Notebook

UK basketball notebook: Coaching, cursing go hand in hand

Ex-Wildcats swear they've heard it all

Herald-Leader Staff WriterJanuary 23, 2011 

After only a few phone calls, it became readily apparent. When television caught John Calipari screeching a profane outburst at Terrence Jones last week, former Kentucky players (yawn) shrugged.

This was business as usual for athletics in general and for UK basketball in particular.

Did players anger Adolph Rupp to the point of intemperate language?

"Constantly," said Larry Conley, of the beloved Rupp's Runts. "Oh my gosh, yes."

Did Joe B. Hall cuss and fuss?

"Oh yeah," said Tom Heitz, who declined to elaborate, saying, "It's kind of like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

Did Rick Pitino? Of course, that's a rhetorical question. He had his own awkward Candid Camera moment. TV captured referee Andre Pattillo ejecting Pitino from his last home game as UK coach. Pitino got the heave-ho for directing an F-bomb at Pattillo. Like Calipari, Pitino later apologized.

But, gee willikers, didn't Calipari call Jones, a mere tyke as a college player, a multi-syllable variation of the F bomb? Isn't that too much? Cameron Mills calmly said, "I can assure you I was called worse than that, and was called that very thing on several occasions."

Reflecting on his playing days for Pitino and the much less volatile Tubby Smith, Mills reflected on the names he was called as a player.

"I was called the P word on several occasions," he said. "I was called a stupid 'MFer.' A fat 'MFer.' Let's see. What else? A lazy 'MFer.' There is a slew of ways you can use that phrase."

When it comes to F-bombs, coaches can carpet-bomb like B-52s.

"I've heard it as a noun, adverb, adjective, pronoun," Mills said. "That one is good for all occasions."

No one suggested that such outbursts should be part of everyday conversation. Conley noted that he did not recall Rupp ever uttering the F-word. But, Conley added, "That was one of those words we didn't say much back then."

It's a coarser society now. Sports not only reflects that, it exceeds the looser bounds of good taste because of the higher stakes involved, the greater scrutiny and take-no-prisoners competitiveness.

"How do you express your displeasure?" Conley said of any coach who sees his players make mistakes. "Do you just say, 'Gee whiz, I wish you really hadn't done that.'

"Of course, you're going to get emotionally charged up and say what's on your mind. And John is known for saying what's on his mind."

Cursing and sports go together like verbal assault and emotional battery.

"I don't think the cuss word has been invented I hadn't heard from the time I was 8 years old," Conley said.

Heitz said he heard more colorful outbursts than what Calipari said on a Little League field.

For those who might think Calipari went too far, Heitz likened a cussing coach to a parent who spanks. There's room for debate.

All the former UK players noted the good intentions behind the seemingly crazed venting.

"This is what you have to learn about coaching," Mills said. "Everything they say — everything — it's not personal. It sounds personal. It feels personal. The way it comes out of their mouths with such anger, in such personal tones. You are convinced it's personal.

"It is not personal."

Mum's the word

UK President Lee Todd sought clarification, if not answers, in the Enes Kanter decision when he attended the NCAA Division Board of Directors meeting last weekend.

In a surprisingly feisty statement on the day the NCAA ruled Kanter permanently ineligible, Todd charged the organization with arbitrarily following its own rules and guidelines.

To review: the NCAA ruled Kanter ineligible because he received $33,033 in excess of permitted compensation in this third season playing for a professional team in his native Turkey.

UK launched two appeals, the second based on the NCAA allowing Auburn quarterback Cam Newton to continue playing even though his father admitted trying to sell his son's services to Mississippi State.

UK saw an inconsistency even though the Newton case involved improper benefits for an eligible athlete and the Kanter case was about initial eligibility. Two sets of rules and two different categories of punishment, the NCAA said.

New NCAA president Mark Emmert saw an open-and-shut case against Kanter playing. "The facts are utterly unambiguous, the rule is utterly unambiguous, and the intention of the membership is utterly unambiguous," Emmert told Seth Davis of CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated. "The vast majority of people in collegiate basketball knew that this was an issue with Enes Kanter. Kentucky knew it. Everybody who talked with him knew it. So I'm amazed that people are shocked by the fact that he is ineligible."

When reminded of Emmert's comment, Todd smiled and said he planned to talk to the NCAA president at the Board of Directors meeting.

Whatever the substance of the conversation, Todd declined an invitation to share.

"They had a good conversation," Todd's spokesman, Tom Harris, said. "Dr. Todd feels there's been enough conversation and enough written. He doesn't want to discuss it anymore."

Blarin' horn

Last week's Tennessee-Georgia game gave fans plenty to chew on.

Most memorably, Tennessee's Brian Williams appeared to go over Georgia's Chris Barnes to get a rebound and score the winning put-back at the buzzer. There was no call and the Vols won.

When asked in the formal post-game news conference if an over-the-back call should have been made, Georgia Coach Mark Fox sat silently for about 10 seconds before saying, "I'll have to look at the tape."

Earlier in the game, TV replays clearly showed that a 35-second shot-clock violation against Tennessee was not called.

No waiting to view the tape on that one. After the game, Georgia officials ordered louder horns to be installed so it would be easier for referees to know if a shot-clock violation occurred.

Officiating not easy

Sometimes referees can't win for losing.

When a foul was called against his team allowing Kansas to shoot winning free throws in the final seconds earlier this season, UCLA Coach Ben Howland screamed bloody murder.

When no over-the-back call was made against Tennessee last week, it allowed a winning put-back by Brian Williams to stand. Georgia fans were outraged.

"People will say, let the kids decide the game," said John Adams, the national supervisor of officials. "When you foul a guy with a half-second to go, you decide the game. (The referee) didn't foul him."

Adams declined to talk about the ending of the Tennessee-Georgia game.

Adams did say he'd like to see an expanded use of television replay in the final minute of a game. As of now, there are a limited number of reasons for a referee to use a sideline monitor in the final minute. Most deal with scoring and timing errors, flagrant fouls and determining which player was fouled.

For instance, Adams noted that referees could not check a monitor for the shot-clock violation against Tennessee that went uncalled because it happened outside the final minute.

In another game this season, a player dived for a loose ball and slid a good 10 feet along the court after securing it.

No travel call was made.

Good no call, Adams said.

"If momentum causes you to slide like that, you're OK," he said. "A violation would be if under pressure he rolled away on his back to get away from a (defender). Then it would be traveling."

Bleeding Blue

UK fans will have a chance to prove they bleed blue during what the Kentucky Blood Center is calling the Big Blue Slam.

Big Blue Slam, which will be staged this Monday through Friday, is a blood battle between basketball fans of the universities of Kentucky and Florida. It's also a friendly competition between the Kentucky Blood Center and the LifeSouth Community Blood Center in Gainesville.

All donors will receive a Big Blue Slam T-shirt and be entered to win a trip for two to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The tournament package includes two lower arena tickets for all sessions and a three-night stay at the Atlanta Downtown Marriott.

KBC donor centers, which are located in Lexington, Somerset and Pikeville, will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Mobile drive times vary. To find a donation location near you and schedule an appointment, visit the Web site www.kybloodcenter.org or call 1-800-775-2522.

Six bids?

South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn found plausible the idea of all six Eastern Division teams receiving bids to this year's NCAA Tournament.

"There's no question the other five are good enough and are (NCAA) tournament teams," he said. "We'd have to keep producing."

All six teams in the SEC's Eastern Division have Ratings Percentage Indexes in the top 100. Four are in the top 20: No. 14 Kentucky, No. 17 Tennessee, No. 17 Florida and No. 20 Vanderbilt.

Georgia is No. 43 and South Carolina No. 79.

"I know the other five, from a sheer talent standpoint and what they can do," are on track for bids," Horn said. "We still have to do some things."

Regular feature

Sophomore Jon Hood's playing time — or lack thereof — has become a regular feature of John Calipari's weekly radio call-in show. So no surprise during last week's show when a caller asked why Hood was not playing more.

"We get one of these questions every week," said assistant coach John Robic, who substituted for Calipari in the second half of the show.

Robic went on to say that Hood and fellow reserves Stacey Poole and Eloy Vargas had a way of getting on the floor more: Do the so-called little things like diving on the floor for loose balls, hustle, defend and execute.

"Jon will execute," Robic said before adding, "He has to be aggressive."

'Standout?'

In case you missed it, former UK player Darnell Dodson has transferred to Southern Miss, the school announced Friday night.

Here's how the news release began:

"Former Kentucky standout Darnell Dodson has transferred to Southern Miss, head coach Larry Eustachy announced Friday afternoon. Dodson will have to sit out the spring and fall semesters, but will be allowed to practice."

Standout?

Billed as a perimeter shooter, Dodson made 36.5 percent of his shots (34.7 percent from three-point range). He averaged 6.0 points and 15.3 minutes.

Financial literacy

UK Coach John Calipari and school president Lee Todd participated in a news conference last week that spread the word about the need for greater awareness about financial matters.

The pair urged students to manage their credit-card spending wisely and reaffirmed UK's commitment to what's called financial literacy.

UK is hoping to teach students about how better to set budgets, read a credit report and generally manage money, Todd said.

Noting that information passed from student to student has a greater chance of being retained, Calipari endorsed the teaching model that involves the sharing of information within the undergraduate peer group.

A news release mentioned a study that showed Kentucky's need for better financial knowledge. In the 50 states, Kentucky ranked next-to-last in saving money for emergencies and third-worst in answering financial questions.

UK hopes to raise awareness by offering financial information in Family Studies classes and in lectures in some 100- and 200-level classes.

Happy birthday

To Rupp's Runt Larry Conley. He turned 67 on Saturday.

"I think I'm getting old," he said with a laugh.

Conley noted that he plans to attend a 50th reunion of the Ashland Paul Blazer state championship team of 1961 this spring. The nine surviving members of the team will be recognized at this year's Sweet 16.

Jerry Tipton covers UK basketball for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at jtipton@herald-leader.com.

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