As August ends, a fresh breeze blowing across Kentucky and sweeping out, for a while at least, Rick Pitino bombast, John Calipari-Memphis spin, and the fruity smell on Billy Clyde Gillispie’s breath.
The breeze comes in the name of Rich Brooks.
Kentucky’s football coach told a capacity crowd at Jefferson County alumni luncheon last week, “We are clearly a better football team than last year.”
Applause. Genuine, strong, without the hollow politeness of years past.
UK’s Mahatma had spoken. Take it to the bank.
A straight-forward man, Brooks is not one for bravado pomp and hype when a clearly better simple sentence gets the “Happiness Is” response.
Brooks did something else noteworthy last week, assigning a prize 6-4, 210-pound sophomore receiver to a red shirt. Aaron Boyd owns a play-on-Sunday body, is gifted with soft hands and has combat experience — five receptions, 46 yards as a true freshman. But he needs to grow between the ears.
What it means:
The roster is deep enough for no drop-off without Boyd.
Given out-of-limelight time instead of hang-around-sidelines, the kid can discover the level of his real appetite to play SEC football.
A lesson. Wanna-be football stars at UK like Boyd, and recruit prospects, witness a demonstration of “what it takes” to play for Brooks and his demands in pursuit of SEC title contendership.
For UK fans, higher hopes and increased appreciation for an iron-willed 67-years-young disciplinarian with low tolerance for foolishness and is about mission more than dollars at the next job.
Brooks radiates pride like nobody since Jerry Claiborne 25 years ago. The 1984 team was last at Kentucky to win nine games in a season, something Brooks teams have not achieved yet.
A nine-win season this year? Even skeptics don’t laugh aloud anymore.
“We have a whole lot of positives going on, in my mind.” Brooks told his Louisville audience.
Take it to the bank.
KENTUCKY. Best case scenario: No injuries and a breakout season for quarterback Mike Hartline, the Wildcats can reach 8- 4. Must wins — Louisville, South Carolina and Tennessee. Pivot game: Auburn.
Worst case: Run game never materializes, leaving Hartline to run for his life to throw, multiple injuries, especially defense. Record 5-7 or 6-6.
My guess: 7-5 with bowl game at the end.
LOUISVILLE. Best case scenario: Justin Burke draws comparisons to John Unitas, Cards surprise Kentucky, shock Pittsburgh, beat UConn, then win out at home, 8-4.
Worst case: No surprises and 4- 7.
My guess: 5-7, 6-6.
All Good Stuff Dept.
Vanderbilt’s basketball team made a 10-day five game trek across Australia last month. Until May, however, Vandy officials were still searching for ways to pay for it while making 20 per cent cuts in programs.
Vice Chancellor David Williams told the media last week how Commodore basketball paid for the trip.
Take a guess. was it … A. Basketball alumni associa- tion.
B. Local car dealership. C. Travis Tritt.
D. Perry Wallace.
E. Brett Burrow, attorney-atlaw.
F. Kevin Stallings.
G. None of the above.
If you guessed G, treat yourself to an ice cream cone. But, unless you paused at F, no chocolate syrup!
Stallings was due a $100,000 pay hike this year. Instead, he asked the school to use the money to pay for the Aussie trip.
“I don’t think Kevin meant to be a trailblazer, but he is a trailblazer in this,” Williams said. “He was just doing what he thought was the appropriate thing to do in light of a number of things.
“As much as he was being generous, he also understands completely the sensitivity to the fact that the rest of the university was having some financial pain.”
“It was surprising because I’d never heard of anything being done like that,” Williams added. “It was not surprising that Kevin would do that. I’m grateful and think it’s very generous, but that’s just who Kevin is.”
Billy Clyde Blunder
Can anyone recall a more pathetic sight than Billy Clyde Gillispie’s mug shot in state newspapers last week? Ironically, as the media herd wondered if RickPitino’s temper flare-up signaled “he’s losing control,” they need only cross out one name and write in the other.
Meanwhile, what impact will Gillispie’s DUI on the clash of lawsuits with University of Kentucky? The word none comes to mind since the conflict pivots on whether or not Gillispie and UK had a valid contract and not on drinking habits or character issues.
UK freshman John Wall assured Courier-Journal newspaper readers last week, “It’s not going to be ‘John Wall, savior of Kentucky basketball,’ as great as that sounds.”
Ah, the sweet (and charitable) naiveté of youth. An 18-year-old assuring fans he is no savior. Who was the last recruit to declare himself so?
Wall’s remark gives fans one clear indicator. The kid who had a 4.0 in summer school missed a reading assignment already — history of UK basketball.
And so it goes. You can reach Bob Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org