Mark Story: Are Stoops and UK overdoing the 'bulk mailings' to recruits?

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 4, 2013 

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UK Coach Mark Stoops' 2014 class is ranked in the top 10 in the nation by three recruiting services. Four players are in the Rivals Top 250.

JONATHAN PALMER — Jonathan Palmer

Quick-hitters from the "Butler wake:"

21. Matt Elam's mail box. Must've sagged after the University of Kentucky football program sent the mountainous (6-foot-6, 350-pound) John Hardin defensive tackle 182 recruiting letters on the same day.

20. Colin Cowherd. The ESPN radio host threw the flag on Kentucky for committing recruiting excess with its mass mailing, mocking UK on national radio.

19. Nick Saban. Presumably Cowherd also laid into Saban when Alabama sent class of 2013 Georgia running back Alvin Kamara 105 recruiting letters at one time in 2012. Kamara signed with the Crimson Tide in February.

18. Drew Barker. Under new head coach Mark Stoops, UK is making good use of the bulk mailing. Locked in a pitched recruiting battle with South Carolina for quarterback Drew Barker, the Cats sent the Conner QB 115 letters one time, then 100 more another time. Barker eventually committed to UK.

17. Are Stoops and UK overdoing it? Such mass mailings to recruits are overkill and part of a process that warps the self-worth, one suspects, of many an impressionable teenager. Still, of all the things to criticize in big-time college recruiting, bulk mailings seem fairly benign to me.

16. Long live 'snail mail.' I do find it fascinating that, in an era of texts, tweets, vines and all other manners of instantaneous communication, the way to really turn a high school kid's head still seems to be through the U.S. Postal Service.

15. Brad Stevens to the Celtics. After I picked my jaw up off my computer keyboard Wednesday when the news broke, I decided I liked this move for both coach and pro team. Having thought about it, now I really, really, like it.

14. No down side for Stevens. If the former Butler coach is a bomb in Boston, he will still pocket $22 million (in a six-year contract) and will become the hottest prospect for any college job in the country.

13. No down side for Celtics. If Stevens bombs and the Celtics do a lot of losing, Boston would still benefit by having a chance for better draft position to aid its rebuilding process.

12. Not a Pitino redux. Because Stevens is a successful college coach going to the Celtics, the comparisons to Rick Pitino when he left Kentucky for Boston are inevitable. They also are not relevant. Pitino failed with the Celts primarily because he was in charge of the entire basketball operation and made too many personnel errors in that role. In Stevens' case, Danny Ainge is running the front office.

11. A natural fit. We'll see if Stevens, who is 36 and looks 26, can command the respect of an NBA locker room. I'm guessing he will be able to because his coaching style — calm, cerebral and based heavily on advanced analytics — is perfect for the NBA. I think he'll succeed in Boston.

10. Rajon Rondo. Everyone assumes that the ex-Kentucky point guard, known to be mercurial at times, will devour Stevens. Could it be that Rondo, one of the smartest players in the NBA, will bond with the brainiac coach?

9. Should Celts trade Rondo? Now that Boston is parting with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to launch its rebuild, there is a case that they should trade Rondo, too.

8. Celtics not bad enough? In the NBA, the worst thing for a franchise to be is average — not good enough to win a championship, not bad enough to get high draft choices.

7. The 'trap of the middle.' Even without Pierce and Garnett (slated to be traded to Brooklyn), the Celtics with a nucleus including Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger may be good enough to sneak into the playoffs. For Boston, that would actually be bad.

6. A 'redshirt' option. If the Celtics don't want to trade Rondo but do want to "tank" in advance of the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, they could encourage the ex-UK guard — coming back from knee surgery — to embark on "the Derrick Rose rehabilitation program" and sit out 2013-14.

5. Butler. With the little Indianapolis private school debuting this winter in the revamped Big East, losing Stevens, the coach who turned Butler from good mid-major into a national-level program, is a body blow.

4. The Butler way. Is to promote from within its own family. Problem is, the Stevens assistant who was next in line, Matthew Graves, just started as the new head man at South Alabama.

3. Last game in Lexington. To add to Rupp Arena's history, it is now the site of the last game Brad Stevens coached at Butler. The Bulldogs lost a gut wrencher, 74-72, to Marquette in the 2013 NCAA Tournament round of 32.

2. Stevens' college coaching legacy. I keep reading that the ex-Butler head man was the best young coach in college basketball. Actually, over the six years (2007-13) he led the Bulldogs, Stevens may have been the best coach in college hoops, period.

1. Butler vs. Kentucky. Consider this, in Stevens' six years at Butler, the Bulldogs fared better in March Madness than UK every year but one — 2012.

Think about that.

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