Mark Story: Ex-Cat Rhodes ready for more after tough first season

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 2, 2012 

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Rodrick Rhodes finished 11-18 in his first season as a high school coach at Cordia but said, "I did enjoy it."

JOHN FLAVELL — John Flavell

Rodrick Rhodes laughs when asked what he learned in his first season coaching high school basketball coach at tiny Cordia in Eastern Kentucky.

"Every parent thinks their kid is Anthony Davis," said the early-1990s-era Kentucky Wildcats forward, referencing last season's UK star.

Last December, I went to Knott County to look in on Rhodes early in his first season. Thought I would update you on how his full season turned out.

Rhodes did not work a competitive miracle at Cordia (some 300 students in grades K-12), a school that has not won a game in the 14th Region Tournament in this century. He did raise the season win total from seven in 2010-11 to 11 (11-18) in 2011-12.

"I did enjoy it," said Rhodes, a former college aide at Massachusetts, Idaho State and Texas-Pan American. "Coaching at the high school level, you just wear so many hats."

When Rhodes took the head coaching job at Cordia last summer, there was intense curiosity. It's not every day that a former UK standout, a former NBA player and an experienced Division I college assistant turns up coaching high school hoops in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

Alice Whitaker, the director of the Cordia school, says having Rhodes in the Lotts Creek community "has been wonderful. Totally great. He's added a wonderful dimension to our community. He's well-respected and accepted in our community. And I believe he's brought us some much-needed diversity. I believe we've added four or five minority students that wouldn't be here if it weren't for Rodrick."

Not everything went smoothly for the first-year head coach.

"I wound up having to kick, probably, three of my best players off the team," Rhodes said. "They were all seniors. That was tough.

"The other thing, when you've been a good player yourself, you expect people to be able to do things as you could do it. Well, that is not the case. I literally had to go back to the basics of the game and start there. That was the part to me that was the most challenging. It was a learning experience."

Rhodes wound up serving a four-game suspension this season after getting thrown out of two different games.

"In one of them, our 6-foot-5 kid (Chris Hudson) was up in the air and got clotheslined," Rhodes said. "I went out on the court trying to protect my player and I guess in the opinion of the (referees) I went too far."

The other case where he got tossed, Rhodes said, came in a game in which he was working under a stipulation from the officials that he could not get off the bench during live action. During the game, there was a discrepancy with the Cordia players' numbers listed in the official score book. In a stoppage of action, Rhodes said he went to the scorer's table to address that.

While there, a woman who had asked him to sign an autograph for her grandson before the game, asked him again and said she would not be able to wait until after the contest ended.

"I'm coaching and I want to be focused (on the game) but I didn't want to say no, so I was signing that," Rhodes said. "Well, (while) I'm doing that, they started the game back up and I got teed up again for being up. It was crazy."

From the moment the Jersey City, N.J., product signed on to work in rural Knott County, people have wondered how long he'll stay.

"I plan on staying. That's the God's honest truth," Rhodes said. "I guess if a school in Lexington or Louisville wanted to talk, you'd listen. But that hasn't happened. My plan now is to stay."

Kentucky-Indiana conflict

A final thought on the Kentucky-Indiana men's basketball scheduling issue. When the UK-IU impasse first went public, I wrote that "someone needed to go all Henry Clay and come up with a compromise to keep Kentucky and Indiana playing."

My suggestion at that time was a four-year deal that would involve two games at neutral sites (what UK wanted) and two games, one apiece, on the two campuses (what IU desired).

Turns out, that apparently was pretty close to the proposal Indiana subsequently made, futilely, to get Kentucky to extend the series.

Hats off to IU and Tom Crean for being willing to compromise. For all who value the series between the state schools of two basketball-mad states, it's too bad UK and its powers that be did not show the same flexibility.

Louisville over Lexington

When the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame celebrates its 10th anniversary June 15, the event will take place at The Palace Theater in Louisville. Before this year, the inductions had been a Lexington event.

"The city of Louisville recruited us," said Frank Minnifield, the ex-Cleveland Browns star turned Lexington businessman who is the driving force behind the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame. "They've got a sports commission and they came to the last two (Hall of Fame inductions). They really wanted this and you might say they put their money where their mouth was."

How so?

"Our golf outing, in Lexington, it was $500 a team and they sold just sporadically," Minnifield said. "In Louisville, they sold corporate sponsorships and got $5,000 a team. That's a big difference."

This year's induction class will be Mo Moorman, Dan Neal, Bubba Paris, Rob Bironas and Chris Redman. All previous inductees will also receive a Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame ring at this year's ceremony, Minnifield said.

(For information on the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony, go to www.kyprofootballhof.com).

The Manning family — highlighted by ex-Saints and Oilers quarterback Archie and his sons, current Broncos signal caller Peyton and Giants QB Eli — will be honored with the Blanton Collier Award at the ceremony.

"We had a commitment for the whole family to come," Minnifield said. "Then Peyton went to a new team, Eli won the Super Bowl and their schedules changed. We're still hoping they are going to show up, but I'd say it's less than 50-50."

But Archie Manning, his wife, Olivia, and their oldest son, Cooper, "will be there," Minnifield said.

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

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