Wimp Sanderson's son prepares for his turn in Rupp

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 13, 2012 

  • Saturday

    Lipscomb at Kentucky

    When: 12:30 p.m.

    TV: Fox Sports South

Former Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson won't be anywhere near Rupp Arena on Saturday when his youngest son, Scott, leads Lipscomb against Kentucky. He'll be in Athens, Ga., to serve as color commentator for the telecast of Georgia's game against Iona.

Father and son believe it's best that way.

"I struggle watching them," Sanderson said of his three sons, two of which remain in coaching. "I mean, I don't try to coach their teams. I just have a hard time wanting them to win. That's the way my personality is."

Scott, the dean of Atlantic Sun Conference coaches, is in his 14th season at Lipscomb. Jim, the oldest, coaches at Faulkner University, a Montgomery, Ala.-based school that he guided to the 2000 NAIA national championship. Middle son Barry, a former assistant at Wake Forest, Texas A&M and South Carolina, is out of coaching.

Wimp's nerves make it difficult to watch the sons' games. Even telecasts of games are too much of an emotional storm.

"If it was up to him, he'd listen on the radio," Scott said.

Of course, it wouldn't be as simple as sitting and listening. Ideally, Wimp would be upstairs out of earshot of the radio downstairs, Scott said. Every once in awhile, he'd shout out for an update on the score.

That Wimp attended Lipscomb's game against Tennessee-Martin last weekend surprised Scott.

"I can't believe he sat right behind the bench," Scott said.

Although Wimp experienced much success as Alabama's coach from 1980-81 through 1991-92, his example did not lead Scott inevitably into coaching.

"Very successful," Scott described his father's time as Alabama coach, "and he was miserable. He didn't enjoy it."

Wimp felt the pressure to win. And this was before the Internet, Twitter and Facebook. (Wimp, who does a two-hour radio show each day, expressed shock about a CBS-Sports.com report Wednesday of a poll that suggested UK Coach John Calipari had a favorability rating of less than 50 percent in Kentucky.)

"It's what coaching is becoming," Scott said. "There's so much pressure to produce and win. Sometimes instead of enjoying a win, it's just a relief."

In that sense, Wimp was ahead of his time.

"My problem was I was there 20 years (as an assistant) before I got the job," Wimp said. "And nobody wanted me to have it."

As Wimp recalled, the "story in the street" was that then-Alabama Athletic Director Paul "Bear" Bryant, did not want basketball to succeed. So he promoted Wimp to insure its place in the shadows.

"I got busted in the newspaper before I'd coached a game," Wimp said of a column he read criticizing the promotion.

Before his first game, Wimp canceled his subscription to the newspaper.

Over the next 12 seasons, Alabama won five Southeastern Conference Tournament championships. That meant something then. Ten of Alabama's 18 NCAA Tournament victories came in that period.

"I could not enjoy the wins for worrying about the next game," Wimp said. "And the losses killed me. The losses absolutely killed me."

In a variation of Bryant's houndstooth hat trademark, Wimp made plaid sport coats his calling card. Coleman Coliseum became known as the Plaid Palace.

Wimp gained a reputation for being a sideline sourpuss and a dry wit. As an example of the latter, he once opined that it was "against the rules" for Kentucky to lose a home game.

"I don't even remember what I meant," Wimp said Thursday.

If memory serves, it sounded like a commentary on Rupp Arena influencing referees.

When asked about that interpretation, Wimp said, "It was always a difficult place to play. Put it that way."

More like Bobcats?

While at the Charlotte Bobcats-Los Angeles Clippers game Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C., Calipari spoke to reporters and complimented the progress the Bobcats have made under first-year coach Mike Dunlap. Charlotte had the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season. A loss to the Clippers dropped Charlotte to 7-14 this season.

Calipari suggested Kentucky could benefit from approaching basketball in a similar way to the Bobcats.

"I'm impressed with how hard they're playing and how much they're talking," Calipari said of the Bobcats. "I'm going to go back to my team and (remind) them how much these teams are communicating. 'I've got you. I'm your help.' In a short amount of time, (the Bobcats) look good."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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