UK basketball notebook: Chapman explains that winning really isn't everything

Herald-Leader staff writerFebruary 22, 2014 

Former Kentucky All-American Rex Chapman recalled a post-game locker room scene from his high school days. His coach, John Whitmer, was unhappy after Apollo High won at Whitesville Trinity.

"We won, barely," Chapman said. "Our coach came in after the game and said, 'Well, all we got out of that was a win.'"

As Chapman recalled, this confused one of his teammates, who said, "Coach, ain't that what we came here for?"

Kentucky's recent games against Florida and at Mississippi evoked this high school memory. What Chapman saw defied the axiom commonly attributed to Vince Lombardi. Winning really is not everything. Nor is it the only thing. It can be merely incidental as an indicator of how a team played.

To Chapman's eye, Kentucky played well in losing to Florida. Then the Cats did not play as well while beating Mississippi.

"Gotta love how a win skews perspective," Chapman tweeted after UK beat Mississippi. "We played better & smarter vs. a super Fla team & lost than we did vs. a bad Ole Miss squad & won."

During a follow-up telephone conversation, Chapman noted how often winning or losing serves as a poor barometer.

"Most fans, they (associate) winning with playing well," he said. "... Plenty of times during a course of a season, your coach will come in and say, 'Well, all we got out of that one is a win.'"

Kentucky played competitively and well against then No. 3 Florida. The Cats led by seven with about 11 minutes left before ultimately losing by 10.

At Mississippi, Kentucky returned to the ups and downs that typify freshmen. The Cats nearly squandered a 17-point halftime lead before winning.

"I thought they'd get beat by any good team in the country in the second half," Chapman said of UK's performance at Mississippi. "That was awful."

Chapman noted the volume of coaching John Calipari and his staff must do with largely an all-freshman team. "I'm astonished," he said of the coaching workload.

Of course, not having well-seasoned veterans complicates the coaches' task.

"When you don't have guys like Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins or a sprinkling of upperclassmen, who do you learn from?" Chapman said. "The only people you have to learn from are the opponents. Say, a Florida.

"You're not going to learn from playing Ole Miss. You're going to learn from having your (butt) kicked playing against Florida, and playing against Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin."

Chapman saw a post-Florida effect at Mississippi. "You're able to do some things, able to maneuver like you wouldn't against Florida," he said.

Of course, how Kentucky maneuvers in the NCAA Tournament is not everything, it's the only thing.

Chapman did not claim to know if Kentucky will win or lose, play well or poorly.

"I've never been more confused about whether a team can be really good or really bad," he said. "I do think we can lose in the first (game) or go to the Final Four."

Chapman pegged the Final Four scenario on the most tangible of factors guaranteed not to change.

"We could just overwhelm teams with our size," he said.

'Bathroom wall'

During the GameDay show, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas referred to social media as "the world's biggest bathroom wall."

Anything goes, no matter how inane or crass,

"It's a tool, and a useful one," Bilas wrote in an email. "But, useful tools can be misused, too. As for 'the bathroom wall,' great and valuable things can be written on a bathroom wall, but it shouldn't be a surprise that bad things are written there, as well."

Bilas advised players (or anyone) to not take postings on the inter-nut, er, internet seriously.

"The odd part is that so many allow what is said there to get to them or affect them," he wrote. "If some unknown person made a crank call to you, you'd hang up and dismiss it. If some unknown person sent you an unflattering email, you'd delete it and dismiss it. Yet, some unknown person tweets something unflattering and you respond and get angry or otherwise affected by it?

"I'd rely more on the thoughts of those I know and trust. But, I guess, it's human nature to dismiss compliments and internalize criticism."

Of course, John Calipari and Rick Pitino offered contrasting opinions on social media last week. Calipari noted its popularity and its value in helping build a "brand." Pitino said social media was a "poison" that can impede face-to-face human interaction.

2.5 million tweets

During the telecast, the NBA All-Star Game generated 2.5 million tweets. The mind reels.

The moments that generated peak twitter activity as measured in tweets per minute, or TPM) during the game telecast were:

■ 9:02 p.m. @Lebron James and @blakegriffin32 back to back dunks. 46,487 TPM

■ 9:07p.m. @blakegriffin32 connects on his 7th dunk of the game. 42,512 TPM

■ 11:24 p.m. #TeamEast wins 163-155. 35,700 TPM

The players mentioned most often in twitter activity were:

■ Eastern Conference: @KyrieIrving; @KingJames; @carmeloanthony

■ Western Conference: @blakegriffin31, @KDTrey5, @CP3

Sports & character

When he was Georgetown College's athletic director, Eric Ward emphasized character-building in sports. That came to mind last weekend while reading The New York Times.

Columnist William C. Rhoden wrote about a report on the alleged bullying among Miami Dolphins offensive linemen. He noted that the 144-page report recommended that lineman Jonathan Martin, who claimed to be the victim of bullying, continue his NFL career "without being subjected to harassment from his teammates."

This led Rhoden to write:

"One of the dismal takeaways from the report, and from events over the last few weeks, including the incident involving the college basketball player Marcus Smart and an antagonistic fan, is how sport, far from building character, is becoming a major factor in its erosion."

That was exactly the point of Ward's Champions of Character program at Georgetown: Participation in athletics does not build character or even expose character. It diminishes character.

15 and counting

Florida's 69-59 victory over Kentucky last weekend moved Billy Donovan into exclusive company. He tied Bob Knight and Ray Mears for the second-most victories over UK by an opposing coach. Each has 15.

Donovan can achieve his 16th on Florida's Senior Day on March 8. The record is 18, won by former LSU Coach Dale Brown.

Of the four winningest coaches against Kentucky, none have overall winning records against the Cats. Brown was 18-33, Knight 15-18 and Mears 15-15. Donovan is at 15-26.

The coach with the fifth-most victories against Kentucky has a record of success that will be difficult, if not impossible, to match. Dean Smith guided North Carolina to 13 victories in 16 games against Kentucky.

Picking Florida

Among GameDay panelists, Jay Bilas stood out by picking Florida to beat Kentucky. Castmates Jay WIlliams and Digger Phelps picked UK.

Bilas explained his Florida pick in a follow-up email.

"I thought Florida would do a good job keeping UK out of the lane with early help, and they could limit transition," Bilas wrote. "I also thought Florida could get second shots. I felt it would be close, but it had the makeup of a team to win at Rupp.

"I'm impressed with Florida. Florida is tough and together. They are worthy of winning it. The only issue is perimeter shooting. (Michael) Frazier is the only guy that can really shoot it."

Word play

Ole Miss has developed alliteration technology. Some fans at Tuesday's game against Kentucky wore T-shirts that bore the message:

"Prepare

"Perform

"Prevail"

What's next? Onomatopoeia?

Crash went the opposing game plan. Ouch said the opponent.

4,758

How many people attended the GameDay Show in Rupp Arena last weekend?

The number of tickets scanned by Lexington Center Corp., was 4,758.

Silent treatment

The upcoming SEC Tournament in Atlanta led to questions about the Georgia Dome as a suitable site. This led Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings to recall when a tornado hit the Georgia Dome during the 2008 SEC Tournament.

Because Vandy lost that afternoon, Stallings had left Atlanta and was en route to Nashville.

"I actually had the family in the car," he said. "We were driving back to Nashville. ... I had no idea until the next day it happened.

"Of course, we'd just lost. So I wasn't trying to talk to anybody. Probably wasn't even trying to talk to my family."

Hail Hammond

Lexington native Tom Hammond, who is calling the signature Winter Olympic sport of figure skating, got a pat on the back from NBC colleague Bob Costas.

"Not enough is made of the extraordinary contributions and skills of someone like Tom Hammond," Costas told The New York Times. "Tom has made some of the best sportscasting calls I've ever heard in track and field."

Correction

A note last week said that John Calipari's image does not appear in the video touting the proposed re-invention of Rupp Arena. But, it does appear in a redux version of the video.

Actually, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's office noted that Calipari's image appears in both the long and short versions of the video.

Happy birthday

To Rajon Rondo. He turned 28 on Saturday. ... To Tom Heitz. He turns 53 today. ... To Chuck Aleksinas. He turns 53 on Wednesday. ... To Joey Holland. He turns 59 on Tuesday. ... To former UK assistant coach Herb Sendek. He turned 51 on Saturday. ... To former UK Sports Information Director Chris Cameron. He turns 54 on Tuesday. ... To former CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer. He turns 74 on Tuesday.

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

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