We are one day before the beginning of the NCAA Tournament and I am psyched. Contrary to what some dopes at ESPN might tell you (how did Mark Schlabach get a job?), this has been a very good to great college basketball season with the influx of one of the best college performers in the last 20 years, Kevin Durant. But lest we get to excited and forget what is really important, today is the great Taylor Hanson’s birthday. Now for those of you that dont know, Taylor was a member of that classic musical trio Hanson (pictured above, although I dont know which one is Taylor), which produced the musical gem, “MMM Bop.” For me “MMM Bop” was a life-changing song. I mean look at these lyrics:
Oh, so hold on to the ones who really care,
In the end they’ll be the only ones there.
When you get old and start losing your hair,
Can you tell me who will still care?
Thats poetry ladies and gentlemen…..tell me, who will still care? Ok its crap, I know that. But when I hear that chorus, I admit that I do sing along. Which made me wonder….what are the worst songs that you secretly like? Are you like Chris Mosley and begin to bob your head when Natasha Beddingfield tells us that the rest is still “Unwritten?” Which are your embarrassing hits? I need to know these things…..
To the news….
(1) So there has been much speculation as to what the now infamous statements made by Mitch Barnhart about Tubby Smith are supposed to mean. On ESPN tonight the statement was made that it was a supportive interview designed to give Tubby the backup he needs for recruiting. ON Around the Horn, it was called a “vote of confidence” that could leave the door for a later firing. I think both of these are slightly off. This statement was made for recruiting purposes and to let folks know (specifically Lucas and Patterson) that if they come here, Tubby will be here. This viewpoint is even more likely when you hear the “news” reported by John Clay of the Herald Leader that the Duke coaching staff called Patrick Patterson and read him Barnhart’s original statement word for word so as to convey the view that Tubby was gone. Now I cant speak to Clay’s sources on this one (although I admit that as far as recruiting gossip goes, this is a big stretch….and while it may be true, I am surprised to see a newspaper writer convey it….maybe Eric Crawford is wrong that standards are different for the print media) but if true, it showcases just what a screwup the Barnhart original statement was. Jai Lucas told me specifically that he was made to wander by that statement and it ignited the national firestorm that engulfed the program for the week. Whatever Barnhart’s ultimate goal, it does seem that maybe the best path is to do what Gregg Doyel said today on our show, “Mitch, Stop talking!”
(2) I cant go to long without linking an article that I think everyone has seen already, the piece by Dan Wetzel on Tubby Smith and Kentucky. First of all, I must admit my bias that I think as a pure writer, Dan Wetzel is the best in the business at covering college basketball. I like his style, his intelligence and his viewpoints, and he seems to “get” Kentucky basketball as much as any national media member. Today’s article was certainly a critique. Here is the closing:
With Smith, you always come back to wondering if Kentucky just might not be the perfect place. Ten seasons in this pressure cooker is a long and successful run for anyone.
The intense focus on the program — both from the nation’s largest day-in, day-out media contingent to a rabid fan base stretching from Paintsville to Paducah — calls for an extrovert as head coach. Smith is not that person. The expectations require near perfect decisions in all parts of the program.
Smith seems to just want to coach. So maybe this decent, respected man would be best served at a place where just being the coach is enough.
“Growing up on the farm, (my dad) would say, ‘Boy, do your job and your job only,’” Smith told me a couple years ago. “Everybody in the family had a job to do. Feed the hogs, feed the chickens, pull weeds from the garden, cutting firewood, hauling wood.
“If you do someone else’s job, then you probably don’t have your job done. Now you’ve got your brothers and sisters mad at you for not having your job done.”
His job is to coach. It is why he was hired a decade ago. He does it as well as anyone in America.
Unfortunately, at Kentucky, there is more to the job than that. At some point, everyone in Lexington is going to have to sit down and admit that
Some of Dan’s article I think is spot-on and some parts I disagree with, but it is a great and thoughtful argument. It states a position that I dont yet hold, but may come around to some day…..that Tubby is a great coach, but just not the right fit today for Kentucky. Dan states that position as eloquently as anyone, and it is to be commended. And oh yeah, he will be on our show tomorrow (shameless plug) as will the EKU basketball coach.
Oh yeah, the Sports Guy (who I used to really like and admittedly made me think about the whole blog thing but now has jumped the shark worse than the “Simpsons”) said this about Tubby: Tubby Smith makes Rick Barnes look like a cross between Mike D’Antoni and Mel Gibson in “Braveheart.” Ouch.
(3) Along the lines of national commentators, I thought I would share this comment by noted recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons. It was in a chat and was in response to a question on UK recruiting:
Bob: Nate, Kentucky does have several top-50 players on its roster, including Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley, Jodie Meeks and Perry Stevenson. It is true that it has not yet signed a top-50 prospect in this year’s recruiting class, but it is still in the running for No. 9 overall PF Patrick Patterson (Huntington, W. Va.) and No. 20 overall PG Jai Lucas (Bellaire, Texas), both McDonald’s All-Americans.
The growing number of negative internet posts and the vocal critics of Tubby Smith are really detrimental to recruiting and hurt Kentucky’s chances of getting top prospects. Why would a talented player still considering several colleges choose the Wildcats if he does not know whom his coach will be? Kentucky fans are perhaps the nation’s most ardent, but they also have the greatest expectations. This exerts tremendous pressures upon the Kentucky coaching staff and makes their job extremely difficult. It has been written that basketball is a way of life in the Bluegrass State, and I believe that to be true. And, it is also true that “life is not good” if the Wildcats are not dominating the SEC, beating Louisville and competing for an NCAA championship.
The two early signees for Kentucky, I think, will be contributors next year. 6-8 forward A.J. Stewart is an explosive athlete, and will be a capable replacement for senior Bobby Perry. Stewart has the ability to play either forward position, and is quicker, jumps higher and will be much harder to defend than Perry. Stewart is No. 87 overall.
Massive 6-11 center Mike Williams is still in the developmental stage. This native of England has lost weight (and still needs to lose more) and has really improved his game this season. Williams missed most of the summer with an injury and was not seen by most evaluators. I think he has the size, work ethic, and determination to become an effective post player. He is rated No. 96 overall.
Kentucky already has a verbal commitment from a junior rated in the top 50, 6-7 forward Draymond Green (Saginaw, Mich.). Green averaged over 25 PPG this season and is an athletically-gifted wing forward. He can score from the perimeter and slash to the hoop. This is an excellent early recruit for UK.
From my observations, the Wildcats greatest need — and biggest problem this season — is the lack of consistent play at the point guard position. They really need a true floorleader and playmaker. Jai Lucas would be perfect. My best advice is for all true Kentucky fans to be supportive of your coach and his staff and change the comments from negative to positive.
Bob is probably the recruiting analyst who has seen Mike Williams play the most, so I tend to trust his views on this one more than others. Will be interesting to see how it plays out, but I respect Bob’s opinion as much as anyone else who does this.
(4) I get a lot of emails about Preston Knowles from Clark County and whether he should play for Kentucky. Let me just say that I am a huge Knowles fan and look forward to seeing him in the state tournament. But he is not the type of player that Kentucky needs at this point. Believe me that is no slight on Knowles….he has had a great senior year and is taking Clark County to the State Championship for the first time in 33 years. But there are some grades and discipline issues here and at this point, Kentucky should look in other directions. But Knowles is worth watching, wherever he ends up.
(5) Did you see the end of regulation in the UMass and Alabama game? Looks like Travis Ford did not learn the foul with a three point lead lesson from the UK game did he?
Check in throughout the day…..and sign in before the end of the day for the Kentucky Sports Radio Tournament Challenge. The group name is Kentucky Sports Radio and the password is Tomlin. Play on….