Mark Story: Ex-Wildcat to let Rick Pitino know what he really thinks of him

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 3, 2013 

Fast-break points from the "Red Wedding."

21. Rick Pitino. The Louisville head man should get something in the mail this week in honor of U of L's 2013 NCAA men's basketball title from one of his former Kentucky players.

20. Cameron Mills. The late-1990s UK guard planned to send the coach who developed him from walk-on into NCAA Tournament shooting star a box of Padron cigars.

19. Not the first time. Mills said he sent Pitino "a smaller box" of Padron cigars in 2005, after the coach took U of L to the Final Four. He did not send any gift when Louisville made the 2012 NCAA semifinals "because they were playing (Kentucky) and I just didn't feel right about that."

18. A Big Blue backlash? Mills figures congratulating Pitino "probably doesn't endear me to Kentucky fans, but I am proud of him for what (he did this year). He was my coach, the one who gave me a chance to play at Kentucky and then coached me just as hard as the McDonald's All-Americans we had."

17. Frank Vogel. The Pacers head man was coaching in the game of his career (so far) Monday night against the Heat in Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

16. Long way from UK JV. In 1996, Vogel was a UK student manager who was pressed into duty as a guard when Rick Pitino started a JV team. In the Cats JV opener, Vogel scored 11 points and hit a crucial three-pointer in overtime to help spark a 133-129 overtime victory over Lees College.

15. Eddie Sutton. John Calipari told the Tulsa World last week he hoped to bring the coach who presided over Kentucky's late 1980s basketball cheating scandal — which led to a two-year NCAA Tournament ban — back to Lexington to observe a Wildcats practice.

14. Bygones? Sutton was not personally named in the NCAA violations, but resigned under pressure in 1989 after his final UK team went 13-19 amidst ample turmoil.

13. Can't rewrite history. Sutton would and should get a respectful reception if he came back. But whether he does or not, it does not change one fact. In major-college sports, the captain should be held responsible for the ship.

12. Kentucky players in NBA mock draft I. Most recent projection from Draft Express has 1. Nerlens Noel (Cavs); 20. Gorgui Dieng (Bulls); 39. Archie Goodwin (Blazers); 48. Isaiah Canaan (Lakers); 55. Peyton Siva (Grizzlies).

11. Kentucky players in NBA mock draft II. Most recent projection from nbadraft.net has 2. Nerlens Noel (Magic); 22. Gorgui Dieng (Nets); 34. Isaiah Canaan (Rockets); 40. Archie Goodwin (Blazers); 55. Peyton Siva (Grizzlies).

10. Mark Stoops marches into Ohio. Six of the University of Kentucky's 10 current football commitments are from the new UK head coach's native Buckeye State — a place where Cats recruiters have long struggled.

9. Jeff Piecoro. The ex-Kentucky wide receiver, current Wildcats radio color analyst and long-time Cincinnati sports media figure might be the happiest person in the UK universe to see what Stoops and staff are doing in Ohio.

8. A long-held vision for UK football. If I had $5 for every time I've heard Piecoro in press boxes all but pleading for UK football recruiters to work Ohio, I might well be a millionaire.

7. Key to UK success? "I'm ecstatic," Piecoro said. "I have always thought that Ohio could be such a great base for UK. But, for whatever reason, some of our prior staffs just couldn't seem to get in there."

6. Numbers game. "In a good year, Kentucky will produce, what, 10 guys who can play high Division I?" Piecoro says. "There are literally dozens (of prospects) in southern Ohio alone. And that doesn't even include the rest of (the state)."

5. Something to sell. With Youngstown product Stoops, Kentucky now has a football coach with enough credibility in Ohio to make a logical pitch. "He can sell Ohio kids on coming (to UK) to play in the SEC and yet you are only an hour, a couple hours from your home," Piecoro said.

4. Jason Ellis. The Bardstown police officer who was murdered May 25 was once a baseball star at the University of the Cumberlands.

3. A power-hitting catcher. As a senior in 2002, Ellis hit .447. The Batavia, Ohio, product signed a minor-league free agent deal with the Reds and spent a few seasons in the Cincinnati minor-league organization.

2. Cumberlands' highest sports honor. In 2011, Cumberlands inducted Ellis into its athletics hall of fame. At the time, he was the school's career leader in hits (246), doubles (60), home runs (34), RBI (183) and batting average (.389).

1. Best ever? Cumberlands Athletics Director Randy Vernon says Ellis "is arguably the best baseball player ever to play here. He holds most of the major career offensive records here and many of the season ones. He was just a great young man, a great student."

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

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