Good morning, my fine KSR friends, and welcome to the first Friday News and Views since Matt Jones became an international superstar. As you might expect, it was a wild Thursday afternoon around here between picking all the brown M&M’s out of Matt’s snack bowl and putting a new Emery Cat board under his desk so he could scratch his toe nails on something all day. Somewhere between hanging the nude sketch of himself in his office and rubbing his inner thighs with Ale8one, though, we were treated to the musical stylings of Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj (two of Matt’s favorites), whose single “Knockout” features Weezy on a guitar prominently featuring the word “Kentucky”. According to Wayne’s people, he, like Drake, is a huge UK fan and has actually followed them for years, with his first memorable moment coming in person at the 31-point comeback victory over LSU. Despite having to bail (pun!) on being the celebrity “Y” during Calipari’s inaugural season, Weezy plans to attend “several” UK games this season and hasn’t ruled out an appearance at Big Blue Madness to perform with Minaj, who holds the #1 and #5 rap singles right now. Obviously, this will be absolutely HUGE for recruiting. So, here’s to you, Lil Wayne. You and your guitar.*
*Not one word of this is true. The guitar graphic is actually some sort of “Girls Gone Wild” homage and just says Kentucky on it. That would have been cool, though, right? Anyway, enjoy having this stuck in your head all day.
Now, onto some UK notes….
– Obviously, the big news of the evening was the seemingly sudden dismissal of Steve Ortmayer, the resident senior citizen on the football staff. Not much reason was given for his release, though Joker Phillips did issue an exteremely brief statement, but anyone who has watched UK’s special teams struggle over the past few years can’t be too surprised. With Rich Brooks leaving, Ortmayer lost his biggest ally and, ultimately, didn’t have what Joker was looking for in his new staff and was sent packing like Jimmy Heggins and Rick Petri. Ortmayer’s tenure was a bit of a mixed bag and one that I’d say compares similarly to the one Lones Seiber put together. Overall, there’s a prevailing feeling of disappointment, but you’re pretty surprised when you see some of the records that were set during his tenure. He also becomes the first former NFL GM fired by Joker Phillips.
– With Ortmayer out, the likely candidate turns out to be one that was rumored to be taking his spot months ago. ESPN’s Bruce Feldman reported late Thursday that former UK alum Greg Nord would leave Illinois to take over Joker’s “special forces” unit, keeping with the trend of landing quality assistants who can recruit. Before leaving for the Illini just a few months ago, Nord was on staff at Louisville for 15 years and served as recruiting coordinator in addition to coaching running backs and tight ends. He’ll likely take over coaching the tight ends for the Cats and, given his track record (helped Ibn Green become NCAA all-time catch leader for TEs), should be fairly successful. This is a great pickup for Operation: Win.
– I’m not sure if we’ve linked this up here or not yet, but DeMarcus Cousins is featured in Sports Illustrated this week in an article titled “The Big Question Mark”. In it, SI’s Ian Thomsen profiles the standard “is he a headcase?” questions and searchs for answers, but there were a couple of new, interesting tidbits thrown in the piece. Among them, the notion that Patrick Patterson thinks Cousins could be a top-10 player in the entire league and that Cousins considers himself more of a Pau Gasol-type player than Shaquille O’Neal type. And then, of course, there is the public declaration from Sacramento Kings owner Joe Maloof to Andrew Bynum that the Lakers’ center is “not going to be pushing Cousins around”. Sounds like, according the those interviewed in the story, the question mark isn’t all that big. You can read it here.
– In more of the “5 birds in the hand is worth one in the bush” news, Rivals.com released updated class of 2011 rankings on Thursday. UK commit Michael Gilchrist kept his #1 spot, but Marquis Teague slipped from #2 to #5. I expect his offer to be yanked any minute. Meanwhile, other big name UK recruits made their appearances at #2 (Quincy Miller), #4 (LeBryan Nash), #8 (Anthony Davis) and a lot of other places that you’re crazy to think you’re going to see me list here. However, notables like Tony Wroten (#26) and Michael Chandler (#52) were also on there.
– Never one to rest when a good basketball article can be pumped out, ESPN’s Andy Katz took a look at how UK would replace their lottery picks. Katz avoided taking the easy way out and simply writing “reloading” and writes that Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter, despite having different games than Wall and Cousins, are capable of picking up that load.
– Speaking of lottery picks, Patrick Patterson went on the Jim Rome radio show Thursday and talked about all things UK and Houston Rockets. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but after seeing the video two posts below, Patterson should be applauded for thinking clearly and being able to speak. In related news, Jim Rome is the most insufferable sports host on the planet.
– He might have been the last drafted, but Daniel Orton became the first Cat to sign his NBA deal, inking up with the Magic. By doing so, he becomes the highest-paid general studies freshman in the country.
– Mike DeCourcy spoke with Billy Donovan about his recruiting style and if anything had changed since he won his titles. Donovan said things like blah, blah, blah and whaa, whaa, whaa, before issuing this little quote about trying to discover players with a special quality:
“We couldn’t beat Kentucky for about eight or nine straight times, and that was because of Chuck Hayes. He was the ultimate winner. Jeff Van Gundy called when he was coaching Houston and said, ‘What do you think of him?’ I said, ‘Sign that guy right now.’ “
So, we can thank Chuck Hayes for not only being a shining example of all of the things right with UK basketball during his time in Lexington, but, apparently, also for convincing Billy Donovan to start recruiting like Tubby Smith.
– I hope you marked this day on your calender. It’s the first time in the history of the world that the phrase “KentuckySportsRadio.com” was printed in the Lexington Herald-Leader. My guess is that people were literally fighting each other in the newsroom over the privilege of writing that story. Congratulations, Scott Sloan, you were Thursday’s big winner.
– According to my Twitter feed, there were two major stories on the NBA’s first day of free agency. One was the rush of ridiculously over-inflated contracts and the other was LeBron James showing up to his meetings in a pair of sweatpants. A wise man once told me that the only reason a man should wear sweats is to go get himself a lap dance and, given the current state of NBA free agency, that theory again appears to be proven true.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned throughout this Friday as we help pack up all of Steve Ortmayer’s bobble head dolls and Kool-Aid Jammer packets and make room for Greg Nord. It’s going to be a good time. Make sure you stick around with us. See you in a few….