You hoped all the events that went down today were just a cruel April Fool’s joke that would somehow be forgotten. But unfortunately that was not the case, as April 1, 2008 was a surreal day filled with tough events for the Big Blue Nation. On a normal day, the news that Adam Delph, a Kentucky kid from PRP high school in Louisville, would be walking on next season would have been enough to make people across the state happy. Delph is a kid who can put the ball in the basket and should be an asset to the program. But over the course of the day, the Delph news had to fade as one story after another came out that hurt the Kentucky program and those that were a part of it.
First of course was the day of grief for Mr. Bill Keightley. Today was a day of rememberance for the man and was full of comments about his importance by those that knew him best. Over the course of the day individuals in the coaching profession ranging from Billy Gillispie to Tubby Smith to Rick Pitino to John Pelphrey to Billy Donovan to Travis Ford, etc all spoke about how important Keightley had to been them during their times at Kentucky. Current and former players spoke publically about their connection to the man and I personally had a conversation with one former player who was nearly in tears at the news. I thought today representation of the dedication of Mr. Wildcat to the Kentucky basketball program and the people in it shown by the dual pictures of Keightley crying when he heard the news that his good friend Tubby Smith was leaving the University and then a few weeks later, embracing the new Coach Billy Gillispie at his introductory press conference. Mr. Bill Keightley, the equipment manager for a men’s basketball program, made national news all across the sports landscape and those with a connection to college basketball mourned his loss. Plans were made for what will be quite an event on Thursday, as a public memorial service and viewing of his body will take place in Rupp Arena. It is a testament to the man and how important he has been to the University that the loss has been felt so hard and by so many.
If there could be news that is even sadder than the passing of a legend like Bill Keightley, it might be the news of the passing of a young man like Marvin Stone. The former Kentucky and Louisville player died of an apparent heart attack in Saudi Arabia during a playoff basketball game against a team that included former Kentucky Wildcat Jules Camara. Stone, who came to Kentucky as one of the highest rated recruits in its history, had a difficult time in his college years and during the last few years of his life. He was immensely talented, but struggled with issues that were often secondary to basketball. The loss of his life at such a young age is truly tragic and has hit both the Kentucky and Louisville basketball communities hard.
Those two tragic stories make the rest of the news seem trivial, and it is. But the trivial things do matter as well, and Kentucky also today found out that Scotty Hopson has decided to attend Tennessee next season. As often happens when a kid chooses a school that is not Kentucky, many want to suggest it isnt a big deal….but that simply isnt the case. Scotty would have been of immense help to the team and the program next year and his scoring ability is the #1 thing lacking with next year’s group. Billy Gillispie and the staff decided sometime in January to make Hopson a priority and he was scheduled to visit the Cats on Wednesday. However Scotty always seemed to want to head to Knoxville and after Pearl’s assurance he would be staying, he joined the Big Orange. With Hopson, there are always other issues and one wonders if he would have been able to handle Gillispie and his system, but now we will never know as he takes the court for Bruce Pearl.
And also occurring today was the resignation of former Cat Sean Sutton as coach at Oklahoma State. While Sutton is often forgotten due to the time he was here, he is another member of the Kentucky fraternity and his job loss today opens up the coaching search in Stillwater.
All in all, a very difficult and strange day indeed around the Kentucky family. I dont think I can remember a day where so much happened having an effect on the program (we didnt even get into the Crean hiring at Indiana) took place over the course of one day in the off-season. It is a tough day to be a Wildcat fan, but one that showcases just how close-knit this Big Blue Nation can be.