Hello, my friends. I’m back after seven days of non-KSR action conveniently deemed as vacation by the powers that be and somewhat recharged and ready to go. While I’m sure you’re all dying to hear about my son’s elementary school graduation, the family trip to the aquarium or how a bumbling Southwest Airlines employee sent my luggage to Texas and left me in one of the most important meetings of my life in shorts and a t-shirt, there’s another character from the Beisner vacation that deserves saluting. That man is Sam McMurray. McMurray is one of the classic “I know that guy, but I’m not sure from where” Hollywood figures and, thanks to an encounter with the KSR/KSTV crew last week, is now in our Hall of Fame. McMurray plays the part of a coach in the Josh Hopkins flick “Tan Lines” and taught us all a lesson in staying on the balls of our feet and keeping our heads on a swivel when he walked into the room we were filming in and immediately dropped his shorts down to his jock strap as if he were in the privacy of his own home. Drew got caught staring, but the rest of us handled it like pros. From there, he went on to share his thoughts on Chevy Chase (he’s a “giant douche”, but his brother Ned is cool), some stories about Rodney Dangerfield doing cocaine, his take on how German banks are ruining the film industry and why it’s important to target girls with low self-esteem. He’s filming his last scenes in Kentucky today and will probably head off to Hollywood with no recollection or care about the two hours he spent with four sweaty guys from Kentucky, but to us, he’s already family. Sam McMurray, you can drop your pants around us anytime. Or maybe just Drew. Either way, this Monday is for you.
Now let’s play catch-up on a few UK notes from the past week…
– After some back and forth and an old fashioned source battle, it appears that we now have definitive word that Tony Woods will not end up at Kentucky, this according to our beloved Matt Jones. Woods’ story is known and even more debated at this point and, in terms of basketball, not adding him to Kentucky’s roster doesn’t have a lot of impact. Kentucky is loaded and there’s strong belief from the staff that the role Woods would have filled – five or ten minutes of physical rebounding and battling inside – can be handled by an improved Eloy Vargas. Of course, with Woods, the debate was not one that primarily dealt with basketball ability and by moving on from him, Kentucky eliminates the possibility of an added distraction for a young and largely inexperienced squad. My concern with Woods, which I briefly spoke about on the radio two weeks ago, was not that he would bring negative stories about Kentucky. It’s that if this team is going to advance as far as we all hope, everything will magnify and you have to wonder how the attention on Woods would impact the other guys in the locker room. If Kentucky made it to the Final Four, every outlet in the country would be issuing stories about his domestic violence situation and if you’re one of the young freshmen, already under pressure and handling your business the right way, does your focus or locker room dynamic change when there’s negative attention being cast on a guy whose role is not all that important? Is there resentment that the biggest moment in your young life is not being celebrated about you and your teammates’ accomplishments? It might and it might not. But the possibility that something that happened in the past could affect what could be the most promising future of any team of the last 15 years doesn’t seem like a chance worth taking. Ultimately, we’ll not get that answer. And I think Kentucky is better off because of it.
– Friday evening, Mitch Barnhart issued a statement that encompassed a number of subjects, but essentially served as the athletic director publicly unifying himself with his basketball coach. That might not normally seem like such a huge thing, but the unique situation of a new president, a new contract and some rumored frustrations between himself and John Calipari, I think the public marrying of himself with Cal is significant. Beyond saying he is not interested in the Tennessee job, the talk about getting Calipari a contract extension is huge, as it’s essentially been the issue creating the coolness, no matter how small, between the two. Barnhart said over a year ago in an ESPN article that he wanted to get Cal an extension and really hadn’t made any movement on it since. There’s been the feeling that if Calipari bolted for the NBA, the only way his departure could have been spun in a negative light on the Cats was if there was no extension in place after that public statement. Now, if the deal gets done, if Cal chooses to take off, it’s essentially not on Barnhart in any way. He got him Chris Woolard. He’s getting him an extension. Basically, he’s handling his business in the best way possible. I think stating it publicly was a very significant and telling move.
– Over the weekend, The Good Doctor published a little story in the Herald-Leader about the NCAA’s request that UK issue a statement saying they were wrong about announcing John Calipari’s 500th win last season. Because of vacated games, Calipari currently has 467 wins, according to the NCAA. If you’re thinking it’s pretty trivial and ridiculous to waste time asking for statements to be sent out correcting a small note four months ago, you’re right. It is. But, there might be more to it. According to Oscar Combs, the request from the NCAA conveniently comes during the Tennessee hearing on their infractions and is an effort to show Bruce Pearl that they are not favorable toward Cal. Because if the organization that wiped out two of his Final Four trips and refused to Free Enes is anything, it is pro-Calipari. In the words of Joe Dirt’s mom, “NCAA, is this where you want to be when Jesus comes back? Sitting here, making fun of little old John Calipari?” Glad they found a way to spend their precious little time.
– In another bit of catching up to some stuff I missed, you have to absolutely love Rick Pitino engaging in a little trash talk. When Calipari came to Lexington, the rivalry between the two coaches was supposed to be the great storyline in college basketball and it really hasn’t amounted to much as Cal has taken ownership of Pitino on the court, the recruiting trail and the court of public opinion. When Pitino said his son was in a “second rate” conference, it was only a small swipe, but it was enough to at least think that rotting bag of bones might just have a little fight left in him after all. For the sake of the rivalry, let’s hope so. Beating up on them almost seems unfair unless they’re popping their gums a bit.
– He is entering with slightly less fanfare than the two guys who previously held his position, but you have to love Marquis Teague’s game-winner against the Kentucky All-Star team for no other reason than the type of late-game clutch play that defines Calipari point guards. Doing it on the level that Kentucky wants to play at is slightly different, but it’s another indicator of the high-quality makeup the kid has. I cannot wait for this season to start.
– The NBA Finals concluded Sunday evening in the most beautiful of fashions as Dirk Nowitzki finally got his ring and David Stern had to congratulate Mark Cuban. In the end, the 2011 Finals were as exciting on a game-by-game basis as any series I can remember and sadly, the discussion will likely turn to how Miami did not, rather than what Dallas did. And while there is room to pick at the Heat, doing so only discredits how Dallas won a title in a fashion that even the most anti-NBA person has to love. Rick Carlisle took a team of has-beens and cast-offs, whose window appeared to close in 2006, and led them on a march through more talented teams in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Miami in a way basketball purists have to love. Dallas played good defense, but not at the expense of a solid pace and a highly efficient offense, and thrived as one of those “sum of the parts” teams. With a chance to finally bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to Dallas, the Mavericks got an awful night from Dirk Nowitzki. And they shrugged it off and closed out the Heat with guys who have no business closing out the NBA Finals. So, please, don’t make this a “Miami failed” party. This is a celebration of great, clutch basketball from the Mavs. Now refill my glass. I’m staying up all night.
– If there’s a trademark of the Dallas Mavericks, it’s the way they move the ball on offense and score the ball so efficiently. Just like a Billy Gillispie team. Wait, what? Someone is drinking again…
…Clyde would have told Dirk to stop shooting back in Portland. It’s not the Dallas Nowitzkis.
That’s it for now. Make sure you stick around all day as we get the fun going again. As usual, Matt will start the party at 10am on Kentucky Sports Radio. From there, the champagne will keep flowing. I hope you’ll join us.
See you in a few…