I’ve been covering UK basketball full time for almost three years now, but somehow, this was my first UK Basketball Media Day. Our critics probably love that little factoid, but in the past, having Drew and Matt on site and me covering Cal’s presser via the live stream has worked pretty well. This year, we pulled out all the stops, with both Drew and I covering all the madness live from the Memorial Coliseum media dungeon. (It didn’t hurt that I was already coming up for the Auburn game.)
I will say, it was an unique experience. Here are my observations after some reflection on the drive back to Danville:
John Calipari won’t take no crap from nobody
With the media vultures circling around Skal Labissiere and his eligibility issues, you can’t blame John Calipari for being a little grumpy this morning. You knew it was going to be an interesting morning when Cal sat down at the mic and looked at the reporters and cameras and deadpanned “How long do I have to do this?”. Just 45 minutes, Cal, promise.
Predictably, the first question was about Skal, and Cal was prepared with a response, telling reporters that everything was fine and Skal was simply going through the process each player does to be cleared. As he pointed out, last year, a few players were cleared only a week before the game. Cal was so frustrated by the topic that he interrupted a reporter’s question to complain:
“How did this become such a huge – this became like a firestorm. I’m telling you, I was like I told – what is this big – this is like – where did this come from?”
When Jerry Tipton asked about Skal’s guardian one more time, Cal put his foot down. “He’s fine, Jerry. I’m not answering it again. You’re done.”
Calipari has no time for your antics, Jerry Tipton. No mas.
The annual Twitter barrage is exhausting
Media Day means quotes, which means reporters tweeting out quotes. There were about 100 people in the room, each with a phone or a computer, so that had Twitter timelines spinning on repeat this morning. I posted all the quotes on a live blog on the site, but even I fell victim to the Tweet, Rinse, Repeat pattern after the good soundbites. Props to Alan M. Young for calling me out on it:
Wonder if Cal likes Tyler Ulis this year? pic.twitter.com/qZfMmzWlAJ
— Alan M Young (@AY68) October 14, 2015
Chicken Parmesan is the tie that binds us
Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and chicken parmesan at UK media events. Also, the only thing media loves more than free food? Bitching about it. As I went up to the Memorial Coliseum concourse to grab lunch, everyone was talking about the food.
“$10 says it’s chicken parm.”
“Wonder if it’ll be chicken parm again?”
“Can’t wait to see what this year’s chicken parm tastes like.”
“More like CHICKEN PARM Media Day, amirite???”
Shocker, it was chicken parm. And if you’re wondering why there was none on my plate, I’m on a diet that allows me to substitute food I don’t like for cookies. ðŸŽ¶Chicken parm you taste no good ðŸŽ¶
Happy to report the Caesar salad and cookie were great, though. Thanks, UK!
Another communal topic: parking
Finding a place to sit and eat lunch in a room full of UK media is kind of like finding a place to sit in a hostile high school cafeteria, which is why God invented topics like weather and traffic. The latter inevitably came up at our table as we all swapped horror stories about the UK parking police. As if on cue, that bitch session was capped off by one of the UK media relations staff announcing to the room that anyone parked in the fire lane or on the curb was about to be towed. Half of the room sprang away from their chicken parms to go move their cars.
On that note, shoutout to the folks at the Qdoba for watching after my ride today. Technically, that small lemonade made me a customer, right?
For about two hours, we all worked in the same room and it was weird
There was a two and a half hour break for lunch between Cal’s remarks and the player interviews and pretty much everybody spent most of the time in the media room working or gossiping. I work from the quiet comforts of my home, so being in a small room full of people typing was a little unnerving. I’m used to it at games and big events like the SEC/NCAA Tournament, but I guess I’m off my game because the distractions were deafening. Weird ringtones, people talking about the Cubs, “Oh my god did you see what that Florida player did?!” Hush!
There were also some AGGRESSIVE typers out there. Looking at you, Alan Cutler. I’m all for powerful typing when you’re in the groove, but man, Cutler was pounding those keys like he was on a rusty Underwood. Rather than put on my earphones like a normal person, I decided to give people the old lady “Shhh!” look instead. It didn’t work.
I felt bad for Skal
Here’s how the player interviews work: the media goes to the practice gym, where each player is stationed at a chair around the perimeter. The media has 45 minutes to interview anyone they like. With roughly 100 media members there (probably more), you would think people would space out and rotate around, right? Wrong. Here was the crowd around Skal’s empty chair before the players came out:
All of that crowding, clustering, and inhaling of bad B.O. to hear Skal say he expects to play the first game. Great. The poor kid must have been asked that a million times today, and he always had the same polite response.
Isaac Humphries says he would sing if allowed to at Big Blue Madness
– Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) October 14, 2015
My question: why isn’t he allowed to?! Come on guys, you’ve got a young Matthew Mitchell just itching for the spotlight!
The Bromance between Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe is ridiculous
We joke about it a lot, but Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe are pretty much tied at the hip. The two constantly mentioned each other during today’s interviews, and towards the end, Briscoe came over and interviewed Ulis, during which Tyler dropped a KSR reference. Curtis Burch caught the great moment on film:
As someone who saw it firsthand, yes, Ulis can dance.
Alex Poythress is over Media Day
Alex has never loved talking to the media, but at the end of the 45-minute session, he looked especially exhausted. This is his fourth Media Day, after all. When I asked him how worn out he was by it all, he smiled and said “very.” The most common question he was asked today? “How’s your knee?” It’s just fine, by the way.
“It’s great, I’ve given everyone the same answer. I think they want a different response from me, they want me to say it’s awful or something,” he joked.
After listening to some of the questions this afternoon, I don’t blame Alex.
The new guys are gym rats
If it seems like we’ve said that a lot the last few years, it’s because it’s true. Even though some of them didn’t arrive on campus until late August, this group gelled quickly. Marcus Lee said the one thing he’s noticed about the new guys is that they’re in the gym all.the.time.
“On the court, they’re here all the time. I can never walk in and be in here by myself, which is good. I enjoy seeing how much they like working and how much they want to get better. Off the court, they get along so well. I’m actually surprised how well they got along so quickly. They just blended together in seconds. I love that about them.”
I have a feeling we will too.
That’s a wrap on UK Basketball Media Day 2015. Odds the 2016 version is much different? At the very least, I bet there will still be chicken parmesan.