About once every month or so, I try to write about the best book I have completed in the last few weeks as a way of spreading the word to the Big Blue Nation. Now as a rule, I try to avoide sports biographies like the plague. Most athletes are sufficiently uninteresting in real life and when they write (or more specifically, have others write) their life history, they take an already dry personality and make it truly mind-numbing. Thus when Andre Agassi’s autobiography came out last year, I generally ignored it and thought that it existed primarily as a means to admit to drug use while playing and cause some media commotion to push copies. Boy was I wrong. Agassi’s autobiography is BY FAR the best sports biography I have ever read, and one of the best autobiographies period. Unlike any athlete I can remember, Agassi is unbelieveably introspective, examining himself in detail, while recalling a life of amazing highs and lows. Whereas most athletes self-examination ends with an assumption of their own athletic brilliance, Agassi dissects himself and showcases how the personality traits that made him a great player, also made him a miserable person, both inwardly and to others. He recalls a childhood with a father who drove him to greatness, but also stole his youth and notes the dichotomy caused by his father’s passion…it caused him years of heartache, but gave him the priviliged life he now leads. The New York Times last year said that “Open” was one of the Best Books of 2009. I am glad it did, because otherwise I would have missed a book that was as surprisingly good as any I have read in quite some time.
Some random notes for a Wednesday:
— The shakeup in the UK football coaching lineup was the big news of the day and illustrated a broader theme that we will continue to see play out. Joker Phillips wants to have a staff that has his imprint and contains guys that he is comfortable working with on a daily basis. All of the changes he has made during his time in Lexington have been replacing coaches brought in by Rich Brooks with coaches that he has some connection to and many who he has previously worked with. With Greg Nord on staff as a former Running Backs Coach, it isnt surprising to see Coach Brinson let go (I would expect Nord to replace him) and Coach Thurmond was a Coach who many thought would be replaced last season. These moves are about giving Joker a staff he feels comfortable with and replacing the last of Rich Brooks’ assistants that he felt needed to be removed.
— The biggest story of course is about the decision to move Steve Brown to “Co-Defensive Coordinator.” The move has to be seen as the beginning of the end of the Steve Brown era at Kentucky and my guess is that he will now look for a job elsewhere. I have been told by a source that Brown is actively looking for a gig in the NFL and I would bet he wont be on the staff come next fall. Joker likes Steve Brown and I dont think he had any desire to let him go after their time working together. But moving him to Co-Defensive Coordinator is a demotion (like with Michael Scott when they moved Jim to Co-Manager on the “The Office”), and I suspect he will end up leaving the program.
— Now for the talk of replacements. Chip Cosby reported today that the top two on the wish list for Defensive Coordinator are Randy Shannon and Rick Minter. Shannon is of course the former Head Coach at Miami and would have to be seen as a long shot for the job. However if Joker could get him, it would add a HUGE infusion of energy into the program and the salary it would take to bring him here would signal to the rest of the college football world that Kentucky was here to compete and to make “Operation Win” a reality. I dont expect it to happen, but if it does, Joker gains back whatever lost goodwill that occurred from the disappointing end to the season and the Football fans have excitement going forward.
— We are also told that Steve Pardue, the former Head Coach at Lagrange High School will likely join the staff in some Assistants role within the next few weeks. If true, it would be an understandable hire, as Pardue has given UK an unbelievable amount of players from his school over the last few years. He would only help with recruiting and fits the mold of what Joker wants from his coaches. We shall see if it becomes reality.
— On the basketball side of things, the Cats play Notre Dame at 9:30 pm here in Louisville for the first game in which the Freedom Hall floor will be Blue. The worry for many on the UK front is that Notre Dame has a lot of size, but it isnt the long and athletic size that gave UK fits in the UCONN and UNC games. I expect UK to give up some offensive rebounds and struggle a bit defensively, but they will be able to score on this bunch and UK should win by 9-11.
— Notre Dame also brings the great Tyrone Nash to the floor, who famously picked prep school over playing at UK in the Tubby era. I love Tubby, but when Nash made that choice, it may have been the low point for recruiting of the Cats in quite some time. Every time I see him, I think (a) why was Tubby so enamored with him to begin with and (b) how could we lose him to a prep school? Bad memories.
— Tonight was a great night for one reason…the Jimmy V speech on ESPN. I watch it every year and I get misty-eyed every year. A great moment and especially appropriate with the sad passing of Elizabeth Edwards earlier today.
— Make sure and watch the Mike Decourcy interview from KSTV below that we taped earlier today. He has a lot of insight on the Kanter situation and answers the questions I have most commonly been asked about his chances for becoming an eligible Cat.
— Finally, John Calipari said today about this Kentucky team, “we are not what we are going to be”. He believes this team will be getting much better and the product on the floor now is not indicative of what it will be. Remember that if the Notre Dame game starts slowly. This team is a work in progress, like last year’s group. But unlike last year’s group, there isnt a John Wall to bail the team out when trouble hits. Just give it some time and this team will be fine….and if they beat Notre Dame and Louisville while we wait, all the better.
More all day today as we get ready for Notre Dame….LIVE BLOG begins at 9 pm, live from Freedom Hall.