UK basketball notebook: Rupp renovations a fait accompli?

Herald-Leader staff writerFebruary 15, 2014 

During planning for last Monday's unveiling of yet another proposed Rupp Arena re-design, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray asked a pointed, yet basic question: What would be the purpose of a flashy video decorating this latest announcement.

"He kind of put us on the spot," Adam Kuhn said.

As creative director for Bullhorn, a Lexington-based branding and marketing company, Kuhn would lead the effort to produce a video.

So why? Why do a video?

"He said one word: Inevitability," said Gray, sounding like a proud father.

Unwittingly or not, Kuhn hit upon the reason for the video and much more. Inevitability was a reason for Monday's announcement and for many other preliminaries that Gray hopes lead to a re-invented Rupp Arena serving as crown jewel of a proposed Arts and Entertainment District in downtown Lexington.

The French have a term for this: a fait accompli. That is to say something already decided and presumably irreversible before those affected hear about it. Of course, surely everyone knows about Gray's ambitious vision. In this case, the theory behind a fait accompli would be: With so much time and money and sweat having already gone into the Rupp/district project, opposition is futile and funding, well, inevitable.

This thought flooded the mind as Gray explained the purpose for the two-and-one-half-minute video that began Monday's announcement.

The video — which opens with the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home" as a camera pans a field of blue grass — hit on iconic images of Kentucky: state, basketball program and mindset.

Gray said the intent was to persuade viewers to back the project, to create enthusiasm for the project, to defend the project and — cue a fait accompli — build on the already-existing momentum for the project.

That momentum began a few years ago when Gray first spoke publicly about a new Rupp Arena, spurring a financial and cultural boon in downtown Lexington. Then the mayor established a task force to explore the feasibility of such a project. Sub-committees of the Task Force visited similar entertainment districts in Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis. With the UK team in New York for a 2011 game against Kansas, another group of Task Force members toured a renovated Madison Square Garden. The city hired so-called master planner Gary Bates of the Oslo, Norway-based architecture firm Space Group, to offer his thoughts on possible designs. Gray unveiled an artist's rendition of a new Rupp dramatically lit at night (just a "place holder," the mayor later said).

Then the city staged a news conference to announce the hiring of an architectural firm (NBBJ) and construction company (Hunt). During a public meeting on Jan. 8, architect Robert Mankin of NBBJ unveiled another set of artistic renditions while noting the importance of technological innovation. Then came Monday's latest peeling of the onion.

So far, Lexington has spent about $5 million on the proposed project.

Kuhn, who has a Fine Arts degree from Eastern Kentucky University, recalled answering Gray's question by saying the video was intended to "ignite Kentuckians around this project."

When suitably stoked with enthusiasm, viewers would wonder, "'Why doesn't this happen?'" Kuhn said. "'Why isn't this already here?'"

Recalling the moment, Kuhn added, "That's when the word 'inevitable' came about."

Video highlights

The Rupp District film can be seen at https://vimeo.com/86305092.

In two and one-half minutes, you see such images as Scott Padgett celebrating the 1996 National Championship, dunks by Dan Issel and Marquis Estill, iconic broadcaster Cawood Ledford, LeBron James attending a game in 2010 and Jay-Z doing likewise in 2011, Kenny Walker, Jamal Mashburn, Paul Andrews hitting a 50-footer to give Laurel County the 1982 state championship, UK coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith, Tayshaun Prince making a three-pointer against North Carolina, Kentucky River Palisades in Madison County and the State Capitol building in Frankfort.

Narrator Hendrick Floyd, who works as a master of ceremonies and plays in the band A Tribe Called Lex, says in the video that the project is about "pride. It's about history. It's about family. It's about home."

John Calipari does not appear. Kuhn said this was because the video celebrates the historic sweep of Rupp Arena. (Calipari does appear in a 30-second "redux," Kuhn said.)

Conspicuous by their absence from the video are former UK coaches Eddie Sutton and Billy Gillispie. Kuhn offered two explanations for the Leon Trotsky treatment:

■ The video targeted "awesome memories" in Rupp.

■ The target audience was "not only the casual Cat fan, but also the zealots."

Question: Casual Cat fan?

As for trying to capture the sweep of UK basketball and Rupp Arena in less than three minutes, Kuhn noted the influence of social media reducing viewers' attention spans.

Arena leftovers

■ One of Mayor Jim Gray's aides, Brenna Angel, noted that former South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn offered a suggestion. It came to him as he flew home to Lexington from a TV assignment.

Put the name "Rupp Arena" on the roof to mark the site from the air, he said.

Comment: Is that over the top?

■ A small-but-passionate percentage of respondents to a public survey insisted on one change: Paint the trusses in the corners of Rupp Arena any color but red.

■ The current plan, which city officials acknowledge could change, calls for 28 luxury boxes. There are also private lounges, or as planners prefer to say, "support" lounges.

Sexiest

On the website CollegeInsider.com, Herald-Leader sportswriter Ben Roberts happened upon a list of the 100 sexiest people in college basketball. Roberts, who clearly has too much free time, saw some familiar names on the list.

Nicole Shea, special projects manager for CollegeInsider.com, noted an eye-of-the-beholder component to such a list.

"Sexy literally comes in all shapes, sizes and colors," she wrote in a foreword. "Sometimes it's sneaky quiet. Sometimes it's bold and outgoing. It looks good dressed up and it looks great when it goes casual. It can be a perfect gentleman and it can have a New York attitude. What one finds appealing, another may find appalling."

According to the website, Montana Coach Wayne Tinkle, is the sexiest person in college basketball.

Others on the top 100 list include:

■ UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua. "The former Harlem Globetrotter is as dapper and smooth as they come. And I mean that in a good way. He's a terrific young coach on John Calipari's staff at Kentucky and considered one of the top recruiters in America."

■ ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. "Hard to believe that he has been an ESPN analyst since 1995. Back then he was good. Today he is their top college basketball analyst. Love Jay's bits of on-air sarcasm. He's not afraid to tell his fellow analysts to back it down."

■ UK Coach John Calipari. "If you pick against him he will say, 'That's okay you picked the Germans in WWII.' That's Coach Cal, always with a quick response in the holster. He can coach, has can dress and has the electric personality He's a movie star."

■ Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "Like it better when I see Anthony Grant smile occasionally. The Alabama coach has that intimidating glare. As a freshman at Dayton (1984) went to the Elite 8 and has known nothing but winning ever since. Top shelf!"

■ West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins. "There is no way you can have this list without the name 'Huggins.' On the court he still brings a lot intensity, but off the court he isn't quite as confrontational. His press conferences were very fun. As cool as they come in this profession."

■ Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin. "Two words comes to mind when I see Cuonzo on TV — Smooth coach. The former Missouri State head coach is doing a fine job at Tennessee. It's not easy to rock an orange blazer, but he can pull it off. Terrific individual."

■ South Carolina Coach Frank Martin. "I was insistent that his picture show that he does actually smile. Few coaches are more intense on the sidelines than the South Carolina head coach. Pretty scary to think he was on the same staff with Bob Huggins. Talk about some intensity."

■ Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello. "The former Rick Pitino assistant, Masiello has done a fantastic job at Manhattan. This guy has taken cool and elevated it. But 'cool' only gets you so far. He can also motivate and he can coach. His kids love playing for the native New Yorker."

■ Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray. "The Mississippi State head coach began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with a division II program. He's a hard worker and a guy dedicated to his craft. The second-year head coach will turn the corner in Starkville pretty soon."

■ Loyola (Md.) Coach G.G. Smith. "Tubby Smith is a first class guys and they say apples don't fall far from the tree. His son, in his first season as the head coach at Loyola MD, is proof positive of that. An awful lot of success awaits G. G. Smith in this business."

Who's in charge?

Yes, making players stay in college two or three or even four years would be better. But ESPN analyst Jay Bilas noted an obstacle in working with the NBA to change the current system that allows so-called one-and-done players.

"There's nobody with authority who can speak for the (college) game," he said. "That's a huge problem. What is the NBA to do? There's nobody to bargain with, to negotiate with. Who can tell you with certainty what we can do.

"College basketball is not well-administered. People are well-intentioned. But it's not administered well."

Conspiracies

During a teleconference last week, a reporter asked Ron Wellman if there were any lingering misconceptions about the NCAA Tournament's selection/seeding process.

Wellman, the chair of the Selection Committee and Wake Forest athletic director, noted that "various conspiracy theories" continue to abound.

"About you don't want this coach to play that coach, you don't want this team to play that team, whatever it might be," he said. "... Again, this is my fifth year on the committee, and I have never heard a conversation even coming close to that, whether it be in the committee room, at lunches, dinners, casual conversation. No one ever talks about those types of things."

Happy birthday

To Tod Lanter. He turned 23 on Saturday. ... To Ray Edelman. He turned 62 on Valentine's Day. ... To Al Robinson. He turns 76 on Monday.

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

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