Not skipping over the ladies big win, but we wrote this before it ended. We will have more on that game tomorrow.
One year ago today, I wrote this post. In it, I detailed the reasons behind the firing of Billy Clyde and some of what went on behind the scenes in one of the three lowest years in UK basketball history. I actually remember where I was when I wrote that post, sitting in the exact same spot I am sitting now, at my desk in the KSR Compound. I remember wondering at the time what the future would hold for the program that I loved so dearly. After putting in two years following the Billy Clyde era, I had decided that if he returned, I was probably done with the blog. It had quit being fun and I couldnt imagine another of year of watching where we were at that point. After I completed the piece in which I let go some of what I knew about Gillispie and his time at UK, the future remained uncertain.
Fast forward one year later and it was a different kind of disappointment. I walked into the locker room in Syracuse after the loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight and the players were unbelievably disappointed. Some cried, some quietly talked to the media and some just stared straight ahead in disbelief. It was clear that none of them had expected the season would end quite like it did. I felt sorry for the players, but also felt amazingly bad for the fans, myself included. No group of fans could have collectively wanted, scratch that, NEEDED to make the Final Four more than the Big Blue Nation. We have waited 12 years and were almost certain this was the year. The story was not supposed to end this way and I couldnt help but feel deflated at the opportunity lost.
But then today during my interminably long ride home, it hit me. This last year has been absolutely unbelievable. I dont just mean that it has been fun or exciting, even though it has both. More so than that, it has been a year of events and moments that will be remembered by UK fans forever. In fact, the 365 days since the day Clyde left town have seen (just to name a few):
— Calipari is courted
— Fans watch a door all day to catch a glimpse of their possible new coach
— Calipari is hired and creates utter ecstacy within the state.
— Demarcus Cousins commits to UK
— Eric Bledsoe commits to UK so he can “get sh*t right”
— After a wait that seemed like it would never end, John Wall commits to UK in a press conference watched by the entire state.
— The “Summer of Calipari” takes place that sees travels all over the state, to China, Twitter mania, Coachcal.com, Pikeville to Paducah, pooping ice cream, books bought by the boatloads, a new house on Richmond Road, Lebron visiting, Papa Johns specials and more anticipation and buildup than anything seen until “Hot Tub Time Machine.”
— Campout for Midnight Madness draws players and one of the best interactions between fans and the program that I have ever witnessed.
— Demarcus Cousins asks KSR Nation to give him a nickname and they do. Then he asks them to change it to Boogie, and it stuck.
— Midnight Madness introduces the team and the John Wall Dance.
— Cats beat Morehead without John Wall and we see how good Eric Bledsoe really is.
— Wall hits a game winner in his first game in a UK uniform vs Miami (OH)
— Cats play in a ballroom in Cancun and find themselves in the process, winning a thriller against Stanford when Boogie comes through at the line.
— Rupp gets as loud as I have ever heard it in a first half blitz on UNC that testifies that UK basketball is back.
— UK takes to New York City and beats UCONN, making John Wall a national phenomenon.
— The Cats take out Louisville and re-take over the Commonwealth
— John Wall makes the cover of Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News
— UK raises over a million dollars for Haitian relief with a telethon devised in three days by Calipari. The Cats recieve a congratulatory phone call from the President of the United States.
— UK fills up Rupp Arena for College Gameday in a feat that will never be matched by any school anywhere. They then beat Tennessee in a game to remember.
— Demarcus Cousins makes the “Call Me” slogan heard round the world after receiving pregame phone calls from Mississippi State fans and helps UK win in Starkville.
— The Cats take out Vandy in Nashville, winning the SEC title and erasing demons of the last few years.
— Tennesseee is BLITZED in the SEC Tournament and Nashville rocks with 80,000 UK fans.
— The best image of the year to me, when Demarcus Cousins sends the Mississippi State SEC title game into Overtime and is then tackled by John Wall at the buzzer. The Cats win the tourney and the city explodes.
— Cats roll in first two games and then overcome media stereotypes to beat Cornell in front of a hostile crowd for its first Elite Eight since 2005.
There are countless more. But the list showcases just what special memories this team has created. Literally, everything has changed from last year. On a personal level, this team and these guys have literally also changed my life. The popularity of this site has exploded and with that has come a set of experiences that I would have never imagined. Believe me, everytime we write for CBS, do television in Louisville or get in fights with random Boston Globe writers, I know that it is the guys wearing the UK basketball uniform that really made it happen.
None of that is to say that it isnt extremely disappointing to have lost. This was a special team, but there was a real opportunity to hang banner #8. But dont let that overshadow what an amazing ride this has been. We have really been going nonstop for 365 days, with each day bringing more news, excitement and memories than the day before. Patterson, Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and the group have created a team that like that in 92, 93, 96, 97, 98, 03 and 04, will be remembered forever. While I am disappointed at the ending, the journey is one that you have to embrace. This has been a magical year. And if ever you or anyone you know is forgetting that, read the post from one year ago to yourself again. That is where we were. This is where we are. I would love to be getting ready for Indy next week, but it doesnt take a Final Four for me to know that this has been one amazing year.