For our 5,000th post on this blog since its inception (somewhat of a milestone), we had to bring out one of the great pictures I have ever been sent, of our man the Member and Dusty Mills enjoying a nice goofy pose and a beautiful red hand bag. But while both seem full of joy and in a state of bliss in the picture, things have been tough for Morakinyo and Dusty in recent days. The Member did not make the trip to LSU for the game last Saturday and while not “suspended” (Gillispie says he doesnt suspends players, just leaves them home), he was being punished for a transgression that occurred during the Georgia basketball game in Athens. Jerry Tipton reported yesterday on his “blog” that rumors were circulating that Williams was off the team, an obviously incorrect story reported without a source, and one that has since been altered on the website. That is the great thing about the internet….make a mistake and you can just hide it. But the Member was back with the team last night and all seems to be forgotten.
Not so with Dusty Mills. Dusty was kicked off the team as part of the Georgia incident and if you read Tipton’s interview with Dusty, the entire affair sounds somewhat intriguing. According to Mills, when Ramel Bradley was hit by Dave Bliss in Athens, Williams attempted to leave the bench to go after Bliss. Mills grabbed Williams to try and stop him from running on the court and getting a technical. After the emotions had died down, the two laughed at the thought of little Mills trying to stop the Big Member. That laughter was caught on camera and thus it looked to the world like the two were joking while their teammate was down on the floor. Mills claims that it was a misunderstanding and that Gillispie berated him a number of times without giving him a chance to respond. Mills’ portrayal of the incident makes Gillispie seem like he was very angry and took out the loss at Vanderbilt on Mills for his actions.
So what do we make of all this? Well first lets look at Tipton’s story. While Jerry has taken a lot of heat for writing the story and it being “one-sided”, I dont think you can really blame him for the piece. At the post-game press conference, he gave Gillispie a chance to respond and he simply didnt. The great blog A Sea of Blue correctly noted that Mills’ story could be a tall tale and likely doesnt represent both sides of the story. Thus one has to be careful before casting broad conclusions based on the incident. Apparently John Clay of the Herald Leader wrote the writer at SOB and said that Tipton had done his “legwork” and tried to get all sides of the story and after seeing Tipton’s question last night, I do agree. While I am the first to chastise the Herald Leader writers when they do something worthy of comment (and did so in this column), Tipton did give Gillispie a chance to make a comment. He chose not to and maybe for good reason. But I do not think the story itself was out of line….negative and sensationalistic….maybe, but it is fair game.
However I think everyone should be very careful about jumping to conclusions about the incident. Initially many were hard on the Member, saying he didnt care about others and was not a good teammate, when the actual story seems to suggest that he was about to run on the court and give Dave Bliss a good punch in the face….which only a true teammate would have done. Similarly, many are suggesting, based solely on Tipton’s article, that Gillispie is simply a bully and that he acted in an unprofessional manner towards Dusty during his tirades. However we are simply relying on Mills’ word and the thoughts of a kid who must have had his feelings hurt. There may very well have been other reasons that Mills was kicked off, not the least of which may have been his laughter caught at the end of the Vanderbilt blowout. What Mills said doesnt make Gillispie look good, but it may not be the whole story and should be taken with a grain of salt. Similarly, those who say that Mills has no heart, isnt a good teammate or is a somehow not to be taken seriously also are likely missing the boat. Those on the team, including Ramel Bradley, offered to try and get him put back on the team after the incident. No one that knows Dusty thinks he is a bad kid, just one that may be a bit mischevious. Acting as if we can make broad generalizations about his personality simply based on one second of a camera catching laughter on the bench is a bit of a stretch and should be taken into consideration when evaluating the incident.
What is clear is that this whole thing is a very unfortunate situation. It is likely only in Kentucky, where everything is under the microscope, that this type of incident would be a story….but the fact is that it now is a story. Everyone comes off looking not good here, from Dusty and the Member laughing to Gillispie’s apparent anger. But rather than say that any or all are somehow at fault, it may just be better to say that this is one of those unfortunate things that happens when 15 players and coaches spend their lives next to each other under the Kentucky basketball hot lamp. Mistakes happen and unlike in most of our lives where no one is watching, here everyone is. The Mills-Williams-Gillispie incident is just one of those things and while it seems important today, it is likely to be forgotten tomorrow. If nothing else however, if I am a UK basketball player I have learned this….even when sitting on the end of the bench, the spotlight is on.