John Clay: Who could have seen Kentucky's now back then?

jclay@herald-leader.com,John ClayFebruary 29, 2012 

Then: It was March 4, 2009, when Georgia arrived in Lexington for Kentucky basketball's Senior Night.

Now: It is March 1, 2012, as Georgia arrives in Lexington for Kentucky basketball's Senior Night.

The opponent is the same, but for Kentucky basketball more than the date has changed.

Then: Kentucky lost 90-85 to a Georgia team that had fired its coach, Dennis Felton, and was 2-12 in the SEC.

Now: Kentucky has won 50 straight home games without a loss since.

Then: Embattled head coach Billy Gillispie was three weeks away from losing his job.

Now: John Calipari is being lauded (again) for national coach of the year honors.

Then: Kentucky was an NIT team.

Now: If today were Selection Sunday, Kentucky would be the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed.

Then: Kentucky was on its way to its 11th consecutive season without a trip to the Final Four, the longest drought in school history.

Now: Kentucky would be considered to have a better-than-average shot at its second consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Then: Kentucky was finishing its fourth straight year without an SEC title.

Now: Kentucky just clinched the SEC title outright, the 45th in school history and the second in three years.

Then: Kentucky was on its way to a 3-5 record in its last eight SEC Tournament games.

Now: Kentucky is 6-0 in the last two SEC Tournaments.

Then: There was a poorly hidden rift between Jodie Meeks and Gillispie, with the coach saying behind the scenes that his leading scorer was selfish.

Now: Opposing coaches such as Billy Donovan and Kevin Stallings have gone out of their way to compliment this Kentucky team for its disposition and unselfishness.

Then: Kentucky was losing to the likes of Gardner-Webb, VMI, UAB, Houston and San Diego.

Now: In the past three years, UK's regular-season non-conference losses have been to North Carolina, Connecticut and Indiana.

Then: Louisville Coach Rick Pitino was on a two-game winning streak over his former employer.

Now: Pitino is 0-3 against Kentucky since John Calipari became head coach.

Then: Gillispie said he did not believe dealing with boosters and fans was part of his job description.

Now: Calipari has more than a million followers on Twitter and spends a good deal of his time promoting charitable and university causes.

Then: Immediately after being fired, Gillispie was being chased down a hallway by WLEX sports anchor Alan Cutler.

Now: Calipari loves to give Cutler a hard time about that chase scene.

Then: Gillipsie had recruits such as Dakotah Euton, Vinny Zollo and Konner Tucker lined up for future UK basketball squads.

Now: After three consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes, Calipari is in the hunt for top prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel for 2012-13.

Then: Kentucky had just four first-round NBA picks in the previous 10 years.

Now: In the past two years, UK has had seven first-round draft picks, and most believe Anthony Davis is a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.

Then: Mitch Barnhart was the subject of slings and arrows for his hiring of Gillispie.

Now: Barnhart presides over an athletic department that just wrapped up outright SEC regular-season titles in both men's and women's basketball.

Then: Mark Coury was a starter.

Now: Darius Miller, the MVP in last year's SEC Tournament, comes off the bench.

Then: Kentucky seniors were probably glad to see their college careers coming to a close.

Now: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a possible lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, says he would like to come back for his sophomore year.

Then: At Memphis, John Calipari was probably wondering if he would ever hear from Kentucky about its coaching job.

Now: Fortunately, he did.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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