Mark Story: Some SEC coaches, including Joker, need to rally before 2013

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMay 18, 2012 

Mark Story

Quick hitters (one last time) from Wisteria Lane:

21. Kentucky football recruiting. Does it matter how many non-binding, public verbal commitments a school has now for the 2013 signing date next February? UK sure hopes not.

20. SEC schools raking in commits. Of the (soon-to-be) 14 Southeastern Conference schools, 10 already have at least eight commitments for 2013. Florida has 16; Georgia and Texas A&M each have 15; Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina all have 12.

19. The four laggards. Tennessee has six commitments; Arkansas and Mississippi State each have two; Kentucky has one — Clay County defensive lineman Jacob Hyde.

18. Coaching uncertainty? Mississippi State's Dan Mullen is the exception, but the other three SEC schools that are lagging in securing commitments have head coaches whose futures are perceived to be less than rock solid.

17. Tennessee. Derek Dooley is on a roaring hot seat after committing the Big Orange unpardonable sin of losing to Kentucky.

16. Arkansas. After Bobby Petrino's fall from grace (and his motorcycle), the Hogs have an interim head man in John L. Smith.

15. Kentucky. Many believe Joker Phillips — 11-14 in two years after taking over a program coming off four straight winning seasons — is in a must-win season with a team that, on paper, looks to be a year away from taking a big step forward.

14. Joker's route to survival. Here is how Phillips can survive. Win out-of-league home games with Kent State, Western Kentucky and Samford. Defeat Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in Commonwealth Stadium. Then pull off one major upset no one sees coming — something UK football has done every season since 2006.

13. Beat Florida? Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1986, hasn't beaten UF in Gainesville since 1979 and has been outscored by the Gators 200-36 in the last four meetings.

12. Joker as streak buster. In 2010, Phillips ended UK's oh-for-all-eternity losing streak against Steve Spurrier-coached teams by beating South Carolina. Last season, he snapped the Cats' 26-game skid against Tennessee. With Kentucky at 25 losses to Florida in a row, that is the last major "bad streak" against a specific opponent left.

11. Show time. How much fun would it be if Rajon Rondo and Kenneth Faried played on the same NBA team? That would be your Lob City.

10. Sean Woods. I hope the new Morehead State head hoops coach doesn't come to regret that "Gonzaga of the South" comment.

9. A final word on Kentucky-Indiana impasse. When Tom Crean and John Calipari couldn't find their way to a compromise to keep UK and IU playing hoops, where were the schools' administrations — right up to the university presidents — to step in and say Indiana and Kentucky ARE going to keep playing?

8. Sprint Cup racing returns to Kentucky Speedway. The second Quaker State 400 runs in Sparta on June 30, which is earlier than last year's traffic jam, uhh, inaugural Cup race (July 9).

7. Ticket sales? I asked Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger how tickets for this year are moving: "We have not sold as many tickets today as compared to last year," he said. "But we never really thought we'd have the same kind of response as we had for an inaugural event. I'm confident, overall, we'll have a very good crowd. Will we have another sellout? We'll just have to see."

6. The "last-chance state." What is it about the state of Texas and coaches on the career brink?

5. Bob Knight. After his dismissal for verbally abusing a student at Indiana, The General returned from exile at Texas Tech.

4. Billy Gillispie. When Billy G. was ousted after two uncomfortable years at Kentucky, he, too, got a next chance at Texas Tech.

3. Hal Mumme. After his Kentucky reign ended amid an NCAA scandal and he then failed to produce enough wins at New Mexico State, "Gamblin" Hal wound up coaching at McMurry University, a Division III school in, of course, Abilene, Texas.

2. Larry Brown. At age 71, when many are settling into retirement, Brown is getting a last-gasp coaching shot at SMU in Dallas.

1. Bobby Petrino. If I were the scandal-plagued ex-Arkansas head man, I'd have my agent scouring the Lone Star job listings every single day.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230.Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory.Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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