Mark Story: Who Lexingtonians love to hate

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 9, 2010 

Stirred to a frenzy by LeBron-athon 2010, the sports punditocracy was proclaiming Thursday that if LeBron James left the Cavaliers in free agency, he would join Art Modell — the man who moved the old Browns to Baltimore — in the annals of Cleveland sports villainy.

It got me to thinking: Who would sit atop the list of Lexington, Kentucky's sports villains?

Here are my top 10 (not including media members)

10. Joakim Noah. The ebullient Florida Gators big man played on teams that beat Kentucky six times in a row and seemed to have a pro wrestling heel's relish for being treated as the "bad guy" in Rupp Arena.

9. Mike Krzyzewski. With every additional success — and four NCAA titles, 11 Final Fours and an Olympic gold medal is a lot of success — the Duke basketball coach seems to arouse more and more of the green-eyed monster that lurks inside Kentucky fans.

8. Billy Gillispie. The Kentucky basketball coach who presided over losses to Gardner-Webb, San Diego and VMI will long hold a special niche in local sports infamy.

7. Bobby Petrino. In his first game against Kentucky as Louisville football coach, Petrino had his team tack on a run-up-the-score touchdown in the final seconds.

In his second game, Bobby P. had his Cards take a knee — then taunted UK over it.

6. The song Rocky Top. The Bluegrass music standard has been the soundtrack to 25 consecutive years of Tennessee whipping Kentucky at football. To add insult to continuous injury, the song was first made prominent by the Osborne Brothers — who hail from Leslie County, Ky.

5. Christian Laettner. The foot stomp on Aminu Timberlake's chest was bad; the last-second dagger that is shown over and over and over and over each March remains unforgivable.

4. North Carolina men's basketball program. Maybe it is the fawning national media coverage the Tar Heels tend to get. Maybe it's a certain smugness in the whole "Carolina Way." Maybe it is the fact that UNC is 21-11 head-to-head against Kentucky.

Whatever the reason, going back to the days of Dean Smith, even the thought of Carolina baby blue has always made the locals see red.

3. Steve Spurrier. When he was at Florida, Steve "Superior" used to bury Kentucky (remember 73-7 and 65-0) routinely. At South Carolina, Spurrier seems to always squeak by the Cats.

Add it up, and the Head Ball Coach is 17-0 against UK — and has said something snarky after, oh, 15 of those victories.

2. Bob Knight. From his days cuffing the back of Joe B. Hall's head right up to questioning John Calipari's integrity this past season, the former Indiana hoops tyrant has a knack for gigging Kentucky.

1. Rick Pitino. In politics, nothing riles up partisans like a party switcher. So it is in sports. When the former UK coach signed on with Louisville, he assumed the status as a "turnCat" and years of sound and fury have ensued.

Honorable mention: Bruce Pearl; Hal Mumme/Claude Bassett; Eddie Sutton; Ernie & Bernie; Karl Hess (the basketball referee, not the late political writer); Ray Mears; the Emery Air Freight Corporation; Digger Phelps; Vaughn Wedeking.

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