When I saw that the boys were all doing top ten lists from the past decade, I figured I should join them in saluting the past 10 years of Kentucky sports. My first idea was to do a “10 hottest men’s basketball players of the last ten years” list, but then I remembered that I would actually like to keep a favorable approval rating on this site. My second idea was to do a “10 best BTI dunks” slideshow, but I realized that most weren’t funny, just pathetic.
So instead, I’d like to honor the women that have supported our men in blue. This decade has seen quite a few females crash the boys’ party and make indelible impacts on the UK basketball scene. My favorite 10 women of Kentucky Sports (2000-2009):
10. “The clueless basketball wife”-Mrs. Fake Gimel: I love this story for a couple reasons. First of all, Patrick is freakin awesome. But more importantly, I love the classic example of a basketball wife who just doesn’t realize she’s in the presence of greatness. She just wanted a ride home.
9. “The quiet assassins”-The UK Women’s basketball team: I have never claimed to be a fan of women’s basketball and I’ve probably only watched a handful of games over the years. I hear Matthew is doing an awesome job lately with our girls in blue, and considering the immense shadow the team lives in, I give them infinite props. Tonight they are going for a school record 11 wins in a row against Tennessee Martin (no relation), and are coming off a big win over the dirty lady birds. Really, I’d like to thank them for not being so good that they overshadow the boys. Wouldn’t it stink to be a UT fan?
8. “The mistress”-Karen Sypher: From the moment the first pictures arrived of this citrus-clad Derby filly, she stole the hearts and minds of the UK faithful. Well, not exactly. But I don’t know many UK fans who didn’t feel a tad bit of glee at the thought of the godfather up I64 getting caught with his pants around his ankles and his pride lost in a bowl full of Puccini’s pasta. I tend not to pass judgment on either party, because my glass house isn’t without its own cracks, but suffice it to say Ms. Sypher gave us at least a few good laughs and, more than likely, a few really clever signs on January 2nd that will never get on TV. What more can you ask for?
7. “The cheerleaders”-The UK cheerleaders: (disclaimer: I’m aware they aren’t all girls, but when the ratio of female to male is so great, I think we can go ahead and place them in that category for our purposes. Same rule can be applied to BTI). As much as it hurts us to admit it, our cheerleading squad has been the single most dominant force in the athletic department this decade. They won the Universal Cheerleaders Association National College Cheerleading Championship (ok wow) all but two years of the decade, losing both times to Central Florida. Subsequently, the UCF cheerleading squad was featured in a WE network reality show, so really we won by losing. Thanks for leading our cheers girls! (and boys!).
6. “The celebrity”-Ashley Judd: Ashley’s been busy this decade avoiding Matt and making movies like “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Tooth Fairy”, but even with her poor attendance and even poorer movie selections, she’s still one of the most visible figures of the program. I tend to be a bit skeptical of celebs claiming to be die-hard fans, especially fans of high-profile programs, but Ashley has been there from the beginning. From the infamous hockey poster to showing up at Rupp with a broken leg, cast and all, I think I can speak for us all in appreciating the passion Ashley apparently has for the Cats. And also for wolves.
5. “The terminator”-Jeanine Edwards: Honestly, I didn’t know who Jeanine was 2 years ago. All the female ‘journalists’ relegated to side-line reporting just seem to blur together for me. Slap a low-cut blouse on a decent looking, old-but-but-not-too-old woman, hand her a microphone and call it a day. But Jeanine entered the hollows of UK history with a simple question about Jodie Meeks’ first half stats. Like many fans, that moment was the beginning of the end of my support of Billy Clyde, and though she was vilified at the time I think we owe her a little debt of gratitude for unwittingly showing the Mr. Hyde side of Clyde (like what I did there?).
4. “The facebook warrior”-Megan and Erin Calipari: I’m not sure the BBN was quite prepared for Megan and Erin. Their good looks brought her on to most Cat fan’s radars but their stoic defense of their dad brought her into our hearts. Anyone who takes to facebook to diss Pat Forde has a free pass to lie, murder, and steal in my book. Add that to the fact that she apparently breaks news stories and takes creepy facebook stalking in stride, I’d say that she’s the perfect face of the next decade of UK basketball.
3. “The Lady” -Donna Smith: Say what you want about Tubby and his decade at Kentucky, but I think we can all agree that Donna was a class act all the way. Besides being the go-to TV camera shot during time-outs, Donna spent her time at UK supporting her husband and her sons, as well as the university. As hard as it must have been for her to bear the criticism of her husband and sons, I appreciate the way she embraced UK basketball and its players. And I still think her handling of the “my two sons play for two different teams who are now playing each other” situation is the sign of a classically cool lady.
2. “The enforcer”-Sandy Bell: Sandy will probably never get much recognition, unless of course she messes up her job, but that doesn’t stop her from keeping all UK athletics on the up and up. She seems very mysterious to me, actually. I wonder what she does to unwind when she gets home. Listen to Kenny G? A little light reading of the NCAA compliance code? Who knows? Personally I think with the Calipari hire, Sandy’s job took on a whole new level of importance. Every eye in the college basketball world will be scrutinizing and investigating, looking for even the smallest hint of impropriety. And the pressure will be on her to find and crush them before everyone else does. During the last decade, we’ve seen coaches and players come and go, but Sandy has been a source of consistency. To me, hers is the most important job in the athletic department.
1. “The mama”-Tywanna Patterson: I’ll admit, I totally have a girl crush on Mrs. Patterson, and though everything that can probably be said about the woman already has, I’ll give it a try. Though not the first player’s mama to capture the hearts of the UK faithful (and I’m not talking about the Stephen Curry mom kind of way), Mrs. Patterson is the standard bearer. Though I haven’t experienced motherhood myself, I’d say that raising smart, kind, loyal children in this day and age is as much of a struggle as it has ever been. But raising smart, kind, loyal future-multimillionaire basketball players who live in the spotlight is an infinitely harder struggle, one that Mrs. Patterson has done a superb job at.
And let’s be honest, the woman has spunk. From Tipton-gate to Gillispie to responding to a mystery scout’s judgment of her son, Tywanna (along with Buster) have been all grace and loyalty to their son and to this program. Whatever the draft gods may have in store for Patrick next year, I have a feeling we won’t have seen the last of the Pattersons in Lexington. She may never have her jersey in the rafters, but she and every other mother who have raised awesome young men and then allowed the BBN to adopt them, deserve all the praise they get.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Maybe then it’s true that behind every great men’s program is a group of women supporting, enforcing, and generally making the last 10 years great ones to be a Cat.