Long time no talk…it has been a bit since I have taken to these here interwebs to write, but today seemed as good a time as any. I had a tremendous weekend doing the whole Derby thing and I hope it found you folks having a good time as well. It was a great showcase for our state and UK folks were everywhere (including a number of Billy Gillispie sightings all around Lexington). I hit the Trifecta on the Derby for the 4th straight year, although the excitement was muted a bit by the fact that with the three favorites coming in via the order of their odds, the payoff was relatively small. Still a win is a win and we celebrate victories here, so I am in a positive mood. With that in mind, a few notes on the goings on around the state:
— Everywhere I went this weekend, people asked me the same question: “What are you hearing about Marquis Bolden?” This question always fascinates me because it implies the idea that I would know secret information about the whole thing that I am not sharing publicly but will share to my drunk new amigo in the betting line at Churchill Downs. The answer unfortunately however was “Nothing” because there has been so little info to slip about this entire process in the last few weeks. I have talked a great deal on the radio about the Bolden timeline but it is worth noting on here as well. From my perspective, this is how Bolden’s decision has played out:
Fall Signing Period: Bolden was very close to committing to Kentucky but was concerned about who would be returning for the Cats (specifically Skal/Lee). He decides to hold off until the Spring. Jarrett Allen is ready to commit to Kentucky at this time, but UK suggests he holds off due to class size and Allen moves on to other schools.
January or so: Bolden’s Mother falls for Duke and decides that is where she wants him to go definitively. Bolden still undecided, but family becomes very pro-Duke
Late March: Bolden begins to lean heavily to Duke due to family situation, etc. Folks around Kentucky feel significantly less confident and the assumption is he is likely a Blue Devil
McDonalds All American Game: UK Commitments heavily work on Bolden during the week and I am told may have helped put Kentucky back at the front of his mind. Kid becomes torn again.
Since that period, information has basically become non-existent. There has been chatter here and there about where he is leaning, various bloggers and recruiting writers have flipped their predictions back and forth and thus fans have gone up and down in confidence. But from the people I talk to, who in my opinion know the situation as well as anyone, there is no real confidence either way. I feel confident that Kentucky is in play and I do believe if it were totally up to the kid, he would be a Cat. But the family dynamics are not something I am (or possibly anyone is) privy to and thus I don’t know how it ends up. I heard this weekend that most parties expect a decision date this week. We shall see.
Tanya Tucker still gets it done…I saw her at Barnstable Brown this weekend and she performed “Me and Bobbie McGee”…it was amazing. My grandmother used to call her a floozie, but I am still a fan
— I am not sure I have seen a more strange story than the one around the UK Hoops team over the past few weeks. I feel bad for Matthew Mitchell and the program but I think what we are seeing in the culmination of a 2-3 year period where things were slowly slipping around the team. Mitchell had achieved a great deal of success and with that, new opportunities flourished for him. He has a young family who he wanted to spend time with and during that period, his presence around the program was lessened. In other circumstances that might be ok, but the combination of his attention slipping, his hard style as a coach, Assistant turnover based on difficulty finding the right “fit” and other factors caused a situation that spiraled out of control over the last 2 months. After talking to a number of people around the program, I honestly don’t think there is a “smoking gun” that will come out that has caused all of the player and coach turnover. Instead, it was the more methodical slow degradation of team chemistry that can best be explained by what I would call the “absentee dad” syndrome. Matthew Mitchell deserves a chance to right the ship and his hiring of his last two Assistant Coaches (and I am hearing a likely third that is a former player…possibly Amber Smith) is sure to help that process. But a deep hole has been dug. They only will have 7 scholarship players next year at this point and the future is in question. Makayla Epps will ensure UK is competitive next year, but the two years following could be rough without a significant series of good news moments. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but it will be a very tough and important next 12 months for the future of Mitchell’s tenure here and the program as a whole.
— Call me old-fashioned, but I think what Hubie Brown is describing here should be a foul
— Over the years, one of the great mysteries of UK Athletics has been how the Hall of Fame and retirement of Jerseys process works. When the topic comes up on the show, I find that fans have differing opinions and there is a general lack of understanding of why things have progressed the way they have. This topic was the feature of Episode 38 of my Podcast with Oscar Combs and I really recommend you listen to it. Oscar describes how one gets their jersey retired and he and I get into a little “old school vs new school” debate about who should have their jersey retired and why. We are friends and the back and forth is good natured. But it also reflects what I think are two differing mindsets on the subject and is definitely worth a listen. Check it out…and the other Podcasts while you are at it:
We will check back in later this week.