There are times I miss living in Kentucky, and there are times I really miss living in Kentucky. Derby weekend is definitely the latter. While I grew up in Danville, not Louisville, the Derby was always a fun time, from the age-old Kroger commercial with the woman sewing the blanket of roses (John Short’s wife, perhaps?) to the stick horse races and hat contests at school, and of course, the pie. In my part of the state, the excitement was mainly confined to just the Derby, but I think all Kentuckians have a spot in their heart for the Kentucky Oaks, otherwise known as the Commonwealth’s day at the races. Not only is it a good excuse for guys to wear pink, it’s a chance for Kentuckians to enjoy one big party at the Downs before things get really crazy the next day. Tomorrow’s forecast–63 and sunny–couldn’t be more perfect, if a tad chilly. Ladies, pack a cardigan.
In the past few years, Derby Week parties have become almost as exciting as the event itself. From Ferdinand’s Ball to the huge Barnstable Brown gala, a predictable list of mostly C and D list celebrities regularly walk the red carpet in Louisville, accompanied by an increasing number of UK basketball players. This year, some bigger names are scheduled to come to the Derby, including Pharrell, Jamie Foxx, Tom Brady, and Miranda Lambert, but I’d argue that UK fans get even a bigger thrill from seeing John Wall, Nerlens Noel, DeMarcus Cousins, and other former greats in their finest threads on the red carpet. Who cares about Travis Tritt? That’s Randall freaking Cobb over there singing along to Boyz II Men! Get out of the way, Joey Fatone! I can’t see Nerlens Noel and Kelly Melton.
So, whether you’re watching the races from Churchill, your house, or afar like me, take pride in this weekend. When the crowd’s voices swell during the chorus of “My Old Kentucky Home,” it’s hard not to.
Before we break out the mint juleps, let’s go over the news of the day.
The Lakers want Cal, but Cal says he’s not going anywhere
When Mike D’Antoni “resigned” as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, you could feel the rumors coming. Like a thundering herd, rumbles about John Calipari taking the Lakers job arrived in Lexington Thursday morning. To his credit, Cal tried to stop them. Early Thursday morning, Cal sent out this tweet to prepare the Big Blue Nation for what lies ahead:
Before it starts, I'm totally committed to helping this group of young men reach their dreams. I wouldn't & couldn't leave this group!
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 1, 2014
Sure enough, the rumor mill kept on churning, with sources saying that the Lakers will reach out to Cal and UConn coach Kevin Ollie about the opening. Even if they do, Cal insists he’s not interested, flat out telling WHAS 11’s Renee Murphy on Thursday night that he’s not taking the Lakers job. In fact, Cal has bigger things to worry about right now, starting with his hip replacement surgery on Friday. Cal’s having the procedure done in Lexington, and will be out a month to recover. Best wishes to him, and please, BBN, don’t send him any bacon.
Top center Luke Hiers throws the dice
On Thursday night, Mark Stoops got a long-awaited commitment. Three-star center Luke Hiers committed to the Cats, becoming the sixth pledge in the 2015 class. Hiers is ranked as high as the 2nd center in the 2015 class (Rivals), and had offers from all the big guys, including Ohio State, Louisville, Nebraska, and Miami. Hiers told Scout’s Patrick Loney that he’s actually been committed to UK since October, but wanted to visit before announcing the news.
So far in 2015, the Cats have commitments from four offensive linemen:
Luke Hiers: Center (6’2″ 295 lbs.)
Logan Stengerg: Offensive tackle (6’6″ 327 lbs.)
Larry Wells: Offensive tackle (6’8″ 298 lbs.)
Mason Wolfe: Offensive guard (6’7″, 280 lbs.)
That’s one big line. And we’re just getting started.
“Slice” becomes official
By now, the addition of Barry Rohrssen to the UK coaching staff was the worst kept secret in Lexington. UK finally made the news official on Thursday via press release, in which Cal talked about how Rohrssen (pronounced “Raw-son”) has been a member of his coaching family for thirty years, back to when the two roomed together at Five Star Basketball Camp as counselors. Little did you know that it was during those days that little Barry Rohrssen earned the nickname “Slice” for putting back so many pieces of pizza. One night, he ate so much pizza he wandered into the girls’ cabins on a dare and barfed in front of Sally Newman! Man, that sure was a hoot.
…actually, Barry earned that nickname during his playing days at St. Francis College for how he “sliced” through opposing defenses like butter. I like my story better. Welcome aboard, Slice.
James Young signs with Jay-Z
Congrats to James Young, who signed with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s sports agency, on Thursday. Jay-Z also represents Kevin Durant, Skylar Diggins, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Geno Smith, Robinson Cano, and CC Sabathia. Rihanna, superstar and friend of Jay-Z, congratulated James one week after sitting next to him at an NBA Playoff game. Right now, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
The Ryan Lemond Derby is set
Of course, the most important thing that happened on Thursday was the draw of the Ryan Lemond Derby. What will Ryan have to do? Here’s the entire field:
|DERBY HORSE||WHAT RYAN HAS TO DO|
|Vicar’s In Trouble (30/1)||Dance with the UK Dance Team in Rupp Arena|
|Harry’s Holiday (50/1)||KSR tattoo|
|Uncle Sigh (30/1)||Full-body wax while on air|
|Danza (10/1)||Walk from Waddy to Lexington|
|California Chrome (5/2)||24 hours of Ryan Lemond Radio on WLAP|
|Samraat (15/1)||Live remote at Hooters, wearing a Hooters uniform|
|We Miss Artie (50/1)||Wear a 60s basketball uniform|
|General A. Rod (15/1)||Shannon The Dude’s choice|
|Vinceremos (30/1)||20-minute interview with Saul Smith|
|Wildcat Red (15/1)||Dance with Dancing Guy in Rupp Arena|
|Pablo Del Monte (50/1)||Spend an entire day with Kentucky Joe|
|Dance With Fate (20/1)||Bag groceries with John Short|
|Chitu (20/1)||Play running back against a high school defense|
|Medal Count (20/1)||Five-minute stand-up routine|
|Tapiture (15/1)||Volunteer at a homeless shelter|
|Intense Holiday (12/1)||Nothing (He’s free)|
|Commanding Curve (50/1)||Dress as Bobby Petrino at UofL game|
|Candy Boy (20/1)||Tased by a police officer on air|
|Ride On Curlin (15/1)||Milk Gallon Challenge|
|Wicked Strong (8/1)||Set up a lemonade stand on Nicholasville Road|
The favorite so far is California Chrome, or Ryan doing 24 hours of radio, which could actually be kind of awesome. I’ll be rooting for the favorite to win just so I can hear “The Lemond Love Hour,” in which Ryan and his wife, Amanda, take calls from couples about their relationship problems. Gold, Jerry, gold!
Friday’s show is one you don’t want to miss. Not only is it Oaks Day, the guys will have plenty of stories from their adventures at the Ferdinand’s Ball Thursday night. See you then…