UK or you will get very little publicity (I expect Trae to be the face of College Basketball in the next 2 months). Still he is the exception, rather than the rule and his place as a PG (and thus a ball handler) allows him to be able to succeed in a way that someone like Zion (who needs teammates to get him the rock and help establish driving lanes by outside shooting) may not. The folks in Lexington still feel good about Zion and until that changes, I will still feel good as well. Over the years we have seen recruits (Randle, Murray, Knox) that UK folks have felt good about consistently, even as the winds of the national media have changed. While sometimes those feelings in Lexington can be wrong (Shabazz…more confidence on Barrett than others), they are right more often than the general media perception is correct. Until I sense pessimism from Lexington, I will hold in my view that I like where the Cats stand with Zion.
This kid is my fan of the week and maybe the month of December. To not only wear the costume in the Erruption Zone, but also have the presence of mind to put his finger to his ear when the camera went by…well that my friends is the stuff legends are made of. Well done young man
4 UK Defensive Players Future
We debated today on radio about the 4 UK Defensive players who have decisions to make concerning whether they will return to UK next year. Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware, Mike Edwards and Josh Allen all could potentially return for a Senior year or all could enter the Draft. Each has different choices to make and some have external factors that will have an impact on their decision. Honestly it wouldn’t shock me if all four left or all four returned, but here is my best guess as to today:
Edwards: GONE His draft projections are positive and he has expressed interest in getting to the league. His choice to return would be the only any of these guys could make that would be a surprise
Allen: RETURN: He is a sleeper choice for the league and some in the NFL love the kid. But he also really likes being at UK and has expressed to at least one person the love of the idea of being a team leader next year. I will go with a hunch and say return, but either decision would make sense.
Jones: GONE: Might be less his solo decision than a mutual parting of ways. He is a Junior who is still not allowed to do media interviews because of what he might say. At some point that becomes unacceptable and the penalties on the field too much for the risk…plus he wasn’t great this season. My guess is he has played his last UK game.
Ware: RETURN: While it hasn’t been confirmed, I have heard what led to the suspension for the Bowl game and I don’t think that would be enough to make him no longer play at UK. He has recently had a daughter, which could clearly have an impact, but I don’t think his Draft status is such that leaving is an obvious choice.
NETFLIX recommendation: “Shot in the Dark”
I had my annual Movie Day on Saturday in Newport and saw five movies, none of which were spectacular. Of the five, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” would be my highest recommendation, as the combination of the interesting story and great acting performances trump the somewhat overly dramatic, heavy-handed parts of the script. I also took by first foray into “Get Out” on Monday and was a fan. The social satire was interesting and the supernatural stuff just close enough to reality (meaning no vampires) that I could dig it. Definitely worth a watch and it joins “Dunkirk”, “Big Sick”, “Wind River” and “Logan Lucky” as my favorite movies I have seen so far this year.
With all of that said, maybe the most engaging thing I have watched in the last few weeks is the Netflix documentary, “Shot in the Dark.” The eight episodes follow three tv cameramen as they go chasing crime at night in LA. The series focuses on their various attempts to be at the scenes as crimes/fires/turmoil happen, along with some of the moral implications of being a benign bystander versus actually injecting oneself into the situation. It is exciting, fast-paced and the people they follow are interesting (and occasionally annoying). I can’t imagine you wouldn’t at least be entertained.
Time to tape a Television show…until next time, my five least favorite types of people thus far in 2018:
1. People who ask me if I have a New Year’s Resolution
2. People who say I look like Dave Fleming
3. Louisville media members who forget they said David Padgett was a better coach than Calipari
4. Referees who chase after Texas Basketball Coaches
5. Ted Cruz (except when he sends the occasional witty tweet that makes me laugh even though I hate myself afterwards)
As I sit here on a Sunday night watching the boring matches of the Survivor Series mid-card (yes I am a grown man, but a good PPV is still worth my time), I have been reading many scenarios online about the UK Bowl game possibilities. Most are from national writers who do a very good job putting for the national landscape and who have Kentucky basically headed to one of four Bowl Games. However, there view is macro and what most of us care about in Kentucky is on the micro level…specifically, what Bowl game is UK going to play in and who are the Cats possible opponents? I spent some time this morning calling a couple of sources on the team side and the Bowl side (I always talk to them when they come to games and give free things) and from those conversations, I think the scenario is fairly simple AS OF NOW (an important caveat):
LOSE AGAINST LOUISVILLE
I open with this scenario only because it is the most straight forward. As one source told me this morning, “if Kentucky loses to Louisville, I would put the probability very high that they play in the Liberty Bowl.” As most of you know by now, the Liberty Bowl is one of the Bowls that is in the “Gang of Six” that, which are considered “equal” by the SEC in bowl placement. As with most things deemed “equal”, some of the Bowls are a bit more “equal” than others, but in general when you are in that group, your relative standing amongst the other teams is an important factor, but not the sole factor. If Kentucky loses to Louisville, it will be 7-5 and the Liberty Bowl is by far the most likely destination. That Bowl wants Kentucky (due to proximity and no recent appearances) and the Cats have no conflicts of importance around that time that would hinder the pick. If Kentucky loses to the Cards, Memphis is our likely destination, absent a huge shift of events in the final weekend.
As for the Cats’ opponent, it is a bit more up in the air, due to the how close the Big 12 Conference standings are at this time. But a source told me on Saturday, “the loser of Texas-West Virginia is the heavy favorite for Memphis” and that ended up being the Mountaineers. If WVU were to play Kentucky in Memphis, the Eastern part of the state would have the game they have longed for and both fan bases could travel in mass to the destination. If Kentucky ends up 7-5, this is the most likely result…with Iowa State as the second most likely opponent right after.
WIN AGAINST LOUISVILLE
This is a much more complicated scenario and depends a great deal on what happens in the other games on the weekend. However the most simple version is this…if Kentucky wins and finishes 8-4, the Music City becomes the most likely destination. A sources tells me that Kentucky has communicated to the SEC office that the basketball game being the same day (at 1 pm) would not change the school’s desire for the Bowl, and I think a win against the Cards probably moves Kentucky to Nashville…with Iowa the most likely opponent, in a game that would mean a great deal for Mark Stoops.
If Kentucky does win against the Cards, three other Bowls are in play but a bit harder for placement reasons. One is the Outback, the most prestigious of the Six Bowls, but a source told me today that Kentucky’s finish down the stretch may prohibit that game as the goal from the league standpoint is to put the team playing the best at the end of the season in this marquee New Year’s Day Bowl. The Belk Bowl is unfortunately probably a non-starter due to it being at the same time as the UK-UL Basketball game. That game time means everyone involved, the Bowl Game, the two tv networks, the SEC and Kentucky see a dilution of audience for both events and such a scenario is not favored by anyone. The TaxSlayer would likely be the Bowl that Kentucky would most naturally be “slotted” for with its 8-4 season but UK’s ability to get tin the game last year, means it won’t be as likely this season. The SEC tries to keep teams from the same game in the Group of Six two years in a row….thus because the Cats played “up a Bowl” last year, they may not get the benefit of it this year, even though it would be where its record would deserve. Thus the Music City becomes the most likely scenario.
A win could also see a Liberty Bowl appearance, but according to one source, “a lot would have to happen” to make that in play, and since my head hurts and the big five-man tag is on the Horizon, we will leave that for another day.
Have a good evening everyone (and if you like to laugh, watch “American Vandal” on Netflix)
They sold this picture on shirts…I forgot to get one and I need one
I miss writing as much as I used to. Radio is the purest form of media in my mind, because the immediacy and live nature leads to the most genuine and real interaction one can get from hosts and public figures. But I do miss the days when I would sit down every evening around 9 pm and blast out a post about UK news and whatever other random things were on my mind. One of my favorite parts of what we used to call “the Night Post” was the introductory paragraph, which usually featured something in the state or pop culture that I wanted to highlight and give publicity. I thought of that Thursday night when I saw Tyler Childers perform at The Burl in Lexington. If you listen to the radio show, you know I have become a big fan of Tyler and I ended up seeing him twice this weekend in Lexington. However on Thursday, his opening act was a man from the mountains called The Laid Back Country Picker. His music was terrific, his band better (including his wife playing in curlers and a bath robe) but the highlight of the entire proceeding was my introduction to his hit, “Magoffin County Cadillac.” As he explained it from stage, when police departments turn in their old Crown Victoria patrol cars, they often end up getting sold at an auction in Magoffin County. Local folks often buy them and thus we get the “Magoffin County Cadillac.” You owe it to yourself to watch the video, hear the song (which will get stuck in your head) and learn more about the Laid Back Country Picker. He actually taught Tyler in high school and now as Childers blows up, he had the opportunity to be his opening act and play his hit “Whitehouse Road” with him on stage. It was a cool scene, a better story and sharing it is part of the reason I miss writing as much as I did in the old days.
Now to some nuggets of news:
— The biggest news of the weekend is in the basketball recruiting world where after the visits of the weekend, the UK recruiting class is starting to take shape. We know Immanuel Quickley is on board but after the visit this weekend, I feel very good about three other UK recruits and their likelihood of signing with Kentucky. Zion Williamson and Bol Bol both made their visit and from talking to a couple of sources after, I would put Kentucky now as leading with both. This has probably been the case with Zion for a bit, but with the issues at Arizona and the reconnection with Calipari and his staff, I now think Bol is likely to be a part of the final class as well. In addition, I can confirm the speculation online today that Keldon Johnson has become a definitive UK lean and could end up as a commitment in the very near future. The 6’6″ wing is the sleeper of the class in my view and I think he ends up as final Top 10 recruit by the end of the year.
In my view, Kentucky is going to take 5 kids in this class. If that is the case, I am predicting the UK class as of this moment as Quickley, Williamson, Bol, Johnson and Quentin Grimes. That would give UK a starting lineup just with these five and combined with whoever returns, a potential monster 2018-2019 team. This group doesn’t include RJ Barrett, who I think the staff is still recruiting but has lost some confidence on in the past week. The increased likelihood of getting Johnson and the emergence of Bol Bol as a real option, I think makes Barrett (who in my view is still the best player in the class) less of a necessity, as good as he is. The Cats would of course still take him and will still recruit him…but I am moving him out of my predicted class and inserting Bol/Johnson. As always, things can change, but I like where UK is right now quite a bit…potentially 4 Top 10 guys and one Top 20…not too shabby.
— The story of the early practice buzz I am hearing is the tremendous defensive play consistently and the way it is affecting what the ultimate style of play will be. Defense wins every practice at this point, and that is something Calipari really likes. One person close to the program said to me, “we don’t know right know whether our offense is really struggling or our defense is just that good…but it sure has been good.” The issue for Kentucky (no surprise) will be shooting, but they like their ability to get in passing lanes and I think you will see this team have a TON of pressure…even if its not a full-court press. This group will not sit back and they feel good about having rim protectors to help fix any errors on the perimeter. I am told coaches feel the loss of Vanderbilt early matters more than most media have suggested, but long term this is a group they believe plays well in March.
— As you may have heard we will be having Karen Sypher as a guest on KSR Radio on Tuesday morning. This is someone we have wanted to have for some time and this will be her first interviewing since serving out her 7 year federal prison sentence. Sypher has never really gotten a chance to tell her story since the trial and she didn’t testify there as to the events that occurred. As with the Katina Powell interview, we will provide her a forum to talk, but will also challenge her on the events and what happened. Some have said this is “old news” and “why would you have her on”, but I respectfully disagree. There is much to this story that still hasn’t been told and the events that began that night at Porcini’s were the start to the downfall of a coaching legend. It will certainly be quite a morning to listen on Tuesday.
— Finally, A housekeeping note….we will be starting in 2018 a part of KSR called “KSR Voices”….it will basically be a section of KSR that will allow people in the state of all different walks of life to write about issues that are important to Kentucky. They will range from culture to economics to politics to the arts. The goal is to bring in diverse people from all backgrounds and belief systems, including those that we may not agree with so that voices are given a platform that can be seen by many. My reason for this is simple…there is a lot to be proud of in Kentucky and a lot of great minds and leaders out there that need a spotlight and a forum. I have a forum and I want to use it to better this state. As with everything on the site, feel free to ignore what you aren’t interested in…but as with my Matt Jones Podcast with Ricky Jones (which you can listen to here), you might find you like things you didn’t original think you would.
One of these topics will also be religion and along those lines, a pastor friend of mine Robert Cunningham from the Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington will have his first post on here tomorrow evening. He wrote today about why he decided to accept my invitation to write and you can see his thoughtful comments here. If you have people you believe would be good to consider for this long-term project, feel free to email me at [email protected]
CONGRATS TO UK VOLLEYBALL ON BEATING #1 FLORIDA!!!! The win was on the road and is huge for the program. This may be the best UK Volleyball team ever, so go out and check them out. Until tomorrow….
The Matt Jones Podcast makes its triumphant return with Dr. Ricky Jones. The outspoken UofL professor provides a unique perspective on the tumult surrounding the university and its athletic department. Highlights:
— “It is no longer an academic institution,” Jones said.
— The crazy story of how Vince Tyra became UofL’s acting AD.
— What’s wrong with the backwards system we call “higher education.”
— Ricky’s real problem with athlete protests.
— Why Ricky supports Calipari.
You can have every podcast delivered straight to your phone by searching for “The Matt Jones Podcast” on iTunes and clicking “subscribe.” If you aren’t an iTunes person, you can also stream every podcast on Podbay or check it out on the Stitcher app.
In the very near future, likely as early as tomorrow morning, Rick Pitino will no longer be the coach of the UL Basketball program. This is a decision that should have happened long ago, but didn’t because of a combination of success, hubris and denial that engulfed everyone from the Card fan base to the University President. Simply put, Rick Pitino was too successful to question. He made massive money for a University rising in prestige, won at the highest levels coaching a program desperate for success and helped put Louisville basketball in a national spotlight that everyone involved adored. Over the course of more than a decade, he cultivated a loyal group of supporters, ready to fight all of his battles and defend his honor, no matter how bad the transgression. The Pitino Army included powerful government officials, connected corporate friends, wealthy local businessmen, hardcore Card lovers and loyal media enablers. Regardless of the behavior, they had an answer and those who went against the #L1C4 shield were seen as enemies who must be destroyed. Pitino made himself out to be the most powerful and important person in the city of Louisville and through success and sheer will, he achieved his goal.
But tomorrow all of that will likely come crashing down. The unchecked arrogance of the Pitino dynasty has seemingly finally hit its tipping point thanks to a new Louisville leadership regime and overall fan scandal fatigue. The Pitino defenders have jumped ship, with donors holding their wallets, fans complaining in disgust and former media friends calling for resignation. It is the end of the line and even though Pitino refuses to recognize reality (as seen by his unbelievably tone-deaf statement this evening), there is simply no longer an army to defend his castle. The question now only becomes how many people will he take down with him? Does Louisville clean out the entire basketball staff and find an outsider to jump in and try to coach the team on the precipice of the season? With talk of the dreaded “Death Penalty” being whispered, how harsh a punishment does the men’s basketball team receive? And in the process of cleaning house does Pitino’s latest transgression take down the AD many believe to be one of the best in the country with him? Being a Pitino friend/associate has for years been the ticket to success in Louisville and around college basketball. Will it now be a ticket to unemployment, ridicule or worst of all, federal prison? Time will tell.
There will be plenty of time to look back at Pitino’s tenure in Louisville and Lexington for that matter, and try to process what it all means. TJ Beisner wrote earlier today that Pitino ends his career as one of the biggest sports personalities in our state’s history, yet will likely be shunned from both campuses that he called home. In some ways that is truly sad and a Greek Bluegrass sports tragedy of unrivaled proportions. But it is also a direct result of a lifetime of skirting standards, both professional and ethical, and yet finding a way to come through unscathed in the end. I often took to calling Pitino “Teflon Rick”, as it seemed nothing could stick to him and his job was saved after behavior that would have ended the career of virtually any other coach. Pitino lied about everything, from the serious to the trivial, and now with no one left to believe his most absurd assertions of all (“I was SHOCKED to learn”), the door will finally shut.
After UL self-imposed probation two years ago (a decision that privately Pitino and UL Athletics people sought to have fans blast then-President Ramsey for), I and others said that the only way for UL to get past the Katina Powell scandal was to clean house and bring a new regime. At any other University in America, that decision would have been obvious and immediate. Yet for reasons that now have become clearer, UL decided to deny and persevere…keeping the entire regime that led to the problems in the first place. Over the last two years, the effects of that decision have been made clear. The University has seen its President resign in disgrace, its Foundation has been raided of millions of dollars that are still missing and unaccounted for, its donor base has eroded to the point that paying the daily bills of the University is in jeopardy and now, an even larger basketball scandal that involves the FBI and pay-for-play has tarnished the University for decades. To an entire generation of college basketball fans, when you one thinks of scandal and rule-breaking, Louisville basketball will come to the forefront. With one quick rip of the band-aid off, this could have been avoided. But now even more pain is ahead.
Thus while I feel no sympathy for Pitino or other UL Athletics administration members, I do feel sorry for the fan base and University as a whole. It is true that the enabling by these fans helped prolong these issues, but if we are honest, most fans of schools (or politicians) they support seek to initially justify their actions when trouble occurs. UL fans wanted to believe in Rick, Tom and Bobby, and the wins and income clouded their judgment. However what is next will punish them disproportionately to whatever guilt they may have. The Cards are probably looking at a massive rebuild of early-90s Kentucky proportion and may find themselves without postseason play for multiple years. The words “Death Penalty” have been thrown about and there was probably a time I would have rooted for such a result. But the reality is that the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky need UL Basketball to exist for the betterment of the economy. Downtown Louisville and the Yum Center without UL games will be unsustainable and if that area fails, it will have a dramatic impact on the local and state economy. Even though they are our rivals, they matter also as our neighbors and while I do not pity their plight, I hope the comeuppance they receive shows some degree of mercy for them and our state.
Tomorrow the Pitino era likely ends and with it, a decade of UL sports that saw some of the greatest successes the University has ever known. Rick Pitino will stomp off into the sunset, likely angrily shouting his innocence of all charges, ignorance of the facts at hand and overall unfairness of the situation to him. But he is no victim and he certainly is no martyr. His fall is great because his scandalous reign sustained solely by absolute power and fear, inevitably led to his ultimate downfall. He will leave the University in worse shape than when he arrived and with a second fan base that once adored him, now looking away in shame. Rick Pitino, one of the top college coaches in the history of the profession, is now destined to be remembered mostly as a cheater of epic proportions and a punchline to sexual stamina jokes. It is a sad ending, but unfortunately one well-earned.
Everyone in Kentucky media is scrambling right now as rumors are running rampant about what may or may not happen tonight. Here is what we know:
— Louisville reporter Joe Sonka, who has been on top of the story from moment one says he has a source that says the announcements from UL are not done for the day.
— I have been told by a good UL source that “if you are doing your TV show tonight, you might need to go live because of what is coming.” We normally tape at 4:30 and thus we making contingency plans to potentially go LIVE at 7:30.
— Terry Meiners just said on his radio show that Rick Pitino texted him and said, “I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
At this point, its all smoke. But it is billowing. We shall see. Stay tuned…this afternoon/night could be quite a ride.
Hello everyone, this is Matt and I hope you are enjoying the end to your Labor Day weekend. I interrupt this Tennessee losing effort (at least at Halftime while I am writing this) to ask all of you to join me in welcoming KSR’s newest Contributing Writer, Aaron Torres to our site! If you have been around KSR for awhile, you are almost certainly familiar with Aaron and his work. He has been a guest on our radio show, has written columns that we have linked and has even hosted for me during my vacation. He is probably best known to UK fans for his tremendous book “One and Fun” (which you can purchase at this link), the definitive chronicle of Calipari’s first UK team, the awesome 2010 group. The book is one of the best collection of UK stories on a team of all-time and since working on it, Aaron has made himself known to UK fans everywhere as a great chronicler of all things Cats.
We recently reached an agreement with Aaron to have him join us for a couple of reasons. One is obviously Aaron’s talent. I truly believe Aaron is one of the best young writers in college sports today and his thoughts and opinions are amongst the best in the country. But second, I think it is important that KSR have a voice talking about UK and college basketball/football that isn’t simply a lifelong UK fan. Aaron will bring us a little bit of an outsider’s perspective (he lives currently in LA) and allow us some views from outside the bubble that I think will be great for the site. He will be writing two columns a week for us, doing profiles of basketball related topics and eventually starting a podcast on the KSR Podcast Network. We are very excited to have him on board and I know he will join Drew, Tyler, Nick, Jack, Freddie and the rest of the gang in making the best UK site on the internet even better.
So welcome Aaron when he begins writing, enjoy his features and thanks for being a reader on KSR.