Mark Story: Three reasons to give Joker Phillips a break

Smith's stumbles just growing pains

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 15, 2011 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips in the first half as Kentucky played Vanderbilt in the first half on Saturday November 12, 2011 in Nashville,TN. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Quick hitters after the Music City mash down:

21. Joker Phillips. With demoralizing performances like his team turned in at Vanderbilt, the Kentucky head man is not making it easy on those of us who believe you should not fire a coach — absent off-the-field issues — after only two years.

20. Three. Here are a trio of examples why you give coaches a fair chance at making it work.

19. Guy Morriss. After UK went 2-9 in 2001 with Morriss carrying the tag of "acting head coach," public opinion viewed Morriss as nothing more than a place holder. Most fans wanted Morriss out. The next season, Kentucky went 7-5.

18. Rich Brooks. In his first 41 games as Kentucky head coach, Brooks went 12-29. The number of non-family members who believed in the old coach would have fit in a Volkswagen bug. Yet Brooks held on and coached Kentucky to four straight winning seasons.

17. Mike Krzyzewski. In his second year as head hoops coach at Duke, Coach K went 10-17. In his third season, the Blue Devils were 11-17. Since then, Krzyzewski has done fairly well.

16. Cobb/Locke. The difference between victory and defeat for Kentucky in 2009 and 2010 in football games against both Louisville and Vanderbilt was the playmaking of Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. The absence of UK's departed stars — and Kentucky's inability to replace them with players of similar ability — is why U of L and Vandy turned the tables on the Cats in 2011.

15. Maxwell Smith. Looked like a true freshman quarterback making his first career road start Saturday. Nothing I saw against Vanderbilt, however, discouraged me about his long-term potential.

14. Missouri to SEC. It's not the grand slam that Texas A&M to the league is but Mizzou is a quality addition.

13. TV markets. With the acceptance of yet another team called the Tigers (added to Auburn and LSU), the SEC gains a foothold in the nation's No. 21 TV market (St. Louis) and the No. 31 TV market (Kansas City).

12. Academics. Most fans may not care one whit, but Missouri and Texas A&M double the number of SEC schools who are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities (a group of top research universities). The SEC, whose only two current AAU schools are Florida and Vanderbilt, can use all the additional academic luster it can get.

11. Missouri in the SEC East. Is not as outrageous as it sounds. The state of Missouri abuts three current Southeastern Conference states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. That means there are three SEC East schools (UK, Vanderbilt and Tennessee) from states that touch Missouri, to only one such school (Arkansas) from the West.

10. Kentucky tie at the top. Brady J. Deaton, Chancellor of the University of Missouri, is a Kentuckian who graduated from UK with a degree in agricultural economics in 1966 and a master's in diplomacy and international commerce in 1968.

9. Cats vs. Tigers in men's hoops. All-time, Kentucky is 4-0 against Missouri.

8. Cats vs. Tigers in football. All-time, UK is 2-0 vs. Mizzou.

7. Truman the Tiger. The Missouri mascot is named for a famous product of the Show Me State, Harry S. Truman.

6. Kentucky Colonels. Contrary to what I wrote Sunday in a question and answer with former Kentucky Colonels trainer Lloyd Gardner, the ex-Fairdale High School hoops coach was not the only trainer in the ABA team's history. He replaced William Antonini in the role in 1971.

5. Morehead State. In its first game without graduated rebounding machine Kenneth Faried, MSU had only 23 rebounds as a team in its 91-61 season-opening loss to North Carolina State.

4. SEC men's basketball. Every year, the Southeastern Conference spends November and December registering "bad" losses. This season is not even a week old, and Mississippi State has lost at home to Akron and Vanderbilt has fallen in Nashville to Cleveland State.

3. Kentucky vs. Kansas. In the first 17 men's hoops meetings between the basketball bluebloods, Kentucky won 16 of them. Kansas, however, has now won five of the last eight, including three in a row.

2. Lesson from the Penn State scandal. Large organizations, be they religious denominations, governments or major college football programs, cannot be trusted to police themselves.

1. Lesson II from Penn State scandal. Major-college sports programs, especially those in small towns, are shown way, way, way too much deference for their own good.

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