This evening, UK broadcasting legend Ralph Hacker was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.
Before that, though, the former Voice of the Wildcats ruffled feathers in a major way during his appearance on the Terry Meiners Show.
On the show, Hacker was asked about his legendary career with the UK Radio Network as a basketball and football analyst, breaking down some of the top sports moments he has had while on the job.
At the tail end of his segment, Meiners brought up John Calipari’s time in Lexington, along with Kyle Macy’s recent controversial comments about the current Kentucky head coach being too focused on the NBA and not enough about doing what is best for the program.
To start with, Hacker complimented Calipari, saying he developed a system and title formula similar to what Eddie Sutton tried during his time in Lexington.
But unlike Sutton, the broadcast legend believes Calipari has gotten the system to work in his favor at Kentucky, with multiple titles almost certainly coming through the program if those elite players stuck around for more than one season.
“What he has done, and people will probably have a hard time drawing this relation, he has recruited every year for an NCAA championship,” he said. “He says it’s for one-and-done, and perhaps it is. But you don’t go [for] one-and-done [guys] unless you have NCAA championship-type players on there. That’s what Sutton tried to do. He had it all planned out to where if he got this player this year, this player, and this player, he could build up a dynasty of where it was just a matter of getting one player the next year and win that NCAA championship many times. Cal has pretty much done that. And if they had stayed [as opposed to entering the draft], he certainly would have done it.”
He added that he likely learned the system during his time in the NBA, seeing the level of talent he would need to win titles at the college level.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Rick [Pitino], he figured it out in the pros. Basically said, if I go [recruit this way] in college, I can do this and get this caliber of player.”
The only issue, according to Hacker, is that the system hasn’t worked because those players are not staying in Lexington for multiple years. Thus, multiple championships haven’t come during Calipari’s time at Kentucky.
And because of that fact, and that fact alone, Hacker stood up for Macy, saying he believes the UK head coach is “shortchanging fans.”
“I know Kyle Macy took a lot of heat for what he said. But I [told him] “I think you’re right.” I said they’re shortchanging the fans by doing what we’re doing now,” he said. “Even though we’re proud of the University of Kentucky basketball team, we cheer for them, pay for the tickets, all that stuff, but in the end, you’re not doing right by the fan.”
To explain his point, he created a hypothetical for Meiners, telling him to imagine a scenario where he took a lazy approach to his radio show until the spotlight was on him when it came time for ratings.
And after a long-winded explanation, he tried to drive the point home that the diehard fans simply want to see more titles in Lexington.
“It’d be like if you decided you were going to come in here and not do your work to get your show done every day and you were going to do just enough to get by,” he said. “Like, “I’m going to have a good show today because it’s ratings week. But after ratings week, I’m not going to do anything.” And maybe that’s a bad analogy, but they’re working their butts off, they’re winning ball games, doing all this stuff, but I still think the people in Kentucky – the further you get from Lexington, the more rabid the fans are – I think they’d like to see championships.”
Long story short, he ultimately defended Macy’s comments, saying those around Lexington may be okay with settling for what we see at Kentucky now, but fans around the state aren’t content with Calipari’s one title in ten years as head coach.
“They don’t see Coach Cal every day, they don’t run into him at Wheeler’s Drug Store,” he said. “They don’t do these things, they don’t get to see Coach Cal. These people, they’d like to see championships. People in [Lexington], maybe they can say, “Coach, you’re doing a really good job and maybe it’s okay if you don’t win them.” Maybe it’s okay? Maybe that’s the way the people of Lexington feel, but I think Macy was right.”
To finish off the segment, he added that despite all of the criticism Macy has received over the last several weeks, he knows that the Kentucky basketball legend is just as passionate about his Wildcats as the rest of us.
“And he loves the Wildcats, he loves the University of Kentucky,” he said. “His children go there. One of them graduated, the other is in school there. Does he love them? He pays the tuition.”
You can listen to Hacker’s entire interview on the Terry Meiners Show here: