It's getting hard to call the ongoing question of whether to renovate Rupp Arena or build a new basketball arena in downtown Lexington a "debate." Where are the people arguing for a new arena?
Noted University of Kentucky supporter Bill Gatton finds it all but impossible for any reasonable person to make a case for a new arena.
"I can't imagine — I can't imagine — anyone who has the best interests of the University of Kentucky in mind wanting to spend that much in resources" on a new arena, Gatton said last week.
This isn't some poetry-reading, sports-averse academician talking. Besides being a member of UK's Board of Trustees, Gatton is an ardent supporter of his alma mater (class of 1954). It's well chronicled that he made the largest donation in UK history to launch what's now known as the Gatton College of Business and Economics.
His UK bona fides are solid. With a master's degree from the famed Wharton School at Penn, his economic acumen is beyond question.
So ears should perk up when he says, "It's a waste of resources to spend that kind of money to build a new arena."
More than once in the telephone conversation, Gatton emphasized that he was not speaking as a trustee nor for the board. He was speaking as a UK supporter and fan who sees a strained economy and a school with many more pressing needs. The trustees spent two hours last weekend reviewing facility and maintenance needs on campus.
"That kind of money (to build a new arena) would send the wrong kind of message to faculty," Gatton said. "It's a misapplication of resources."
The Board of Trustees have not discussed what should be done, if anything, about UK basketball's home court, Chairman Britt Brockman said. Saying he had an open mind, Brockman said it would not be prudent to voice an opinion until the current studies requested by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's task force are complete.
When told that Gatton had no such reservations about objecting to the idea of a new arena, Brockman chuckled and said, "He's a passionate human being. I respect him. I love his passion."
Without ever directly advocating for a new arena, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and Coach John Calipari have insisted that Kentucky must be the "gold standard." That sounds like code for "only a new arena will do."
"I think we have the gold standard," Gatton said, meaning Rupp Arena. He suggested that there are not even 10 college arenas in the country as nice as Rupp.
"If we didn't have something as good as we have now, I'd be on the highest rafters wanting it done," Gatton said of a new arena.
A renovation of Rupp would have Gatton's support. But he called the idea of luxury suites "a big mistake."
He feared that the installation of luxury suites would mean reducing Rupp's overall capacity. That would mean fewer "core fans" at UK home games, he said.
"They're horrible," Gatton said of luxury boxes. "They're for socializing."
Of the patrons who might want to be in luxury boxes, Gatton said, "Let them join country clubs for socializing. (Boxes) are not ideal for connoisseurs of basketball."
Of course, Barnhart surely sees a new arena as a chance to generate greater revenue from basketball. Gatton, who questioned whether Barnhart could raise ticket prices any higher, suggested a renovation of Rupp could include more opportunities for electronic advertising in the arena and concourses.
"If somebody can show me where I'm wrong, I'm willing to change my mind" about building a new arena, Gatton said. "I'd have to go 180 degrees from common sense to be for it."
Dykes likes UK
UK freshman big man Anthony Davis impresses ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes. Maybe too much to suit fans.
"I think he's destined to be a lottery pick," Dykes said before adding with emphasis, "after one year in college. He's that good."
In a telephone conversation last week, Dykes suggested Kentucky might be better than ever this season ("ever" limited to John Calipari's three seasons as coach).
"What I like about this team, maybe better than the first two teams he's had (are) the remaining players," Dykes said.
Holdover veterans Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller give UK more of a blend of heralded freshmen and college vets.
Dykes noted two potential areas of concern:
■ Depth at point guard behind freshman Marquis Teague.
"I know they would not prefer to have Lamb play point guard," Dykes said. "Just because he's such a good two-guard. He's not a point. And he's just so good at scoring the ball, I think you want him off the ball as much as possible."
■ Low-post defense.
"They should be a great defensive team in every area with the exception of what do they do with a Jared Sullinger," he said. With Davis not possessing great bulk, Dykes said of the Cats, "Their pure raw strength around the rim is something we'll have to keep an eye on as well."
Dykes saw UK and North Carolina as the two best teams going into this coming season.
As for the SEC, Dykes touted Vanderbilt joining UK as Final Four contenders. He saw Florida's Bradley Beal "as good a freshman as there is in the college game." Beal and transfer Mike Rosario (only the second Rutgers player to score 1,000 points in his first two seasons) join veterans Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker in a Final Four-caliber backcourt.
Dykes also saw Mississippi State and Alabama giving the SEC at least five teams with NCAA Tournament capability.
Method to Madness
Cawood Ledford, the iconic voice of UK football and basketball (circa 1953 through 1992), took pride in never attending a single Midnight Madness celebration. Dan Issel, the program's career scoring leader, once marveled that UK fans would fill Rupp Arena for ... what?
Madness is not a game. It's not a scrimmage. It's not even a practice. For all the sensory overload, isn't Madness empty basketball calories? A Happy Meal for hyperactive fans. Serious people wait for another time to eat, you know, food.
Jimmy Dykes, who will report from UK as part of ESPN's hoop-apalooza coverage Friday night, said any Madness holds the possibility of valuable insight.
"Coaching staffs might learn a little bit about kids," he said. "How they act? How they perform? How they handle the big crowd? Do they stay in character? Do they do things out of character that they haven't been coached to do so far?
"Even in a little 10-minute Blue-White scrimmage, ... from a coaching standpoint, you can see, maybe, some warning signs or some good signs out of your guys."
When asked how this first dress rehearsal can help coaches, Dykes said it can help reveal a player.
"That he becomes an individual," he said. "That you haven't seen that side of a kid until he gets in front of a crowd. Then all of a sudden, who is this? Where did this come from? ... It's something coaches keep an eye on."
Madness also allows coaches to remind players of the program's standards in conduct, play and comportment.
"Do you follow directions," Dykes said, "or do you not?"
Dykes also noted that Madness can be a light-hearted reward for players after the pre- pre-season workouts. It can also be a school's respite from a dreary football season. "For some campuses like Kentucky and North Carolina and Duke and different places around the country," the ESPN analyst said, "it's the real start of the year. That's what those campuses are all about."
Help for Haiti
Chuck Perry, a freelance photographer who has worked UK events for decades, leaves on a missionary trip to Haiti on Wednesday.
Long before a 2010 earthquake inspired John Calipari's Hoops for Haiti telethon, Perry had been making trips to the island. He first went in 1985, and this upcoming nine-day trip will be his second this year and sixth since 2008.
The trips are part of Mission Journeys, a Lexington-based offshoot of Teen Mission USA. An ordained minister, Perry has been part of efforts to build a church and school, distribute food, conduct a medical clinic, create a soccer field and put up a basketball hoop.
Perry has done his missionary work in the town of Dufailly, which is north of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
"There's so much to do," Perry said. "We can't do everything. We decided, maybe, we can make a difference in this village."
Donations can be made by calling (859) 278-3202.
Kidd-Gilchrist on HBO
UK freshman Mike Kidd-Gilchrist will be among the players featured on an upcoming HBO special about the New Jersey rivalry between St. Patrick and St. Anthony high schools.
HBO spokesman Greg Domino said the 90-minute program will air on Oct. 25 beginning at 9 p.m. EDT.
Not the shot
Christian Laettner said last week that his game-winning shot against Kentucky — and not tapping a foot on Aminu Timberlake's chest — made him a villain.
Not so, reader William "Mick" Sagraves said in an email.
"Animosity after 19 years is not over the shot that No. 32 made," Sagraves wrote. "It's because of the deliberate, dirty treatment of Aminu Timberlake.
"Other players have beaten us with buzzer-beaters over the years but none has shown such lack of character."
Laettner is scheduled to appear in Rupp Arena on Oct. 24 as part of a charity game to benefit The V Foundation.
"This game is for a good cause," Sagraves wrote. "But for anyone who remembers that incident, this won't be an occasion of good-natured bantering about the good old days."
Sagraves, a native of Ashland, is a retired postal worker.
"I became a UK fan in 1948 when the train carrying the Olympians stopped at the Ashland depot," he wrote. "I got some autographs. Wish I knew where they were!"
Reader Dan Adkins also found "the stomp," as UK fans like to call Christian Laettner's action against Aminu Timberlake, as objectionable behavior.
"I don't know about other Kentucky fans, but it was not 'The Shot' that turned Laettner into a villain," Adkins wrote in an email. "It was 'The Stomp' much earlier in the game. That act soured me on Laettner and made him totally repugnant to me. I followed his NBA career for years, reveling in its mediocrity."
Adkins, 58, is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. He's a 1975 UK grad.
Been there, done that
John Calipari caused a stir last week when he suggested that UK monopolizes the college basketball rooting interest in Kentucky. This was perceived as a slap at Calipari nemesis Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach.
"There's no other state — none — as connected to their basketball program as this one," Calipari told CN|2. "Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State. California, UCLA has all those ... North Carolina has Duke. It's Kentucky, throughout this whole state, and that's what makes this unique."
What isn't unique is a UK coach trumpeting the program's preeminence in Kentucky. Calipari became at least the third UK coach to do so.
Eddie Sutton famously noted how UK played "Big Brother" to Louisville's "Little Brother." Conveniently. UK then spanked U of L a few days later.
Herald-Leader news researcher LuAnn Farrar found where Calipari buddy Joe B. Hall voiced the same sentiment as UK coach in 1983.
Hall sought to prevent the UK Athletic Association Board of Directors from ordering him to begin a series against Louisville.
In a speech to the board on April 14, 1983, Hall cited the Wildcats' "unique border-to-border support" in the state and suggested a series with Louisville might cut into that grass-roots foundation.
A board member noted that UK basketball could not simultaneously be so mighty yet also so fragile as to crumble because of a loss to Louisville. The board ordered Hall to begin the series.
To ex-Cat Mike Ballenger. He turns 49 on Tuesday. ... To former South Carolina Coach Dave Odom. He turns 69 today. ... To former Tennessee Coach Wade Houston. He turns 67 today. ... To former UK player and assistant coach Reggie Hanson. He turned 43 on Saturday. ... To former UK player Mark Krebs. He turns 25 on Monday.