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Steve Forbes backtracks, says he didn’t mean Kentucky comments as a putdown

Wake Forest Athletics

Wake Forest Athletics

Leading up to Olivier Sarr’s highly-anticipated commitment, Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes made headlines by throwing a jab at the University of Kentucky – seen as Wake’s top competitor to land the star center – when comparing the schools academically.

In an attempt to recruit Sarr back to Winston-Salem, Forbes asked the 7-foot center why he would spend three years at a prestigious academic institution like Wake Forest, only to transfer and get his degree “at a place like Kentucky.”

“I think the most important thing is, why would you go to Wake for three years, put all that time in for a prestigious degree, and end up getting your degree at a place like Kentucky?” Forbes said of his conversation with Sarr on The Drive with Josh Graham today. “That got a chuckle out of him. That’s no disrespect to Kentucky, I obviously respect them, but you know what I mean. I just think there’s a lot to be said for putting all that work in academically and not being able to finish what you started. I know those things are all important to him, and he’s said that.”

Almost instantly, Forbes’ comments spread to the Kentucky fanbase, and not long after, nationally. In fact, ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption used the jab as the opening topic on the show May 6.

This week, Forbes joined both The Adam Gold Show and The OG to clarify his comments, adding that he meant no disrespect to the University of Kentucky.

“Olivier told me that one of the reasons that he was really considering coming back was because he really wanted to get a Wake degree,” Forbes said, via WRALSportsFan columnist Lauren Brownlow. “I said to him, ‘Hey look, why would you put three years of work in academically at Wake and then go get your degree at a place-‘ and I said Kentucky, but I could have said any school. I didn’t mean that in any way as a putdown to Kentucky at all. “I was just saying, ‘Listen, we’ve got this great education.’ Kentucky and all the other schools in the country are always going to recruit to their positives, and that’s what I was doing. I was pointing out a positive in our direction.”

After making the comments, Forbes said he was under a “complete frontal assault” from Kentucky fans on social media.

“I didn’t realize – maybe I’m living like the boy in the bubble back in the 70s. Then Thursday night that week, I got a call from Nick Nurse, who’s my really good friend, and he said, ‘Man, you’re the lead story on PTI!’ I said. ‘No way! Come on.’ Then I looked at my Twitter and Lord have mercy, I was under a complete frontal assault from the Big Blue Nation,” Forbes continued. “They were going at me. They were in predator mode. They were coming me. So I learned how to block a bunch of people, which I’ve never done before.”

Do you believe Forbes’ clarification?


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

29 Comments for Steve Forbes backtracks, says he didn’t mean Kentucky comments as a putdown

  1. Bluebloodtoo
    4:18 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    Yes, I do believe him. And I also believe that the BBN shamefully went overboard on him.

    • AirForceOne
      4:21 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      I think that if Kentucky ever faces Wake, the Cats will obliterate them….and Cal will make sure Forbes knows you don’t talk shit about Kentucky.

    • UKFanSC
      4:25 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink


    • CrystalBall
      5:00 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      Ditto, Bluebloodtoo.

    • Cletis75
      6:11 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      What do you want from us? We are like Marcellus Wallace! I ain’t saying it’s right. He probably didn’t expect us to react like we did, but he had to expect a reaction!

    • Cletis75
      6:14 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      Next time he will think twice before badmouthing UK. We ain’t his B! When he says Kentucky, he better put some respeck on it! Hahaha!

  2. Catcasey1
    4:20 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    I think he bit more off than he could chew so shut ur mouth and u wouldn’t have this problem

    • Cletis75
      6:56 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      He got the head coaching job, and got a little too big for his britches! BBN was just helping humble him so he won’t be such a disrespectful woodpecker in the future.

  3. UKFanSC
    4:22 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    Sorry peacemakers. He was clearly taking his last shot….and was throwing the kitchen sink at the kid. Totally meant to disrespect our academic credentials…..when anyone publicly pokes the BBN in the eye they will (and should) pay for it. Screw him and Wake. Loved the nuclear response.

    • Big Bry 1
      5:39 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      Exactly right. He wasn’t clarifying, he was taking ANOTHER shot at BBN

  4. Lyle Evans
    4:26 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    It is fair to ask why, if Wake is all about academics, they fired their previous coach for not winning and hired a guy like Forbes whose professional resume screams “winning is all I care about”? When full of itself Wake takes the first one of Forbes’ usual academically dodgy JC transfers, their hypocrisy will be complete. Tools.

  5. Megan
    4:29 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    Wilbon got it right. He did mean disrespect. That’s why he took the shot. And there was not subtly to it, no nuance. It was only after he realized the extent of the blowback that he felt the need to walk back what he said and put it in the best light he could. Even then, it’s clear the filter between his brain and his mouth failed him. And like Wilbon, I’d have more respect if he just owned up to it. Love Tony’s idea: Go to Kentucky for a year of basketball because Kentucky is so much better in that department and that’s what Sarr wants to pursue, and while there work on your academics, but finish up classes at Wake to get that Wake name on your degree. That’s what Forbes should have advised.

  6. ClutchCargo
    4:31 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    I still don’t understand why any UK fan cares about the opinion of a Wake Forest coach. We should be way more secure than that. Also, we got his best player, so I’d say we already came out ahead.

    • lexattorney
      4:45 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      This is not only old news but a nonstory. UK got the player, who will hopefully receive a waiver or it won’t matter, so ignore any background noise and move on.

  7. jimlowe7
    4:36 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    He just said the SAME THING in different words and it IS a slap at the academics at ALL schools Saar was considering – he is an “eliteist”

    • lexattorney
      4:43 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink


    • ClutchCargo
      4:47 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      Except he is not an elitist. He is just some goober from Iowa who graduated from S. Arkansas U. and has previously coached at East Tennessee State, Texas A&M, Illinois State, Louisiana Tech and Idaho.

  8. JLP
    4:47 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    I have no problem with his comment. If he had said Alabama or Louisville, then BBN would be applauding and guffawing. Actually, Wake Forest is #27 and UK 132 in US News & World report rankings, so there is some truth to it with these caveats. First, you can get a first class education at almost any major university if you put in the work and choose courses wisely. Second, departments rank differently than schools, sol UK may have departments that outrank Wake Forest. Second, we KNOW that if your degree is from UK basketball, it is more prestigious than Wake Forest. So, if basketball is seen as a department, there is no real comparison. But heck, the poor coach was trying to keep his best player, so I don’t fault him at all. I doubt if there is a coach in the business who doesn’t use some negative recruiting. You think Cal has never disparaged another school by saying something like “If you want the national spotlight and best chance of getting drafted high, come to UK rather than than labor in obscurity at [fill in a school]..

  9. Condo1122
    5:30 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    He said this to the kid in a private meeting, in the first place. I imagine you’ll say just about anything to a recruit/ player, if you think it’ll help your cause. If Olivier had just kept that private conversation private, this never would have even been known.

  10. BobbyBlue
    5:42 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    I think he is sorry that his comment went public.
    I don’t think he is sorry for what he said about UK,just sorry that it was released to the internet.

  11. runningunnin.454
    6:15 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    Sorry to disagree with some of you; but, as a UK grad, I was offended. Although, I’m not on twitter much, I did tweet him; however, I was polite and respectful. I suggested he check out the UK Med School Department of Neurosurgery, the Engineering School, and the highly ranked College of Pharmacy, that was the old prestigious Louisville School of Pharmacy.
    Am I happy about his “apology”, not really. I figure all’s fair in love, war, and athletics; but, he crossed the line with his condescending remarks.

  12. ukbradstith
    6:33 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    If you listen to his entire interview and tone, it wasn’t even disrespectful. He had already put in 3 years at Wake so I understood his point. It sort of embarrassing how our fans blow everything out of proportion.

    • runningunnin.454
      6:44 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      Again, disagree. I was genuinely offended by the public affront. I just asked for an apology; and, I still don’t feel I received one.
      BTW, he didn’t “block” me.

    • lexattorney
      6:56 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

      I don’t think you’re who he, or the rational people in this thread, were talking about. I agree that there is a minuscule percentage of this fan base who are quick to lash out in over-the-top, inappropriate and inexcusable ways. Unfortunately for the rest of us this “minuscule” section is larger than most entire fan bases due to the sheer size of THE BBN. It’s a double-edged sword.

  13. This isn’t an either/or equation. He obviously meant to talk up a Wake Forest education AND take a dig at UK.

  14. bigbluebg
    10:12 pm May 15, 2020 Permalink

    I believe him, but also screw him. He’s a public figure…think before you speak. Did anyone see the video of him spiking an N-95 mask in his intro video as Wake’s new head ball coach? He should’ve gotten crushed for that.

    Dude is a clown and Wake overall just isn’t very good. It was a down year in the ACC and they still finished in the bottom 3 or 4. This is the most press he’s gonna get until he gets canned.