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Sports in Kentucky

Brooks isn't the 'worst' anymore



The Kentucky all-stars’ dramatic come-back win over Tennessee last week was outstanding. The timing is excellent also with big momentum firmly in hands of Kentucky officials.

Having won five of its last six with Tennessee, time to heed: ‘If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards.’

Officials who manage the all-star program should turn Tennessee’s cancellation of the series into opportunity. Move football forward. Putting a new shine on an old idea – East-West all-star game.

The Coaches Association should coat-tail the popular momentum set by Orange Bowl champion University of Louisville, bowl happy Kentucky fans, and Western Kentucky’s advance toward Division I status, and use it as a positive.

Ideas? Appoint a media liaison to promote the game; lobby for sponsorship; establish a sound (apolitical) player selection process; create competition for the game site. Start with a geographically pleasing rotation to include Mt. Sterling, Danville and Bardstown.

The Kentucky all-stars and coach Joey Downs have extended a win streak. Timeto seize the day, use Big Mo to advance the all-star series.

Brooks: Worst To First?

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks may own a new title by bowl season. SEC Coaching’s senior citizen, he’ll be 66 August 20, may become the league’s media anointed, genius.

Stop laughing and consider:

Last season’s bowl games what team was better prepared than Kentucky (for Clemson)? Imagination and willingness to take risks, credit Brooks. Nobody believed UK would finish 8-5.

Those who favor crediting Joker Phillips more than Brooks will remember – key to success is being bright enough to hire brighter people.

Brooks’ star could ascend in the SEC heavens for other reasons. Phil Fulmer is butt of jokes as Bengals-South head jailer (Knoxville). Nick Saban’s honeymoon in Tuscaloosa … Crimson Tide critics are grumbling already. Mark Richt at Georgia is thisclose to joining Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State on the ‘y’all better win this season’ hot seat. Steve Spurrier at South Carolina is still flamboyant and still Steve Superior.

If Andre Woodson has a Heisman season and UK beats Louisville, surprises South Carolina, Georgia and manages eight wins, however unlikely that seems today, the 66-year-old in Lexington, rated worst coach in the league two season ago, could see his name followed by … SEC coach of the year.

Mr. Basketball

Billy Ray Lickert (’57) to Steffphon Pettigrew (’07), the first annual meeting of Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball Fraternity drew 19 of its own to Elizabethtownlast week.

Tributes came from Governor Ernie Fletcher along, Kentucky all-stars spokesman Dave Satterly, representative

of Hardin County judge executive’s office and Elizabethtown’s mayor.

The fraternity elected Harry Todd (’58) president, J.R. Van Hoose (’98) vicepresident and Winston Bennett (’83) president- Elect, Brandon Stockton ((’02) secretary, and Walt Allen (’06) chaplain.

Prime goal for the Mr. Basketball Fraternity? Beyond camaraderie, and beginning with Lickert (’57), having members take their rightful place in the KHSAA Hall of Fame.

The fellowship among these men who contributed mightily to basketball’s tradition in Kentucky was heartwarming. Incredibly, more than half of Kentucky’s 53 Mr. Basketball winners are not in the KHSAA Hall of Fame. The KHSAA did not send a representative to the meeting.

Tom Jurich’s

Wonderful Life

Tom Jurich’s rump must be black and blue. University of Louisville’s director of athletics must pinch himself every morning to make sure this Wonderful Life isn’t a dream.

Last week, Jurich took bows for another national recognition. College athletics director of the year. Nice fit on his lodge pole next to citations for everything from hiring king Midas (Rick Pitino) and job-jumping Bob Petrino, then Steve Kragthorpe, to masterminding title winners in baseball, volleyball,softball, men’s and women’s basketball, and dibs on whatever other hardware the Big East offers.

A significant record belonging to Jurich that goes unmentioned – longest running honeymoon with media since Bill Clinton was introduced to Monica Lowenski.

If Jurich was any more successful, brilliant, popular, important, praised and rich, there would have to be three of him. Pinch yourself.

Requiem to Mears

Two names top the list of coaches University of Kentucky Big Blue fans loved to hate. First, Ray Mears. The other, Al McGuire at Marquette.

Mears joined McGuire last week in a place where basketball coaches go. In his heyday, the Vols’ coach was a carnival barker in clown’s orange coat. His enthusiasm for paying tribute to Kentucky and Rupp was like a man facing a root canal.

Long before trash talk, Mears put mind games into college hoops, and used a style of play that made us think of fingernails screeching down a blackboard. Each possession was bullion.

To fall behind against Mears’ Vols was like Cary Grant agreeing to share billing with Shirley Temple. ‘Give up the spotlight early and you ain’t gonna getit back, Poppy.’

We know the mid-70 legends Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King, but Mearsrecruited Kentucky kids during his tenure, 1963- 77, and made Lexington pay.

From Tom Hendrix, Orb Bowling and Tom Boerwinkle to Bill Justice and Rodney Woods, the Vols used half-court tempo to corral Kentucky’s thoroughbreds and lull the Wildcats into a teacher-alumni donkey ball game.

Epilogue. We think a Mears II era is emerging in Knoxville. Bruce Pearl is more charming and every bit an orange-coat showman. Ray Mears will be watching.

And so it goes.

Share your point of view. E-mail Bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com

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