If and buts can often make for more interesting conversation than the actual reality of sports, so today I thought about some ifs and buts with 3 of UK’s legendary head coaches. Each of these coaches had a crippling loss late in his career at Kentucky and I wonder which of them would have possibly stayed longer at Kentucky if they had won those games. And as a little bonus, the full games are posted as well.
JOE B. HALL
1984: Loses to Georgetown in Final Four
Hall’s 1984 team might have been just as good as the 1978 national title team. They had a legend in Kenny Walker, a healthy Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin, great guard play, etc etc. And for a half against Georgetown, it looked like the Cats were on their way to title #6 at that time. Then a 3-33 shooting half doomed the Cats and they were gone. Had they won, they would have played a Houston team they had already beaten that year. You have to wonder if Hall wins a title in 1984 if he retires then OR if he gets some extra motivation and stays around for another 5 years.
1997: Loses to Arizona in national title game
1997: Leaves UK for Boston Celtics
This might be a stretch but who knows? I could see Pitino going through the run in 1997 and then falling oh so short and deciding it’s just too tough anymore. Maybe if he wins in 1997, he sees himself as a modern day John Wooden. I don’t know if the Celtics offer would have still been too much to turn down, but back to back national titles sounds a lot better than back to back title games.
2005: Lose to Michigan State in 2OT in Elite 8
2007: Leaves for Minnesota
I think this is the most slam dunk of the 3. If Smith was able to get UK back to the Final Four in 2005, I have no question in my mind that the fanbase would have been more patient with him during the struggles the next 2 years. That doesn’t mean the heat wouldn’t have been on after 2007, but I don’t think the calls to fire Tubby would have been there. Now, would Tubby still have gotten tired of the job after 2007, we don’t know. But a Final Four in 2005 certainly would have given Smith a refresh from the pressure he was under from the fans. Alas, UK couldn’t get rebounds and Smith was gone.