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A Thought on the Cats


I received an email from a great friend of mine yesterday afternoon while I was watching Anthony Brock bank an unbelievable game winning shot in against Tennessee.  After reading through the email I felt the thoughts he expressed needed to be seen by more than just our friends.   There were some things that I had to delete from his message but for the most part his views and thoughts have been preserved.  The gentleman that sent this email would like to be known simply as “Teacher.”  There have been nights where the “Teacher” and I have stayed up debating anything from religion, politics, UK basketball and even “Lost”.  My friend the “Teacher” is definitely one of the smartest guys I have ever known and one of the most educated.  I respect his opinion and even though I might not agree with everything that follows here, I do think he makes some valid points.  Enjoy…    

I have a few thoughts for you:

One thing that irks me a bit about the debates on UK basketball, the stimulus bill, the political realm, and the church, (insert hot topic here), etc. is that everyone is looking for the one silver bullet answer to explain the problem, to prove the point, and to provide the path to the answer. The line in the sand is always drawn and we must all hop to one side or the other and stare angrily at anyone who disagrees. Well I disagree with both. 

 How many major issues in your lives, past MIDDLE SCHOOL, occurred because of just ONE mistake? Sure, one event may have toppled the deck of cards, but wasn’t it a series of erosive decisions that lead to the edge of the abyss? WHY would it be any different with something as complex as a multimillion dollar athletic program? And WHY would the answer be any simpler to fix? 

The last 20 years have flexed and we are in a new era for those of us who have seen only the glory of the program. Clearly the Pitino years were another level, then again, who here thinks that man is or was stable? ….*cricket noises….*

I’m not saying he isn’t the best coach, I’m just saying he would not have maintained that level of excellence and would have faced some dire issues (not the same as BCG, so DONT try to make that what I am saying), my point is UK basketball has a tradition of excellence, but THAT too has ebbed and flowed. Before that we suffered and survived, just as we are now. We won the NCAA tourney in 1978 and didn’t even go in 1979. Yet we survived. We go to the final four in 1984 and shoot 3-800 in the second half and then go downhill till 1993. We rise back to prominence, 2 titles, and then miss two final fours because of a poor overtime performance and another because of Dwayne Wade and a bad Bogan’s injury. Point is, we will be back, with Gillespie or without. Throughout these times we built the fabric of the basketball culture at UK. It bends or it tightens, but it never breaks.

Now you have a man in the vein of a hybrid Bobby Knight/Pitino. He is relentless and stubborn, all the things we like and commend when we are winning, yet he is so strange in other areas that the losing accentuates it. Would we care much about his lack of zone if we were winning? How about WHEN we were winning? We beat the same teams we lost to earlier this year with the same coach…so what happened? Well, he lost the team.

That couldn’t be more evident for anyone who has ever played or coached or done more than the hacks that just read message boards and recycle the rants that morons like “Chris from Richmond” spout off about in uneducated bliss. Such comments come from men who couldn’t score on the “Classic” setting of the mobile Pop-a-Shot at Mr. Gatti’s. I’m talking about folks who competed. Those who understand the game itself and the seasons themselves have no RESET button. It doesn’t operate in a vacuum. If things go awry in the recipe you have to compensate with other ingredients till it comes full circle and tastes right again.  And that’s where we are and why I am FRIMLY ON THE FENCE about BCG.

How about that? No line in the sand for me yet. When I see one side of the line I believe in I’ll choose it. 

 See my concerns are simple. I know that substitution patterns seem more than odd and the lack of trying anything outside of a man to man (even to break the rhythm of another team) is baffling, but the man was coach of the year in three conferences (I know I KNOW the SEC is better than the Big 12 yada yada, I’m just saying he won that award here too, he COULDNT have become THAT miserable in one fatal swoop over the last 10 months). I’m more concerned with how he deals with adversity, not “get the team ready for a game” or “I’m coaching at UTEP” adversity, but “Reeling at UK” adversity. 

IS he SMART enough? Deft enough? Can he handle media, parents, players, AD’s and assuage ALL their fears and create a winning recipe? Does he have the ability to be stubborn when he needs to and bend when he must? I don’t know. That’s why I’m on the fence.

The interviews, the limited knowledge I have of behind the scenes issues from friends still at UK, the Matt Dougherty-esque feelings he gives folks. Well they concern me. I wonder if the good Lord is trying to get HIS attention, as well as the other UK fans that may just be a BIT TOO INVESTED. But I just don’t know. So in times like this, I usually grant mercy and time. Some folks love to scream and rant and yell that such mercy is crying out for more misery. However, here is why I believe that we can and should afford more time.

1. Prescribing the wrong medicine can be deadly. UK is sick, but a clean sweep of the AD, Coach, Janitor, anyone involved, would be prescribing Chemo for a cold. What price do you pay? What are you really looking for? A better season or a healthy program? You may not be guaranteed of either if you establish an environment in which message board rants force action. 

2. We have had and survived this type of thing before. We didn’t even fire Sutton. He left on his own. In fact, have we EVER fired a coach at UK? Think about that. We have 7 titles with four different coaches. That PROVES, that the program is always bigger than the coach and that the coach, if bad will ALWAYS be purged when the time becomes clear.  As HISTORY shows, THEY know it before we do and leave on their own. It’s a program simply TOO great for any one man to bear when mistreating it.



Article written by Bobby Perry