Mark Story: We may have a winner in the search for a nickname for the 2013-14 Cats

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 12, 2014 

Among the replies to my April 3 column that mentioned reader suggestions for a team nickname for the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats, three were poignant. They came from UK fans who acknowledged that, during a disappointing UK regular season, they had assigned derisive monikers to this year's men's basketball team.

Ron Hayes of Butler (Pendleton County) writes that he called the UK team "The Fat Cats." Said Hayes: "I thought they were playing for themselves and just waiting for the season to be over so they could cash in."

Don Piscano wrote that "I called them "'The Unwatchables.' And until the SEC (Tournament) — they were."

Lexington's Bill Hiles added that he thought of the Cats "as "'The Big Shots,' (because that's) who they thought they were."

Many other readers stepped up to try to apply a lasting name to the team that became the 2014 national runner-up. Julius Randle, the Harrison twins & Co. will always be remembered for the wild ride they took UK fans on in 2013-14. It started with (crazy) preseason talk of going 40-0. It featured a largely disappointing regular season that ended with 10 losses and Kentucky unranked. It ended with an unexpected charge all the way to the NCAA Tournament finals.

Recent UK nemesis Connecticut, of course, denied Kentucky the ultimate feel-good ending by beating the Cats 60-54 in the national championship game Monday night. Still, as Rupp's Runts (1966 NCAA runners-up) and The Unforgettables (eliminated in 1992 NCAA round of eight) show, a Kentucky team does not have to win it all to be remembered via a nickname.

For the 2013-14 Cats, Erwin Jones suggested "The Unimaginables." His rationale? "A month ago, who would have imagined this UK team would make the Final Four?" he wrote.

Steve Goodrum of Lexington went with "The Unbreakables."

Joe Crabtree of Versailles liked "The Roller-Coaster Cats."

The most frequent suggestions played off the word "tweak," which John Calipari introduced into the UK lexicon before the SEC Tournament by stating he had implemented an offensive "tweak" that should allow Kentucky to thrive (which then did happen).

Mike Morphen, Bart Taylor and Chesley Dunn were among those suggesting some version of "The Tweakables."

(To me, the word "tweak" lacks a certain majesty that the best UK team nicknames — think The Fabulous Five — have. But "The Tweakables" may have the best chance of catching on).

There were nickname suggestions from some people you might recognize.

Former Lexington Legends honcho Alan Stein went with "The Cinderella Cats."

Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman offered up "The Unpredictables."

Lachlan McLean, the WHAS radio sports talk show host, suggested "Team Turnaround."

(I like "Team Turnaround." It combines the alliterative quality of Rupp's Runts or The Comeback Cats; it is a reverse play off Team Turmoil (the 2001-02 Wildcats, whose season was sabotaged by repeated disruptions) and captures the essence of what made 2013-14 a unique UK season, the dramatic late-season U-turn).

The beauty of UK team nicknames is that the only way they stick is if the public grants them wide-spread acceptance. So, ultimately, you will decide if any nickname is a lasting fit for the Kentucky team that took its followers on such a hair-raising trip.

As for those Kentucky fans who had unflattering nicknames for the Cats during the regular season, they were happily revamping by Final Four week.

"(UK's season) turned remarkably and completely unexpected," wrote Hayes, the Pendleton County resident who is a UK season ticket holder. Rather than "The Fat Cats," his new suggestion was "Cal's Cats."

After labeling the 2013-14 Cats "The Unwatchables," Piscano was offering up "The Undeniables" as a replacement. "That's assuming they win the championship," he wrote before the UConn game.

Meanwhile, Lexington's Hiles stayed with his derisive nickname for the Cats — "The Big Shots." It's just that, after Aaron Harrison's run of NCAA tournament clutch shooting, that name took on a whole different meaning.

"The Big Shots is who they thought they were," Hiles wrote, "and who they finally became."

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

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