I doubt you need another reason to cheer for Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet Sixteen, but I’ve got one: they’ve got a Kentucky boy on staff. On Monday’s radio show, Matt interviewed Michael Fly, an assistant basketball coach at Florida Gulf Coast University and a Kentucky graduate about his school’s meteoric rise to fame over the past few days. Fly, a Fulton City native and friend of Fake Barney, told the guys about growing up as a Kentucky fan and how a conversation with Bill Keightly led him to an assistant coaching job at the school that has become “America’s team.”
Posters of Jamal Mashburn and Antoine Walker decorated Fly’s bedroom walls, and his love for the sport led him to Bill Keightly’s office door a few years into time at UK. Keightly told him he didn’t have room for him to be a manager at UK, but helped him get a job as a volunteer assistant for Happy Osbourne at Georgetown College in 2004, which led to an internship with the Charlotte Bobcats. After Michael Jordan took over the franchise and cleaned house, Fly took an internship with the NCAA and eventually found a job with Leonard Hamilton, Florida State’s coach who worked under Joe B. Hall at Kentucky. After three years at Florida State, Fly followed fellow assistant Andy Enfield to take over the program at Florida Gulf Coast, where he presumably sits on the beach and watches the team practice
their funky chicken basketball. If you haven’t seen this yet, yes, the school’s dorms are literally on a beach:
Photo by @Michael_Fly
Fly said that the Eagles’ notoriously loose and fun style of play is a result of Coach Enfield’s laid-back approach to the game. In fact, during halftime of Sunday night’s win over San Diego State, Fly said that Enfield and the coaches got on their squad for not having enough fun out in the first half: “One of the first things he told them when he took the job was ‘I want you guys to be college students. I want you to enjoy your life. This is the best four years of your life. If you’re not having fun on the basketball court, then I’m not doing my job.‘”
I’d say they’re having fun now. The Michael Fly interview starts at the 22 minute mark in Hour 1. To listen, click here and fast forward.
Now, on to the news of the day.
— How wild is it that UCLA and Minnesota squared off on Friday night, and only three days later, neither team has a head coach? On Monday, the University of Minnesota parted ways with Tubby Smith after six years. Tubby was 124-81 (.610) over six seasons, and helped restore Minnesota’s program after it was hit hard by an academic cheating scandal. Despite having five 20-win seasons, the Gophers never finished higher than sixth in the Big 10, and made the NCAA Tournament three times. After a promising 15-1 start this season with wins over Michigan State, Illinois and Memphis, which vaulted them to #8 in the nation, the team fell flat in Big 10 play, losing seven of ten games and barely making it into the tournament thanks to a win over then-#1 Indiana at home on February 26th.
Jeff Goodman broke the news of Tubby’s firing on Twitter, apparently before even Tubby himself knew. The Minnesota administration made it official Monday afternoon with a statement thanking Tubby for his hard work and dedication, but emphasizing the need for a “fresh set of eyes” for the program. Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe told a Minnesota beat writer that Tubby’s old-school/tough approach may have made a few of the younger players uncomfortable: “It’s a new generation and kids aren’t as tough-nosed as hard as how they used to be and I think that sometimes it was probably hard for some players to deal with.” (Side note, but is anyone else growing more and more concerned about this younger, softer generation?)
Tubby released a statement via the University, thanking them for the opportunity and making it clear that he and his staff did things “the right way,” a common refrain from Tubby’s supporters: “Our staff did things the right way and will leave knowing that the program is in far better shape than when we arrived.” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo echoed those remarks, calling Tubby’s firing a “loss for college basketball”: “It’ll be a loss for this league and a loss for college basketball if he doesn’t stay in it. He’s got integrity beyond belief and let me tell ya, he’s been in some tough situations. I’ll close it up by saying it bothers me, saddens me.”
It’s rough to see a great guy like Tubby be shown the door like this so late in his career, especially when I’m not sure how Minnesota could get a better coach right now. Tubby is a beloved figured in the Bluegrass, and it’s high time we raise a banner for him at Rupp. Make it happen, Cal. When Tubby left Kentucky in 2007, he said that both he and Donna loved the area so much that they would consider retiring here when he was done coaching. Whenever that may be, I hope Tubby knows he is welcome here. Joe B. will save you a spot at Wheeler’s, buddy.
— The football Cats held their fifth spring practice of the season, and Mark Stoops was not happy with his team’s effort, specifically on defense. Stoops called it an “average” practice with no sense of urgency and a lackluster effort. Blame it on a case of the Mondays? Not acceptable, said Stoops.
“They know what’s going on now. Now it gets back to habits. Now it gets back to: This is Day 5, Monday morning, I’m going to go back to my old ways and just get out here and BS around, mill around for a few periods and then we’ll play a little bit. It’s not good enough. It’s not acceptable. You have to play good every snap. Every play is important. Every snap, you’ve gotta have some passion for what you’re doing. If you’re just out here milling around, playing high, (bad) position on the football, all that stuff’s going to get you beat.”
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
— Neal Brown also spoke with the media, and said that so far, Raymond Sanders looks like the running back best suited for the Air Raid system due to his offseason conditioning and skills in the passing game. Josh Clemons is finally back on the field after a frustrating string of injuries, and Brown said that they’re taking it slow with him, sitting him out on Saturday as a precaution. Clemons said that he’s happy to be back and that so far, his knee has felt great: “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time, I’m not going to lie to you.” Stay healthy, big guy.
— Just in case you’re worried that spring practice is stealing attention way from recruiting, have no fear. On Monday, top 2014 QB Drew Barker received 115 handwritten letters from UK. Before you go off and call us desperate, it’s common practice among bigger schools, and obviously an attention-seeking gesture by Stoops and staff. I just want to know what each letter said.
— Before we move on from football, KSR will be broadcasting LIVE from spring practice on Wednesday to give you an inside look at what’s going on with the team and hear from the coaches. No word yet on whether or not Matt will walk around barefoot.
— No, I’m sorry, there are no Andrew Wiggins updates. However, ESPN’s Chad Ford did say that even if the Cats don’t land Wiggins, they will have “the greatest draft class of any school in the history of the NBA draft.” If they do land Wiggins? “It won’t even be close.” Ford said there is a distinct possibility that Kentucky could have NINE pros next year, which is just mind boggling. Is it October yet?
— Huge kudos to John Wall for posting a career-high 47 points in the Wizards’ win over the Grizzlies. I’m not an expert, but I’d say he’s recovering from that knee injury just fine.
— Darius Miller also had a big night for New Orleans, scoring 16 points with fellow Cat Anthony Davis chipping in 14 more in the Hornets’ win over the Nuggets.
— Don’t forget that the UK Hoops plays Dayton in the second round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN2. We’ll get you ready with previews on the site throughout the day.
That’s all for now. See you soon.