Whitesburg KY

Sports in Kentucky

The honeymoon



The coming of John Calipari to the University of Kentucky has been as pretty as dogwood and sweet as honeysuckle. All good stuff, right?

The honeymoon, so far, is all aces.

This week is still basketball season, isn’t it? So, Wildcat fans, pull on your CalipariNation tee-shirts and revel on …

“I don’t need (this) job,” Calipari told ESPN two weeks ago, “because of what happened to me with my NBA experience (New Jersey Nets paid him millions), I don’t need the money. I could live a good life. I’m going to Kentucky to have fun. I want the players to have fun.”

“… I would have taken less money to go to Kentucky,” he said after UK made him college hoops’ highest paid coach. “Because it’s Kentucky. Don’t tell them that, though.”

“I want to go to a league where the program I’m coaching is the best in that league,” he added. “Now I walk into Kentucky, and it’s the best program maybe in the country, not just the SEC.”

Swoon worthy, yes?

Home purchase. Calipari chose one on Richmond Road near The Great Compromiser Henry Clay’s old quarters.

Transparency and candor. Opened practice to media and will tell current scholarship holders straight up who can and can’t play his system.

Hired Scott Padgett and Tony Delk. Tribute to Bill Keightley? Connect to player alums?

More candor. Told fans (who care less about academics) he intends to recruit players who will use UK for a hoops season to build an NBA résumé then replenish from the next crop of one-anddone prospects.

Savvy advice for Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks on filing for the NBA. One or both might get first round guaranteed money this year, but a professional’s career stabilizer is his second contracts.

Harrellson Nimitz Class

Josh Harrellson is a wide, happy-to-be-here type who runs on diesel. In an era of specialization, Patterson’s understudy finds himself in roster limbo these days. In dribble drive, a 6-9 and 290- pounder is more Nimitz-class carrier than sleek destroyer. In Calipari’s system, Harrellson (and Perry Stevenson?), cannot, as lyricist Roger Miller wrote, be expected to “roller skate in a buffalo herd.”

Trends and Calipari-speak about “big plodders” suggest Harrellson will leave.

Both made statements last week that could bring into play a stone cutter’s chisel in marble. Something like: End of an Era, Coming of Another.

Harrellson to reporters: “(Kentucky’s) a great place, and I love the people (who) surround me. But if I don’t fit in, I’m just gonna go somewhere (else) and be happy.”

And, Calipari was spinning the merits of one-and-done, “… every year we’re going to be doing this (recruit sooner rather than later NBA prospects) because there’s going to be a guy here for one year making this decision. Don’t be mad.”

THE OLD. Having spawned 46 All-Americans including halfdozen aircraft carrier centers, LeRoy Edwards to Melvin Turpin, UK is no longer the place for the style of big man former coach Joe B. Hall put a premium on.

THE NEW. Dribble drive emphasizes foot speed, quicks and ball handling. DeMarcus Cousins is a 6-9, 250-pounder blessed with turn-a-corner quicks and shopped for a one year audition.

Bottom line for UK fans: The Calipari era should be entertaining, winning, advancing in tournaments and fun. But be slow to buy that over-priced blue jersey for your child. And, think twice before naming your next child DeMarcus.

When “30-wins Cal” told fans “I don’t walk on water,” believe him.

Readers (Right) Write

About University of Kentucky’s

new hire …

• E. in Mt. Sterling: ” I am very disappointed in the university and President (Lee) Todd. I cannot understand paying a basketball coach $31.6 million especially in this depressed economic time. You would think the president of a learning institute would rather that money (go) for scholarships for students who cannot afford a college education.”

About Calipari’s New Era at UK

• J. in Tennessee: “… Blue fans are in for an adjustment that will take years to digest, i.e. the New UK Pro Team and no ‘Old Kentucky Home’ feelings. Will be sad to not see departing seniors with tears flowing while that wonderful song is played and sung.”


Angel McCoughtry is not the first player in Kentucky to be an overall first draft pick as mentioned here last week. Louisville’s Pervis Ellison was first pick in 1989 draft by the Sacramento Kings.

John Madden’s retirement Good ones know when it’s time to leave. John Madden departed ABC Television last week.

On air he was Ernie Pyle blunt, said “gosh!” a lot and made the word boom into an all-caps proper noun. BOOM!

Madden looked like Andy Rooney, had a sense of humor as quirky as Leonard (Postosties) Postero doling out Leonard’s Losers on Sat-dee mornings, and charmed fans the ways Cawood Ledford did. Straight up, no pretense.

A multimillionaire several times over, Madden made the RV cruiser famous and was never moved to say, “I don’t walk on water.” In fact, maybe because he witnessed Brett Favre’s teary good-byes at Green Bay, he skipped that tour and news conference water works.

Madden’s hometown is Austin, Minnesota. Home of Hormel Foods Corporation, manufacturer of world famous Spam. Austin is SpamWorld, USA.

John Madden and Spam. How perfect is that?

And so it goes.

You can reach Bob Watkins at


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