Whitesburg KY

Remember Phi Slama Jama, ’66 Cats?

Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

Kentucky: Number one in America unplugged, kinda, sorta.

Karl Anthony Townes logged 31 warrior minutes at Florida … Willie Cauley-Stein threw down a “wow ‘em” dunk (counted two points) … Aaron Harrison swished a pair of clutch shots from distance to scuttle a rally … and the Wildcats made 21 of 22 free throws.

Good stuff, right? Good individual stuff.

It’s February and spectacularly gifted and deep-roster Kentucky still looks too much like a Phi Slama Jama with Coach (Guy Lewis) screaming in their faces.

Florida, an ordinary team, showed up well prepared for its Super Bowl day and kept the score close with a flurry of weakly-contested layups, which laid bare UK’s fundamentally poor weak-side help defense (two blocked shots).

Of Florida’s 49 shots the Gators created 21 clear looks from outside. Fortunately for UK, they missed 15. For the game, the Gators shot a gaudy 49 percent.

It’s February and Kentucky still sledge hammers opponents with vastly superior talent, depth and platoon at a time when adjectives for a 23-0 team ought be “grrrrreat team defense,” poise, rhythm and flow.

Above, Houston’s Akeem Abdul Olajuwon sat stunned after a last second shot by North Carolina State in the 1983 NCAA final ruined the perfect season for “Phi Slama Jama.” At left, Tommy Kron passed to Larry Conley in No. 1 Kentucky’s shocking loss in 1966. (AP)

Above, Houston’s Akeem Abdul Olajuwon sat stunned after a last second shot by North Carolina State in the 1983 NCAA final ruined the perfect season for “Phi Slama Jama.” At left, Tommy Kron passed to Larry Conley in No. 1 Kentucky’s shocking loss in 1966. (AP)

When a television analyst tells viewers, “Kentucky does pretty much what it has to do to win,” (ESPN’s Jay Bilas), it is not compliment but a warning and reminder for high expectation Big Blue Nation, “Hey, haven’t we seen this movie before?”

History reminds us of highpowered titans past, … v In 1966 Kentucky was No. 1 by this time of year and headed for a Final Four show down with No. 2 Duke. Then came Texas Western and that moment when a sports writer who had just covered the ‘all-white’ UK-Duke game, leaned and whispered to fellow sitting next to him, “Hey, didja notice Kentucky is all white and old Don Haskins has five black guys out there?” v 1983 Houston’s much-heralded Phi Slama Jama used what was called “a frenetic, playgroundinfl uenced style of basketball,” to build a 26-game win streak all the way to the NCAA title game where they became ordinary cougars again, scoring 52 points in a stunning loss to North Carolina State. v In 1991, Nevada Las Vegas was 34-0 and defending national champion going to the Final Four. Duke shocked Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels in the semi-finals.



Fates of Rupp’s Runts, Houston and UNLV are fair warning. Given time of year, this Wildcat conglomerate ought be more complete.

Things to watch, maybe these: v How many players are engaged during time outs?

At Florida Dakari Johnson played nine minutes (one shot, two turnovers) then sat glum on the bench, seemingly disconnected. v Huddle time and time outs. What wear-on-the-psyche signs show on player faces after having had a middle-aged man scream into them every day for five months? v Trey Lyles, a no-show for three games. Could diagnosis of his mystery illness reveal a case of disgruntlement caused by playing time and place in the platoon pecking order? v Finally, how much a distraction these days the ever looming presence of scouts for the NBA Draft?

Second week in February … No. 1 looks kinda, sorta unplugged.

Forbes Column On Calipari

In a column for Forbes Magazine February 7, Roger Groves, Professor of Law and Director of the Business Law Program at Florida Coastal School of Law, weighed in on John Calipari.

First, let’s hope Groves keeps his day job.

Second, copy editors at Forbes should be reprimanded for letting this column’s errors and misspelling get through. Jay Bilas’s name is not spelled Bilias.

Third, does using Groves’s piece demonstrate a Forbes Magazine desperation for an opinion piece?

Headline: Why They Hate John Calipari Outside of Kentucky is (hate) gimmick without merit.

“What else does Calipari have to do to gain the admiration of the basketball public?” Groves howls righteously. “The apparent answer: Stop recruiting one-anddone athletes.”

Groves goes on to manipulate, inject racism and affirmative action into his weakly researched mix. You can read the column for yourself: www.forbes.com/sites/rogergroves/2015/02/07/why-they-hate-john-calipari-outside-of-kentucky/

Meanwhile, the Forbes headline goes too far. If anyone hates John Calipari, let’s see his/her name on the record.

Like you, I love the wins, a winning team (when it plays like one), and seeing the word Kentucky in good light news instead of ISIS.

My oppositions to Calipari have not changed … v Things Calipari did to get to Kentucky. NCAA copped out and no TV analyst wants to risk a career discussing, preferring instead the Jay Bilas approach: Kiss-up — “Calipari will be in the Hall of Fame.” Maybe. v Unchanging: A college coach with priority to enrich a few young men ahead of educating (all) of those entrusted to him is exploitation.

Back to Roger Groves’s last paragraph. “So while Calipari is perceived as the embodiment of the wrong-headedness of college sports to be pros not students, the fact remains he is among the best at what he is paid to do, and those perceptions are not reality in this instance.”

Comment: Perfect straight line from sublime to the ridiculous.

Dean Smith

In 1983 I was in Chapel Hill for a weeklong sports editors seminar. Guest at one afternoon session was Dean Smith. At Q&A time, I asked the Carolina coach if his four-corner stall strategy in a 79-72 win over Kentucky NCAA tournament, March 19, 1977, was instrumental in the NCAA putting the shot clock into college hoops?

Smith looked left and right, looked this way again, grinned and said, “ You must be from Kentucky.”

Everyone laughed. Almost.

And so it goes.

You can reach me at bob.Watkins24@aol.com

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