One of the sadder news stories of the past few weeks, and one that was vastly underreported in my view, was the passing of former Tennessee basketball coach Ray Mears. Mears’ health had been declining for some time, as he passed away after a long bout with a number of illnesses. At this time that we are seeing Tennessee basketball rise to potential national prominence, it is important to remember that Bruce Pearl did not invent the roundball in Knoxville on the men’s side, Ray Mears did. Mears coached the Tennessee Vols for a number of years and took them to 3 SEC titles and 3 NCAA Tournament berths, during a period of time when only one team from each conference made the Big Dance. He was the creator of the high point of UT basketball, the famous “Bernie and Ernie Show” with Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld and was the originator of the bright orange sports coat that Bruce Pearl has put his own sweaty imprint on recently. Mears was an advocate of the slower-paced basketball, often infuriating his rival, Adolph Rupp, and becoming a loveable villain in the Bluegrass state. Mears is without a doubt, one of the best non-UK coaches in the history of the SEC and his legacy of creating Tennessee basketball is one that should be remembered. We here at Kentucky Sports Radio pray for the Mears family and salute one of the true underappreciated legends of college basketball.
To the news…..
(1) It has been a somewhat low-key few days from the Kentucky standpoint since the end of the elite camp. The biggest story coming out of today is that uber-point guard Courtney Fortson has received an offer from UK since his performance at the Elite Camp last weekend. Fortson was, by all accounts, the star of the camp and his performance left a great appreciation not only on those watching and working the camps, but obviously on the staff as well. Fortson is a quick guard with a good handle and a nice outside shot….the perfect creation for the Billy Clyde system. He showed his ability to score on both Jodie Meeks and Rajon Rondo last weekend and his offense and ability to lead a team is without question. What is up in the air a bit is his defense and size, but that will be tested more as the summer sessions continue. What this offer does show is that UK is wanting a point guard in 08 and is not willing to sit tight with the Vilarino commitment for 09.
(2) The question of UK big men recruits, continues to come up with the mildly surprising news of the Samardo Samuels commitment to Louisville. This is a strong get for the Cardinals and helps alleviate some of the handwringing over the loss last week of Jeff Withey. Samuels had been rumored occasionally to be involved with Kentucky, but in the end the Cats were not a real player for his services, and the Cards pulled him away from UNC (who has now lost two big man recruits in recent weeks). UK’s focus seems to be on the Olek Czyz/Tyler Zeller/Chris Singleton/Romero Osby combo, with the goal likely to be to pull two from that group (or maybe another outside of that group which could be made known soon) to shore up the front court. The next few weeks will be interesting as two of those guys, Czyz and Singleton could be candidates for early commitments to schools…..if Czyz commits early, UK looks good….if Singleton does, UT looks good. It should be interesting to watch….
(3) I admit to being midly perturbed, but not angry or surprised, about the decision of Andy Katz to back out of the appearance on the show. One of the amazing things about doing this show, even going all the way back to the podcasts, is how willing people are to come on and be interviewed. I thought it would be impossible to get guests, but people are generally very giving with their time and guys like Jay Bilas have been willing to talk to us when we may have only had 50 listeners nearly two years ago. Over the entire course of that time, only two people have said no or cancelled on us…..Seth Davis and Andy Katz. And I admit, this fact annoys me. When I think of the two people who should be the MOST grateful to have made it and “hit the lottery” on their jobs, those two guys come to mind…..and it seems to me that when this has happened, you should be the least cocky. In Katz’s case, he knew that he was coming to defend himself on the show and contrary to what some may have believed, he was going to be treated with respect…..think Tim Russert, not Bill O Reilly. I was excited about this, as I wanted some of the same answers from him as many fans did…..however once again I was let down. Fool me four times, shame on you….but the fifth is probably my fault…..never again I say!!!! Heck Bomani and Gregg Doyel put him to shame anyway
(4) I hate to see Preston Knowles getting in trouble. I root for kids from Kentucky and he has had numerous problems in the past. This isnt the end of the world and may be a relatively minor violation….but this is a kid who needs to show he has the right attitude for major college basketball. I hope he will do that soon.
(5) The farther I get from the last episode of the Sopranos, the more I like it. I have watched the final scene eight times and I like it more every time (minus the Journey music, which I hate). I like that we are put in the point of view of Tony and watch him become nervous about every ding from the opening of the door as his potential killer could be around. I like that we wrapped up all stories but Tony’s, thus making sure that we have some closure but also dont have the early episodes tainted by knowing the final ending. I like that it ended by “fading to black”, just like Tony predicted it would to Bobby early in the season. And I like Paulie being freaked out by a cat. I loved it and I think as we get farther away from it, others will like it more as well.
Big rest of the week coming……Tomlin and Dufresne in studio tomorrow……Rich Brooks will hopefully be joining us by the end of the week…..and more big guests to come…..plus any news as it breaks….stay tuned…..it is almost “Need to Know Wednesday”