2017-10-04 / Sports

Taking no pleasure from Pitino’s fall

Vaught’s Views

Quarterback Stephen Johnson remains convinced UK can win a lot more games despite the Cats’ anemic offensive showing against Eastern Michigan. (Vicky Graff Photo) Quarterback Stephen Johnson remains convinced UK can win a lot more games despite the Cats’ anemic offensive showing against Eastern Michigan. (Vicky Graff Photo) While some celebrated the shocking fall of former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino for his misdeeds at Louisville, I did not. Instead, I found it sad that a man who did so much to restore credibility to Kentucky basketball has fallen this far.

I shared my feelings in a column on www.lex18.com that generated a lot of response. Here is one I really liked from UK fan Terry Hall of Louisville, a Shelby County High School teammate of former Cats Mike Casey and Bill Busey.

“Read your story, and although I didn’t know him my feelings pretty much reflect yours,” Hall wrote in an email. “When Eddie Sutton was fired my two pie-in the sky picks were Rick and Pat Riley, never thinking we could get either.

“I was driving in Indy when I heard about the hire. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It was never the same for me after he left and the last couple of years with Tubby (Smith) turned me toward football. Cal does a great job doing what he does but this players first, one and done NBA development deal is not my thing.”

Also count me as one who believes Louisville made the right choice — and really only choice it could have — by naming David Padgett head coach. Why rush to take the best of coaches without jobs now rather than wait until this season ends and then be able to gauge real interest in what coaches with jobs might even consider Louisville? Now next year it would only make sense to make a clean break and have a new coach, but for now Padgett’s choice is one I can understand.


After he was asked about joining Christi Thomas on the two hour Countdown to Kickoff on the UK Radio Network, former Kentucky quarterback Freddie Maggard wasn’t sure what to expect.

He had never met her and knew she would be the first female to host a pregame radio show for any Southeastern Conference football program if the idea worked.

“We had a lunch meeting (about three years ago) with the JMI folks to discuss the possibility of doing a pregame show,” said Maggard. “Her preparation and organization impressed me. She runs the show, there is no doubting that. Plus, growing up the daughter of a defensive coordinator, her X and O knowledge is at a high level.”

That’s obvious on the Countdown to Kickoff that will air live again Saturday in front of the Nutter Field House outside Gate 1 of Kroger Field near the Coke Fan Zone (for away games the show airs from various Kroger stores in Lexington).

Thomas had done plenty of TV work but no radio when she was approached about hosting the pregame show with Maggard. She was as apprehensive as Maggard going into their lunch meeting.

“After Freddie and I had lunch, I knew we had hit it off. I knew we could be good,” she said. “Nobody does more homework or works harder at understanding football than Freddie. I just set him up and let him go. He has been that good.

“His military background (in the National Guard) and being a quarterback, he is methodical and prepared. Sometimes in the media we are not as organized as we should be. But we both need structure to function. We can fly by the seat of our pants but we like to be prepared. He has great ideas on ways to energize the show. We spend all week talking about what to say.”

Thomas jokes that in another life she was meant to be a boy and a football linebacker. Her father was defensive coordinator at Taylor County High School in Campbellsville. When Campbellsville University started football in 1987, her dad coached there.

“I spent all my years growing up as a water girl for the football team,” Thomas said. “I spent a lot of time in the football locker room, sideline, huddles, breaking down film with my dad. I always loved college football. Me getting into sports and athletics was just natural.”

She didn’t want a male-dominated audience to see her on air and wonder “who is this dumb blonde” doing sports. Instead, she wanted them to talk about how well she knew what she was doing.

“A female in this industry can lose credibility in a minute,” she said. “There was a time where stations never tried to implement any sex appeal. You had to know your stuff. Then it evolved to having a pretty face on the sideline and it didn’t matter what she knew. Now they want the best of both.”

Thomas won’t settle for second best. Maggard says she worries constantly about fans and creating a show that fans will like and share ownership of every time.

“Want to tick her off? Say, ‘Well that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That don’t fly with Christi Thomas,” Maggard said. “If any idea or concept isn’t best or better for the listener, she wants no part of it. She’s a UK fan. We work very hard to liven up the broadcast to enlighten, engage and entertain the listeners. Status quo is not an acceptable answer for her.”

So just how intense is she?

“I’ll put it nicely. She is intense, competitive and accepts nothing but the best from all involved in the broadcast. So yes, she’s meaner than a copperhead (snake),” Maggard said.

Thomas prefers to call it “fiercely loyal” to each other.

“When we first met for lunch three seasons ago, I may or may not every now or then drop a few choice words when they were needed. After Freddie picked his jaw up off floor … he got it,” Thomas laughed and said. “But he is married to a strong-willed woman. He felt right at home with me.”

He did, and still does. Maggard still wonders why Thomas does not get more credit for being the first female host of a network football pregame radio show in the SEC.

“That’s huge. My partner is crazy smart and excellent at her job. She makes my role easy,” Maggard said. “She’s simply the best.”


If freshman point guard Quade Green had any doubts about whether Kentucky would be the right spot for him, they disappeared after an in-home visit from UK coach John Calipari last year.

“He came into my home and was really confident. Once I got to see that, I thought, ‘It can’t get no better than Kentucky.’ He looked eye-to-eye more (at me) than any other coach,” Green said. “I really had no choice but to come here. Everybody around me here makes me feel better. It’s the perfect spot for me.”

He has his own bit of Philadelphia swag — much like former UK point guard Tyler Ulis did from his high school career in Chicago.

If the game is on the line, Green will want the ball in his hands this season.

“We can run pick and roll and I will get my shot. I will take it myself — or get it to a teammate if he’s open. Guys have jobs to do and I will do mine,” Green said.

So will Kentucky win a national title this year?

“We will see,” he said. “For now, let’s just leave it that way.”


Kudos to Kentucky for giving rising musicians — who all have been huge UK fans — a chance to perform at pregame football concerts this season.

First it was Walker Montgomery of Lexington followed by Burgin’s Aly’An (Alyson Rogers and Andrea Gross) and then Paul Childers of Lebanon. This week before the Cats play Missouri it will be Magnolia Vale — twin sisters Katelyn and Samantha Daugherty of Marion County.

They were paired against Montgomery in the first round of the fan voting to determine who played before the opening game. They were thrilled to get this opportunity.

“We have grown up as Kentucky fans, mainly basketball, and don’t miss a game when season rolls around,” Katelyn said.

They played basketball at Marion County, including two seasons for coach Anthony Epps — a starter on UK’s 1996 national championship team. They also played with his daughter, Makayla, on Marion’s state championship team.

Childers is a childhood friend and they were happy he got to perform at Kroger Field and are excited to have their turn now.

“ It’s beyond special to have such a cool connection with your sister. We’ve shared everything our whole lives — our faces, cars, rooms, clothes, shoes, makeup and even our voices,” Katelyn said. “We just want to share our love for music with everyone. That’s all we have ever wanted.”


The 2017- 18 season hasn’t started but ESPN has already come out with a mock 2019 NBA Draft projection.

Recent UK commit Immanuel Quickly is No. 6 overall on Jonathan Givony’s mock draft list with three UK sophomores — Kevin Knox (12), P.J. Washington (16) and Jarred Vanderbilt (18) — all in the top 20. Junior Sacha Killeya-Jones is projected at No. 28. That would give UK five first-round picks in 2019.

As of today, Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards are both projected as 2018 first-round picks.

Just remember a lot will change by June, as we found out late last week when UK announced Vanderbilt would miss about three months due to a foot injury.


Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, and UK fans, were not overjoyed with the 24-20 win over Eastern Michigan. Yet it does put UK at 4-1 going into this week’s game with Missouri.

Kentucky’s anemic offense had five three-and outs on eight second-half possessions and the offensive line was shredded by the Eastern Michigan defense. However, there’s still reason for optimism going forward.

Missouri has been outscored 86-17 the last two weeks and has allowed 31 or more points in every game this year. Tennessee lost 41-0 at home to Georgia last week. Vanderbilt has given up 97 points the last two weeks in losses to Alabama and Florida. Mississippi State after a then stunning 37-7 pounding of LSU has been outscored 80- 13 in losses to Georgia and Auburn. And Mississippi got crushed 66-3 by Alabama Saturday.

“We have a lot of stuff to fix. We can never argue about a win and we can never be mad about a win,” Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson said after the Eastern Michigan game. “We definitely know we have a lot of stuff to fix, so we cannot put ourselves in those situations when it comes down to it. But we also know if we get some things fixed, we still have a chance to win a lot of games.”


Quote of the Week: “He needs to play with significant energy and get after it every day. He can guard multiple positions. He can protect the rim. He can finish at the rim. He should be a terrific two-way player for us this year and we need him to be that player,” UK assistant coach Joel Justus on sophomore center/forward Sacha Killeya-Jones.

Quote of the Week 2: “Our first date was to see the movie “(Laura Croft) Tomb Raider” and then he took me to dinner at Sonic. That was our romantic first date, but I guess it worked out okay,” Allison Tamme on her first date in high school with former UK and NFL standout Jacob Tamme.

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