I don’t know if we’ve ever started this post off with a dedication to someone we hate. I know some of you don’t like Barack Obama or think Weezer sucks or whatever it may be, but has this ever led off with someone universally despised by Kentucky fans? I honestly don’t think so. This might be a first. Whether that means we’re heading in the right direction or whether this is a sign of the continued downfall of the website, I’m not sure. I’m sure a select handful of you will share your exaggerated opinions below. Either way, this is history. And I’m happy to share it with you. Today is June 28, 2011, which means Robert Matthew Hurley is now 40 years old. This isn’t so much a celebration of that fact as it is a recognition of how old we are all getting ourselves. I shouldn’t be surprised that Bobby Hurley is that old, but it kind of threw me back at first. I’ve grown comfortable with the fact that Michael Jordan is damn near 50 and essentially every player whose stats I spent memorizing every morning in the sports section left their sport shrinking in the rearview mirror long ago, but Hurley kind of surprised me. It might be because a horrific car accident ended his career before opposing NBA point guards could, leaving him forever etched into our brains as a 22-year old. Or I might just be an idiot. I don’t know. What I do know is that Bobby Hurley and his ITZ shoes are bringing in the big 4-0 today and that means one thing. We’re only a year away from the must-happen 20th anniversary rematch of the Duke-UK 1992 Regional Final. I’m putting an offer on the table right now. KSR will sponsor it* and KSTV will broadcast it*. You can even consider it your birthday gift, Bobby Hurley. It’s a nicely wrapped and bowed box full of revenge and we’ve been waiting to deliver it for a long, long time. I await your response to my offer. Don’t be scared.
Now onto a few UK notes…
– Obviously, the big news of the day was the contract extension given to John Calipari, which essentially married him to the position even more. The financial parameters aren’t a lot different than what was originally included, though it does offer some additional earning potential, but the new deal does appear to increase the likelihood that Calipari will remain as UK’s coach for a very long time and, at the very least, removes the possibility that Mitch Barnhart will bear the blame if he does decide to leave. The contract includes a $1 million buyout and has Cal signed on to a contract that’s lofty by NBA standards, making the Big Blue Nation quite optimistic that he’ll remain for a long, long time. Calipari played into those hopes Monday by saying he expects to retire as the coach of Kentucky and extending his “I don’t want to coach in my sixties” to “I don’t want to coach in my seventies”. However, as great as that all is, the allure of the NBA for Calipari was never one of dollar signs. It’s about wanting to prove something to himself and the world. So does the new contract completely eliminate the possibilities that he’ll leave? No. But giving him the extension is the closest thing the school can do to make that a reality and you have to give them credit for doing so. Besides, if he leaves, it won’t be until he wins a championship or takes a couple of really, really good cracks at it. The first of those will come next year.
– Whenever there’s money dished out to the athletics program, you can assume there’s going to be at least a small amount of backlash. When the coach with the $31 million contract gets an extension and a slight raise, it’s almost a guarantee. The weird thing is, though, that didn’t seem to happen. In fact, I saw and heard no reaction from anyone questioning if this was a sound financial move and that’s probably fair. I think it’s fair to say that coaching basketball at Kentucky isn’t a $5 million/year job, meaning that simply holding the position shouldn’t entitle you to such a large sum of money. However, John Calipari is a $5 million/year coach at Kentucky. I’d love to see the financial breakdown of how certain streams of revenue have increased since he’s been in place as coach, but the work he’s done has transcended his position enough to make that amount of money completely justified. Cal talked about the heavy increase to the school’s licensing deal and the record number of freshman applicants. What he didn’t mention is all the charity and community involvement and the media commitments that make him a valuable tool for not just the program, but the school and the state. When you consider his actual salary is only a fraction of the total money, it seems like a bargain.
– Another question that arose from Cal’s new deal was whether or not the expectations have been raised now that Kentucky has made an additional investment in him. I don’t think so. The expectations remain lofty and, if anything, the new contract appears to be a reward for two seasons of exceeding expectations. Prior to his first season, we all knew that the talent was there, but no one truly expected to go 35-3. And while there was disappointment with how the season ended against West Virginia, the journey that Kentucky took that season was beyond what we all expected. It was the same last year, though Calipari seemed to exceed expectations even more. With three games left in the regular season, the Cats were not even slotted to get a bye in the SEC Tournament. You know the rest. Increase expectations? How do you do that at Kentucky? Sounds like it’s just a reward for a job well done.
– As you might expect, excitement was high around the team after word broke that Calipari got an extension. So how did they celebrate? Well, graduate assistant Brandon Weems went plankin. Or he was pretending to be Terrence Jennings after getting tasered. It was one of those two things.
– Drew Franklin has a little saying around the KSR compound that goes a little something like this. Who the F is (Insert Name)? Today, we ask that about Pete Lieber, a contributing writer at Yahoo!, who wrote this little piece that included a note that you shouldn’t be surprised when Cal gets in a Tressel-like situation at UK. So what is the answer to the question asked above? Pete Lieber is a guy who is going to have an awful Tuesday.
– In a bit of a formality, Enes Kanter was introduced as a member of the Jazz Monday. Utah seems pretty pumped about the Turkish phenom and think he was the best player in the draft, an opinion shared by a fairly prominent post player. Charles Barkley said on Fox Sports radio that he would have taken Kanter with the #1 overall pick if he were the Cavs. I don’t really know what else to add to that, but I’m trying to fill space so we’re not so heavy on the Calipari contract stuff. I think it might be working, but I’m not sure. If I write one more sentence here, maybe no one will notice that there’s no substance.
– Finally, if you’re all fired up to go out and get your official Enes Utah Jazz or Brandon Knight Detroit Pistons jersey, there is some bad news. Teams cannot sell rookie jerseys until they sign, which of course can’t happen until there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place. However, there is a silver lining. You can still get your custom jerseys made, meaning a Knicks #55 reading “JORTS” on the back is very much a possibility. Make me proud.
That’s it for now. Matt will be by to get the fun going in the morning on Kentucky Sports Radio at 10am on Talk Radio 1080. In the meantime, enjoy today’s Around the Horn segment where the panel of three guys and Bomani Jones had to Buy or Sell Coach Cal’s new contract. Bob Ryan said something about UK pushing the envelope and said Cal would win three titles during the his eight-year extension. Others thought he was a crazy old man. You make your own decision.
See you in a few…
*I have no right to approve either one of these things