After a messy departure from St. John's six games into the 2003-04 season, Mike Jarvis stood at a career crossroads.
"I was too young to retire," he said on Friday. "Unfortunately, I didn't save enough money."
So Jarvis had to work. But where? Doing what?
This is where the story got interesting. Jarvis deferred to his wife Connie's wishes.
"Where would you like to live?" Jarvis recalled asking his wife. "Let's get out of this crazy place.
"And she said, 'I want to go someplace warm.' By process of elimination, we ended up in Boca."
That's Boca Raton, Fla., home of Florida Atlantic University, which hired Jarvis as its basketball coach in June.
Jarvis led Florida Atlantic against Kentucky on Saturday in Rupp Arena. That game symbolized one step in what seems a long march to make the Owls relevant.
Meanwhile, a coach asked his wife what she wanted to do. Usually, the coach tells the wife what the family will be doing, a reality most notoriously depicted in a Sports Illustrated drawing showing Rick Pitino pointing ahead with his wife, Joanne, strapped to a basket standard.
The headline on the story accompanying the drawing: A Man Possessed.
A great untold story in athletics is what wives and children of coaches endure. More and more, coaching is a 12-months-a-year job. Recruiting. Teaching. Scouting. Speaking. Counseling. Games. Practices. Meetings. Video. Phone calls. Letters. Not to mention (ugh), media requests.
When you see a son of a coach with poor shooting mechanics, you wonder: Shouldn't a coach's son have the sweetest stroke? Not if the father/coach isn't around.
The wife often is mother, father and, alas, shot doctor.
Donna Smith once noted how a coach's wife had to be a strong, take-charge woman.
"Nobody understands what wives go through," Jarvis said. "You've got to be a special woman to really support and make it possible for a coach to do his job."
Jarvis and his wife were childhood sweethearts who recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. On the college coaching merry-go-round, Connie Jarvis followed from Boston (Boston U.) to Washington, D.C. (George Washington) to New York (St. John's). She worked and works as her husband's manager.
Though successful at each stop, Jarvis' career seemingly hit a dead end when St. John's fired him amid stories linking players to marijuana use, an assault on a female student and a trip to a strip club after a game.
Jarvis got work as a college basketball commentator for ESPN and Yahoo! Sports while continuing to work as a public speaker.
Jarvis also launched an Internet broadcast service that enables colleges and schools to stream full live sports over the Internet at www.jarvistv.com to anybody around the world.
Jarvis and his wife found a spiritual home at Spanish River Church. The churchgoers encouraged Jarvis to keep alive his wish to coach again. When Florida Atlantic suddenly needed a coach this spring, they called school leaders and asked them to consider Jarvis.
A four-year contract made Jarvis wonder about divine intervention. So did the chance to hire his son, Mike II, as an assistant coach.
"You know what?" he said. "Maybe this is part of God's plan."
Maybe so. But, Jarvis also got an OK from Connie.
"If she didn't love me and didn't know what my passion is, I don't think she'd be very happy with me going back to coaching," Jarvis said. "She knew how much I loved it and how much I missed it."
Where was everybody?
I missed UK's game against Appalachian State in Louisville last weekend. I had plenty of company.
The announced crowd of 10,173 marked the lowest attendance for UK in this home-away-from-home game since the Cats began staging it in Freedom Hall in 1958.
Well, we don't know that for sure. But a quick check showed that it was definitely the smallest crowd since at least 1980-81. And we'll assume that's the record given that Notre Dame was UK's opponent every year going back to 1960 with a smattering of games against Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida State, Illinois and Temple mixed in.
The five smallest crowds in the proud tradition's history have come since 2003.
So what's the deal?
Reader Mel Boyd sent an e-mail suggesting the problem is low-wattage opponents (Appy State, Austin Peay, Chattanooga, Iona and UAB in the poorest attended games).
Boyd offered three suggestions to boost attendance in UK's "home" games in Louisville:
"1. Obviously, Coach (Billy) Gillispie wants a cupcake, so let's go with Bellarmine.
"2. How about Murray State? They have been longing to play UK and either Murray State, Western or Eastern would draw better than Appy State.
"3. If we want to play Appy State, see if Coach (Rich) Brooks wants a decent foe outside the SEC."
Boyd, 72, is a retired insurance agent and a Transylvania graduate. He's a "lifetime UK fan" and, more impressively, a former Lexington Herald sportswriter (1956 to 1963).
Boyd has been official scorer for Transy men's basketball since 1963.
Herald-Leader sportswriter Mark Maloney interviewed former UK standout Kelenna Azubuike for a story earlier this month. Here's a portion of the interview that did not make it into the story.
MM: Any downside to your time at UK?
KA: "No. It is what it is, the decisions I made, and I've had to live with. I think things that didn't go my way made me stronger."
MM: Do you follow UK?
KA: "Probably not as close as I should. But I wish 'em all the best. We're going to get back on track, I know that."
MM: Do you remain in contact with former UK teammates?
KA: "Yeah. Some of the guys I went to school with. Chuck Hayes. Ravi Moss. They're kind of the same way. We know they're going to get back on track. It's just a matter of time and recruiting and all that stuff."
MM: Do you have any contact with your coach at UK, Tubby Smith?
KA: "Every time I go to Minnesota I usually see him. He'll either come to the game or we'll talk or something. He's doing good over there."
MM: Are you now a Gophers fan?
KA: "Yeah. I just want Coach Smith to do well. He was my coach, so wherever he goes I'll pull for that team, hope it does well and wish him all the best."
MM: What's the difference between playing for UK and an NBA team?
KA: "Everything is just more precise. The players are bigger and stronger, and you've just got to be smarter. You play in college, a lot of people have talent but if you play smart you can get past people with talent. So you've gotta bring it every game. Like I said, they're bigger and stronger, so it's tough."
MM: Is NBA travel a grind?
KA: "Yeah. But that's the way the league is. It makes it exciting. Wherever you go you gotta go get the job done and be ready to play. There's no excuses."
MM: What would you like to say to UK fans?
KA: "Kentucky people know I love them. I appreciate the things they did for me."
By guiding Minnesota to its first 10-0 start since 1976-77, Tubby Smith saw the Gophers gain their first national ranking since December, 2002.
The No. 23 ranking came after Minnesota beat then-No. 9 Louisville last weekend. It left the Gophers one of only 10 unbeaten teams.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported how Smith tried to put the good news in perspective.
"A lot of people saw the (Louisville) game on TV Saturday, and I'm sure they were impressed with some of the things that we did, but we know it's all about now," said Smith, who you may have heard once coached at Kentucky. "And we have to concentrate on the here and now."
The Star-Tribune noted that the last time the Gophers were ranked in the top 25, they lost to No. 5 Oregon by nine points on Dec. 22, 2002. Almost exactly six years later, Smith said he wanted his players to realize that the glow of a national ranking can fade quickly.
"If you don't live up to our expectations for this team, which is to get better every day, then it'll be a short-lived ranking," he said.
As if the Herald-Leader copy editors weren't enough of a nuisance, reader Jim Nolan sent an e-mail pointing out an error. In a recent story, I wrote "infer" when "imply" was correct.
"You 'imply' something to me and then I 'infer' something after thinking about it," Nolan wrote.
Nolan, 62, works as a bureau chief for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. He's a 1969 UK graduate who moved to Montana shortly thereafter and never left. He lives in Clancy, Mont.
"I love Montana, its scenery and its people," he wrote. "I will never leave.
"Having said that, I love UK and the Commonwealth, as well."
Nolan also noted how his son recently graduated from basic training at Fort Knox.
"I took my wife with me to the graduation ceremony," Nolan wrote. "She also said that Kentucky and its people were just beautiful.
"By the way, my son deployed for Afghanistan. ... Ask your readers to pray for his — and all his comrades' — safety."
At 5:20 a.m. on Dec. 16, the FoxSports Web site posted its analysis of Kentucky basketball.
The analysis included a look at the player rotation, which included this:
"Usual Starters -- G Mark Story, G Jodie Meeks, F Ramon Harris, F Perry Stevenson, F Patrick Patterson.
"Key Subs -- G DeAndre Liggins, G Kevin Galloway, C Josh Harrelson."
Either Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story is moonlighting as a UK guard (which explains the turnovers) or Fox needs to get a good night's sleep before analyzing any basketball team.
To former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson. He turned 67 on Saturday.
A news conference earlier this month suggested an especially happy birthday. On Dec. 12, Richardson returned to Walton Arena for the first time in nearly seven years. He returned for a news conference announcing plans to honor the Razorbacks' 1994 NCAA championship team.
"It's been a long time since I've been on this campus," Richardson said at the news conference. "I am so happy. Even more happy than I thought I would be."
Richardson, who compiled a 389-169 record in 17 seasons, hadn't been in Walton Arena since being fired on March 1, 2002. He filed a lawsuit in federal court against the UA and its administrators claiming wrongful termination for racial discrimination and violation of his free-speech rights.
After a month-long trial in Little Rock, the lawsuit was dismissed in July of 2004, and the decision later was upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Time healed the wound.
"I am honored to be here, and I'm sure that our players will be happy to come back home again, and call this their home," Richardson said. "We've been gone from home a long time."
Ironically, Arkansas will honor its 1994 national champions at a home game against Georgia on March 1, a date that will mark the seventh anniversary of Richardson's firing.
Athletic Director Jeff Long called that timing "totally coincidental."
Richardson smiled at the news conference when a reporter pointed out the date.
"That's called the healing process," he said. "You get a chance to heal and move forward."