The pageantry and history in and around Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, the first Saturday in May, has drawn more flowered adjectives and poetic elegance than all other horse races combined. Pity that the main event lasts just half an hour or so.
This Saturday, 22 contenders will saddle up, stroll from the paddock, hear the call to the post, and saunter to the starting gate as we listen to “My Old Kentucky Home.” Then, load ’em, ring the bell and charge!
Of all athletic events I have worked, none matches the shear majesty of Derby horses thundering past Churchill’s grandstand for the first time.
Choice for the 135th Run for the Roses? My (sentimental) pick is General Quarters, a Kentuckybred who won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. If I were buying a ticket it would be on Kentucky born I Want Revenge.
Whether or not someone(s) goes to jail for extortion, lying to FBI or both, the aroma of Kentucky springtime has become the scent of scandal on Rick Pitino.
Half a century ago, Adolph Rupp was implicated and then cleared of involvement in a point shaving scandal at the University of Kentucky, but the allegation stuck anyway.
Pitino’s reputation turns slowly over embers of public skepticism in lieu of a May court date. If or when UofL’s coach is found blameless, a shadow will remain. Reminds us of a question asked once by a New Jersey politician after being cleared of wrongdoing. “Now, where do I go to get my reputation back?”
Maybe Pitino will fare better than Rupp.
News & Views
NEWS. A decision that stunned and angered hoops fans around basketball hotbed Muhlenberg County was Reggie Warford being named boys’ basketball coach at newly consolidated Muhlenberg County High instead of fixture Steve Sparks, whose teams won 13 consecutive district titles. Sparks was not only out, but kicked upstairs to assistant director of athletics.
VIEW. With two years’ head coaching experience, to say Warford’s résumé is thin would be to say the Eiffel Tower is tall. But the ex-UK player and Drakesboro High standout had a buck-stopshere ace to play — Muhlenberg superintendent of schools Dale Todd was a Warford teammate at Drakesboro.
For all the buzz and despite a glowing won-loss record, the ouster of Sparks is not unusual. Kentucky county school superintendents have welded power to make such appointments for decades while school board members sit on their hands, look the other way or rubber stamp decisions, leaving taxpayers to find out tomorrow what’s been pushed through last night.
Fans and supporters who don’t like business-as-usual should be involved before political appointments are made, not after.
Postscript: While assistant AD Sparks watches from the stands next season and disgruntled fans look on, Warford had better produce a winning team from the start. Otherwise, he and former teammate Todd may find themselves looking for work.
NEWS. Alabama high school hoops player of the year is Jordan
Swing, says the The Birmingham
News. A 6-7 wing player headed to Western Kentucky University, Swing won the honor ahead of rivals Eric Bledsoe and Christian Watford, who played in the Derby Classic, Alabama Mr. Basketball Kerron Johnson, and UK signee DeMarcus Cousins.
VIEW. Derby Classic officials should be embarrassed. For Jordan Swing to not play in Louisville disrespects Hilltopper fans.
NEWS. One football recruiting service rated UK football’s 30-man recruiting class for 2009 next to last in the SEC again.
VIEW. Coach Rich Brooks said this class was UK’s best since he’s been in Lexington. That Kentucky’s staff has marched its recruits to three straight winning seasons confirms what we know about dot.com recruiting services. After projecting the first dozen-orso college prospects, dot.coms confirm what they are beyond talking points. Largely irrelevant.
NEWS. Brooks revealed last week the formation of a sevenmember leadership council for his football team. Chosen by players, representatives will discuss issues, grievances and concerns and communicate them to coaches.
VIEW. Such councils are common. This one could be a college course. Education at decisionmaking, taking leadership roles in personnel and off-field matters, and link to player-coach communication.
NEWS. Davidson’s Stephen Curry said last week he’s mentally and physically ready for the NBA.
VIEW. Extraordinary shooter with limitless range, Curry is still a scrawny soloist who must have the ball in his hands. Whether or not he’s ready to adjust from 30 games in five months to more than 100 over seven, remains to be seen. Best news for UK fans: Improves odds Jodie Meeks will return.
Vaccaro & Servitude
Springtime’s exodus to the NBA and Sonny Vaccaro spiel aside, a new twist came last week that transcends the departures of North Carolina underclassmen Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, and Davidson’s Stephen Curry to the NBA. Next professional player will be high school drop-out Jeremy Tyler.
Verbally committed to Louisville, the 6-11 San Diegan will skip 12th grade and apprentice in Spain.
Outstanding. Good for college basketball, good news for Louisville fans, and good for the kid. Maybe.
Kid who needs money now, riches and fame now, buy stuff now, signs a sneaker deal now, go for it! Vaccaro’s plantation pitch puts emphasis on a word we suspect he had to look up. “Why do we have to put players in servitude (to college basketball)?” he said to
Servitude. College is servitude?
Vaccaro believes a player, regardless of maturity to make large decisions, should play.
For players who don’t make it, we wonder if Vaccaro will be there as safety net after the ball stops bouncing.
Worth Repeating Dept.
Caldwell County native Steve Smiley, new basketball coach at his alma mater in Princeton, brings a visionary perspective. The Tigers’ new coach told the local Times-Leader: “This is home. My wife (Mandy) loves my mom and dad’s farm and she loves this town. This is where I want my kids to grow up.”
And so it goes.