Sports

Mark your calendar with Cats

While using vacation time to relax and reflect (where is that application to the Hair Club for Men?), I turned on the car radio and heard a Kentucky fan asking ESPN's Doug Gottlieb a question. Yes, the caller began, UK basketball had not been preeminent in recent seasons. So, did Gottlieb see Kentucky reasserting itself as a top-shelf program next season? Or in 2009-10?

Gottlieb, a former college basketball player, cut off the caller. It's summer, he said. Think baseball, pro football training camps and the anticipation of another college football season.

Call back in, say, November to ask about Kentucky basketball.

The evergreen interest in UK basketball that produced a scolding from Gottlieb inspired two entrepreneurs. The fans' 365-day-a-year preoccupation with Kentucky basketball led Steve Mott and John Spalding to produce a calendar that recognizes a moment in the program's storied history for each day.

The calendar is the debut product for a company Mott and Spalding dubbed “Season Never Ends.”

Mott and Spalding grew up in Lexington, attended Lexington Catholic and graduated from UK in 1992, Mott with a degree in accounting and Spalding in advertising.

Spalding aspired to write a book about UK basketball. But Mott noted the many books already written on the subject.

As Mott noted, “He's on the creative end. I'm the marketer.”

Spalding then suggested a calendar with a tear-away page for each day. After getting permission from UK, the two went to work.

UK, which receives 10 percent of the gross on sales, retained veto power on the calendar. The school exercised that power on a first draft. “We had a lot of negative stuff on the first calendar,” Mott acknowledged.

For instance, the first draft recognized the date the famous Emery Air Freight envelope opened, revealing a $1,000 payment to the father of UK recruit Chris Mills.

Mott and Spalding agreed to pull any “negative” references.

“We thought, this is for the fans,” Mott said. “The fans want to remember the good stuff. We're not looking for a Pulitzer.”

Not that the calendar whitewashes UK basketball a la the Soviet Union making Leon Trotsky a non-person. The entry for March 28 involves the Christian Laettner shot that beat UK in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.

Mott and Spalding playfully put the March 31 page in black to commemorate a bad day in triplicate: On that date, UCLA beat Kentucky in the 1975 national championship game, UK shot 3-for-33 in the second half against Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four, and UK lost to Arizona in the 1997 national championship game.

The calendar, which retails for $19.99, can be ordered on two Web sites: www.ukcal.com or seasonneverends.com.

Mott and Spalding hope to expand the concept for 2010 to include the football programs at Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia, plus Indiana basketball. By 2011, they'd like to have 25 calendars, which would include basketball programs at Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke.

It means more work for Mott and Spalding in tying dates to memorable athletic moments.

“Instead of watching TV, I do this,” Mott said of the research. “And I don't feel I'm missing much by not watching Survivor.”

Miller's tale

Lexington businessman Barney Miller issued a news release on Friday. It announced that he rooted for the UK football team.

This dog-bites-man announcement came after Miller launched a promotion for his downtown electronics store.

Miller is offering customers a free flat-screen television. There are two catches. The TV must be bought in August, and the customers will get refunds in December if UK's football team makes the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Since UK has never won the Eastern Division and has an all-time winning percentage of .388 in league play (155-347), it seemed Miller made a safe bet. In fact, it was so safe that radio call-in show reaction led Miller to believe he had been accused of rooting against UK this season.

That prompted Miller to proclaim his undying loyalty to UK. He noted that he had taken out an insurance policy to cover any costs should he have to make refunds, so he had nothing financial to gain from UK football defeats.

“If anybody is pulling against the Cats, it's the insurance company in Reno, Nevada,” Miller said in his news release. “... If anybody doubts my loyalty, they can watch me at Commonwealth Stadium. I'll be leading cheers for the Cats!”

In a telephone conversation, Miller said he felt there was a “reasonable chance” UK could win the Eastern Division this season.

“Stranger things have happened,” he said. “We don't have to beat every team in the East. They could beat each other.”

And, yes, Miller is considering a similar promotion for the upcoming basketball season: Perhaps a free TV if the Cats advance to the Sweet 16 or Final Four. Stay tuned.

A&M-UK connection

Here's a stranger-than-fiction sentence: Basketball lowlight Texas A&M has a 3-0 record in Rupp Arena.

Here's a much more plausible scenario: In his brief tenure as coach, Billy Gillispie led A&M to three of the five most significant victories in the school's basketball history.

These factoids surfaced last week when Texas A&M's basketball media contact, Colin Killian, asked for a favor.

Noting that A&M was looking for ways to decorate its soon-to-open basketball practice facility, Killian asked whether photographs of a 1978 victory at Kentucky were available.

A&M beat Kentucky 73-69 on Dec. 22, 1978. That came in the first round of the UKIT. Killian, a one-man committee choosing A&M's top five victories, put that one at No. 4.

In that game, A&M snapped Kentucky's home winning streak at 26 games. UK had won 31 of 33 games in the three-year-old Rupp Arena when A&M — A&M? — beat the Cats.

“I wasn't here,” Killian said of the 1978 game, “but I've heard a lot about it.”

The victory came in a brief moment of basketball excellence for the school. Earlier that season, A&M beat Indiana in the Great Alaska Shootout. Then the Aggies beat three top-20 teams: UNLV, San Francisco and Kentucky.

Otherwise, A&M basketball made few waves until Gillispie arrived as coach in 2004. In three seasons, Gillispie led the Aggies to an exciting victory over Texas (A.C. Law hit a last-second three-pointer, which made for the No. 1 victory on Killian's list), a victory at Kansas two seasons ago (No. 2 on the list) and the 2007 NCAA Tournament victory over Louisville (No. 5 on the list).

A&M's 3-0 record in Rupp Arena includes the 1978 victory over Kentucky, and 2007 NCAA Tournament victories over Penn and Louisville.

The school's $23 million practice facility, which is expected to open by January, will recognize these memorable moments.

Arkansas loses Beverley

Arkansas announced on Friday that guard Patrick Beverley, the team's leading returning scorer (12.1 ppg), will not play this coming season.

The announcement came a day after Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long announced 34 courtside seats will be sold this season at a cost of $12,000 per seat per season.

Arkansas also recently announced it is raising ticket prices for its other seats from $20 to $25.

Arkansas offered no explanation for Beverley not playing this season and stated that its administrators and coaches wouldn't comment because of student privacy laws. The announcement coincided with the last day of the school's second summer-school session, which led to speculation of academic problems.

Student privacy laws involve academic information, as well as other student records.

Beverley, a 6-foot-1 guard, started 67 of 70 games in two seasons for Arkansas. He led the team with an average of 6.6 rebounds last season. He was the shortest player to lead Arkansas in rebounding, according to records that go back to the 1952-53 season.

Holtmann update

We need to update the coaching résumé of Chris Holtmann, the former player for Jessamine County. Holtmann, the associate head coach for Gardner-Webb last season, has become an assistant coach at Ohio University.

The job change typified the chaotic lifestyle of a college coach. Holtmann was on vacation with his family in Fort Myers, Fla., when Ohio U.'s new coach, John Groce, called to gauge his interest in an assistant's job.

A day later, Ohio U. hired Holtmann, who hit the ground running in preparing for the July recruiting period.

Groce and Holtmann were not strangers. They were classmates at Taylor University in the early 1990s.

Holtmann, who helped Jessamine County reach the 1990 Sweet 16, noted the fond memories he'll have from his days as an assistant at Gardner-Webb. And what could be more fond than the memory of the victory at Kentucky last November. It came with family and friends watching from behind the Gardner-Webb bench.

“My dad put together a collage (of photographs and newspaper clippings),” Holtmann said in a telephone conversation last week. “I have that hanging in my office. I'm looking at it right now.”

Belated congratulations

To former UK guard Ryan Hogan. He married Kelly McAndrew on July 19.

Hogan, who turns 30 on Friday, met his future wife on a blind date set up by former UK teammate Michael Bradley.

Bradley jokingly calls the set-up his “first career assist.”

Hogan and his wife live in Des Moines, Iowa. He works as a client relations manager for an investment firm.

Belated get-well wish

Former UK All-American Kevin Grevey hobbled to Ryan Hogan's wedding.

Grevey, who is Hogan's uncle, tore his meniscus playing basketball with the Lakers summer league team. He had the meniscus surgically repaired.

Spoils of victory

In the wake of a national championship, Sporting News Today reported on Thursday the perks in the 10-year contract extension Kansas Coach Bill Self accepted last week. They include:

■ Two cars, which must be of “the highest line of the manufacturer.”

■ Not one, but two country club memberships.

■ 50 tickets to each home game.

■ The promise of a $200,000 bonus for another NCAA Tournament championship.

■ A raise that nearly doubled his salary (from $1.65 million to $3 million per year).

Orton visits

In case you missed it, highly regarded big-man prospect Daniel Orton and his parents visited UK last weekend.

During the visit, Orton participated in a UK camp. His father, Larry Orton, a motivational speaker, spoke to the campers.

Orton, a top-20 national prospect from Oklahoma City, Okla., listed several schools while at the LeBron James Skills Academy in early July. They included UCLA, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, UK and UConn.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

UK's DeWayne Peevy won't be the only new Sports Information contact person in Southeastern Conference basketball this coming season.

Michelle Schmitt, who had worked as the contact person for reporters covering South Carolina's basketball team, changed jobs this off-season. She now works as the media contact for Santa Clara basketball.

Happy birthday

To former UK player Randy Embry. He turned 65 on Saturday.

Two other notable dates sandwich Embry's birthday. His 40th wedding anniversary was last Sunday. And his wife, Luann, has a birthday on Aug. 24.

Embry and his wife have three children (sons Chad and Brad, daughter DeeDee) and seven grandchildren.

After 32 years as a teacher and high school coach, Embry retired in 1999. Former UK teammate Pat Riley hired him as a scout for the Miami Heat.

“I get to go to a lot of ball games and get good seats,” he said. “I'm lucky.”

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