UK basketball notebook: Dakich says UK-IU series too important to let die

Herald-Leader Staff WriterDecember 14, 2013 

Darius Miller left the floor after Indiana beat Kentucky at the buzzer in 2011. The series was canceled when coaches couldn't agree on where to play.

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

As you wouldn't allow children to play ball near the good china, so coaches should be kept away from basketball heirlooms.

That's how Dan Dakich views the way John Calipari and Tom Crean broke the Kentucky-Indiana series.

"I blame it solely on them, that they can't come to some kind of agreement," Dakich said. "It shouldn't be up to Cal and Crean."

If the little boys can't play nicely, take it to the parents (the athletic directors), Dakich said. If the parents can't make the boys behave, go to a higher authority (the school presidents).

The UK-IU series consisted of games every season from 1969-70 (Dan Issel's senior year) to 2011-12 (Anthony Davis' freshman year). In that time, Bobby Knight cuffed the back of Joe B. Hall's head, UK relished arguably the greatest payback in program history (the 1975 NCAA Tournament victory) and fans enjoyed an annual display of high-level competition. Not to mention athletic theater.

Why, the UK-IU series meant enough to move the tyrannical Knight to make a gracious gesture. When the NCAA banned Kentucky from live television in 1989, he insisted the Cats remain part of what was called the "Big Four Classic" (UK, IU, Louisville and Notre Dame). This meant — gasp — not maximizing revenue.

Fans could mark their calendars: early December meant UK-IU, often with CBS beginning its coverage of college basketball that season at the game.

The series went out on a compelling note in 2011-12 when Christian Watford's three-pointer at the buzzer gave Indiana a 73-72 victory.

Then Calipari and Crean could not agree on how to proceed. Holding his breath and turning blue, Calipari insisted on neutral sites. Stamping his feet and turning red, Crean insisted on home-and-home.

Dakich, a former Indiana player and coach who is now a sportscaster and radio host, scoffed at Calipari's concerns about safety in Bloomington. After Watford's shot, fans rushed out of the stands onto the court in a barely controlled stampede.

"He's giving me the load of crap that it's too dangerous," Dakich said of Calipari's objections to Bloomington. "Which is crap. Some Playboy girl (Megan Dills) got her ankle hurt. Big deal."

When asked about the death of the series last week, Calipari noted that UK offered to play twice in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

"They wouldn't do it," Calipari said "What do you want me to do?"

How about accepting Indiana's compromise offer of a four-year deal that had two neutral-site games and a two-game home-and-home?

As Calipari suggested, Kentucky and Indiana are not suffering. "We're hanging on down here," he said as a whiff of sarcasm drifted by. True enough, although beside the point.

"Indiana doesn't need Kentucky," Dakich said. "Kentucky doesn't need Indiana. I get all that. But basketball needs those kind of games."

Random conversations with UK fans in the Barclays Center before Kentucky played Providence suggested no thirst to play Indiana.

Betty Sandler, a Kentucky native now practicing law in northern Virginia, had other scheduling priorities. "We're sorry Coach Cal doesn't want to go to Maui," she said.

Marsha Poe, a regular camper for Big Blue Madness tickets, votes the straight Cat ticket.

"I'm kind of done with Indiana," she said. "Tom Crean did a little too much popping off. Coach Cal knows what he's doing."

Dakich suggested that the atmosphere and spectacle of UK-IU helped sell college basketball. But made-for-TV games like the Champions Classic serve the same function.

Last week North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said the UNC-UK series wasn't as important as it was five, 10 or 20 years ago. That's because TV programmers have nudged top programs into playing each other during the pre-conference portion of the season.

"You used to never see those games early," said Williams before asking reporters not to say he denigrated the Kentucky-North Carolina series. "I got enough damn problems," he said.

In his fifth season as UK coach, poor Calipari sometimes seems to be ducking incoming criticism as an involuntary reflex. He's noted the toughness of Kentucky's schedule, which so far includes Michigan State and Baylor. But last week noted numbers-cruncher Ken Pomeroy rated UK's schedule only the 211th-toughest. That will get a boost from games against North Carolina and Louisville.

"Cal would like to play 17 home games, whatever," Dakich said "Which is fine. Every coach would. Crean would, too."

Must everything be advantage-disadvantage? Can't games be played because of tradition and sentiment and the chance to continue generational memories?

Dakich had no sympathy for any coach's concern about job security.

"If they do get fired, they're going to get $8 million to sit on their a--," he said. "So what are they worried about? They shouldn't be worried about anything."

But little boys will be little boys, in Dakich's view.

"The series was great before they got here," Dakich said of Calipari and Crean. "It'll be great after they (leave). No matter how powerful they are, they're going to be old like the rest of us. Then we'll get somebody in there who can figure out how to do it."

'Man up'

When the Charlotte Bobcats signed Chris Douglas-Roberts out of the NBA Development League last week, the move united two players with hyphenated names. It also united two former John Calipari players, with former UK standout Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the pupil and Douglas-Roberts the mentor.

As Kidd-Gilchrist told sportswriter Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Douglas-Roberts' advice came in the form of tough love.

"He told me to 'man up,'" Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Kidd-Gilchrist's broken left hand played a part in the Bobcats signing Douglas-Roberts as a temporary fix.

Bonnell noted that Kidd-Gilchrist started wearing jersey No. 14 because Douglas-Roberts wore that number as a Memphis Tiger.

When Kidd-Gilchrist was a teenager, one of his uncles introduced him to Douglas-Roberts, who then played for the New Jersey Nets. MKG would sometimes spend time at Douglas-Roberts' home after school.

"Really, he was like my brother," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Douglas-Roberts noticed how MKG was a student of basketball and eager to learn. Now that he's in the NBA, Kidd-Gilchrist is learning about the bottom-line mentality.

"One thing you can't prepare for is the business of this," Douglas-Roberts told the Charlotte Observer. "I tell him, 'You're a basketball player — a good basketball player. Just have a thicker skin.'"

Douglas-Roberts learned that through his basketball journey that took him from high-profile high school prospect to 40th pick in 2008. After two seasons in New Jersey, he bounced from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Dallas Mavericks, with a stint in Italy between those stops.

In the D-League, Douglas-Roberts averaged 18.7 points for the Texas Legends. "Nothing bothers me," he said.

Kidd-Gilchrist, whom Douglas-Roberts calls "little cousin," received that hang-in-there message.

"I told him you have to embrace all the pressure (of being the No. 2 overall pick). Never shy away from it," Douglas-Roberts said. "You want people criticizing you. You want the media talking about you, positively or negatively."

Message received, Kidd-Gilchrist said.

"I have no excuses these days," MKG said. "He told me adversity makes men. All these up-and-downs, they aren't really ups-and-downs. They're just how I think of it."

Fun

When Willie Cauley-Stein appeared at the Boise State game with his hair dyed blond, it sparked a series of questions. Why? What did it mean?

Cauley-Stein said he dyed his hair simply to relieve off-court tedium.

That rang true for Mike Grove, who coached Cauley-Stein at Northwest High School in Olathe, Kan. He noted how Cauley-Stein was a free spirit at Northwest High, which had an enrollment of about 2,000.

"When Willie walked up and down the hallways, he'd converse and talk and have conversations with all walks of life," Grove said. "People who were not even involved in athletics. You don't have that happen frequently.

"One day he'd be skateboarding. The next day he'd be playing tennis. He just likes to do different things and have fun."

Congratulations

To Jay Bilas. Sports Illustrated named him its Broadcaster of the Year.

The magazine noted how his tweets shamed the NCAA into pulling the plug on the sale of jerseys on its website. Thoughtful, prepared and versatile (at ease in the studio or working a game), Bilas "proves smart can be successful in television," S.I. said.

"Very nice," said Bilas, who did not know about the honor until he came home and his wife showed him the magazine.

As a child, Bilas hung Sports Illustrated covers on his bedroom wall.

"I might do it again," he quipped.

Character reference

In his weekly commentary for National Public Radio, Frank Deford noted how an investigation into a possible sexual assault charge might affect Jameis Winston's chances to win the Heisman Trophy. Ultimately, no charges were filed.

Somehow, character carries more weight when it comes to athletics than in many other areas, Deford said.

"Perhaps because it is so physical, I think sport always feels a little insecure alongside the other arts," he said. "There is the image of the dumb jock. Does anybody ever say the dumb violinist or the dumb diva?

"So sport tries to build up its stars not only as talented players but as wholesome, exemplary human beings. Actors and musicians can merely be artists. But sports likes to boast of angels and heroes."

Happy birthday

To Rupp Runt Thad Jaracz. He turns 67 Sunday. ... To Matthew Mitchell. The UK women's coach turns 43 on Monday. ... To Kelenna Azubuike. He turns 30 on Monday. ... To Allen Edwards. He turns 38 on Monday. ... To Deron Feldhaus. He turns 45 on Monday. ... To Adam Chiles. He turns 31 on Monday. ... To Mike Anderson. The Arkansas coach turned 54 on Thursday. ... To Jan Van Breda Kolff. The former Vandy coach turns 62 on Monday. ... To Stan Heath. The former Arkansas coach turns 49 on Tuesday.

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

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